Travel and Chocolate: When Books Inspire

Lately I’ve been devouring travel memoirs. And they’re fueling my wanderlust.

From a trip to Scotland last year. A very rare bird in Loch Lomond.

I love that about books. The ability to influence and inspire.

I was around eleven when I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The chocolate river. The candy (side note: twenty years later a made up story about a candy store would be my kids most requested bedtime story).

The story hooked me. Oh, and the chocolate bar that you could grab right out of your tv?

Magical. And I wanted some of that magic.

At the time we lived on a Coast Guard base in New Orleans and there was a tiny convenience store on the corner. They had candy bars.

I scraped together some money (sorry dad, I dipped into that change jar in your armoire).

And then, naturally, I sent my nine year old sister to get me the candy bar. I had a book to finish. (Thank you, B!)

I love that I can immerse in another world via a book, but it really does feel like magic when you nurture the opportunity to bring some of that story world into your real life.

And then those new memories inspire your own creative work…

And so on. Ad infinitum.

Bird is waving hello (there is a chocolate bar behind that other wing, I’m sure of it.

 

If you like travel memoirs, I enjoyed these:

At Home in the World, by Tsh Oxenreider

My Part-Time Paris Life by Lisa Anselmo

The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World by Torre DeRoche

Where I’m off to next: 

A cabin in the woods. For real. I’m doing a short–solo– writing, hiking trip. I’ll keep you posted! Follow me on Instagram for real(er) time updates.

Then this summer, we’re off to ALASKA. We’ll be stopping in all the usual places so if you have a favorite coffee shop, hike or food must eat, let me know!

Also, if you have a must read, perhaps one that  inspired you to action, I’d love to hear about it!

Happy Spring (and reading) friends!!

When the Fog Lifts: Crater Lake National Park!

 

road to crater lake oregon fog quote

So driving, or rather co-piloting, on a foggy mountain road in the rain is kinda one of those life defining moments.

Turns out I’m sweet, patient, and my language completely complies with all FCC broadcast regulations.

Yup.

And here’s a beautiful view of Crater Lake:

Fog at Crater Lake Oregon

June 1st at Crater Lake National Park Lodge, Oregon

Okay. So the view was non-existent (and I’m a nutcase when it comes to mountain roads).

The first 24 hours the weather was rain, freezing rain, sleet and then snow. But the worst was the fog.

I really wanted to see the lake!

A remnant of Mount Mazama after a volcanic eruption, Crater lake is the deepest in the United States, and a beautiful blue.

So they say.

The hub and I went for a hike anyway. We walked the rim, trying to find the water, the blue, something.

clarks nutcracker crater lake oregon

A Clark’s Nutcracker (name derived from William Clark from the Lewis & Clark expedition)

This little bird wanted to hang out. Much to the worry (or quite possibly egging on?) of his/her family/friends. The other birds chirped loudly every time this bird perched near me.

Rebel bird (or the one who drew the short straw). 🙂

We moved on and well, like it does (even when it seems like you’ll never get clarity), the fog lifted.

Wizard island crater lake national park oregon

Wizard Island. Magical.

road trip to crater lake oregon

Totally worth the wait (and okay, the scary drive on the mountain road).

crater lake oregon panoramic view

This was what was behind all that mist and fog!!

Then we also walked the Sun Notch hike.

At the top there’s a viewpoint

Phantom ship crater lake oregon

The Phantom Ship

Crater Lake is awesome.

And right before we left, we really got to see the lake in full color

crater lake blue

Blue.

Crater lake national park mountain road

Bye bye, Crater Lake.

Btw it’s easier driving on the non drop off side. 🙂

crater lake lodge rocking chair view

Note: The lodge at Crater Lake is really nice. Somehow I got the impression it would be rustic. So I was pleasantly surprised. Bonus, both the dining room and the casual eatery, Annie’s Creek restaurant had plenty of gluten-free options.

Next time: California! And if you missed the last stop click here: Columbia River

How do you feel about driving on mountain roads?

Happy Wednesday!

xo

The Surprising Taste of Change (and NYC)

Did you know that if you rub essential peppermint oil on the soft middle of the bottom of your foot that you will eventually taste that peppermint in your mouth?
This was news to me. I heard this random tidbit in yoga class, and while I haven’t tried it yet, I keep thinking about that unexpected, surprising minty sensation (and also wondered if they make chocolate peanut butter essential oils).

 Emack Bolio's ice cream cones_opt

Surprising cereal and marshmallow coated cones at Emack & Bolio’s, New York City

2014 was a big year of change here at my house. Everything seemed to challenge my role in Life As I Knew It. My kids moved out, my mom got sick (thankfully she is better). Most of the change, like my kids moving out, I expected, even planned for, imagined. I knew there would be sadness, excitement, new freedoms and the like. But what I didn’t expect was to find myself constantly questioning my purpose the moment my kids left.

 

my kids

 Together at 2nd Ave Deli in NYC. 

For so many years, my family has been my priority. Everything else I did was “just work”.

It's only a play 2_opt

  Gerald Schoenfeld Theater, NYC

Sure that work was important, necessary, enjoyable, etc., but never assigned the significance of what I did for my family.

So this new questioning, it’s a strange taste, and it’s got me feeling pretty damn insecure.

central park rainy day_opt

 

 A misty Central Park, NYC

In many ways I feel like a teenager again. New independence, lots of insecurity, and even more indecision, but then there’s also an excitement that I can fill and assign priority to these wide open spaces however I see fit.

And sometimes that unexpected result is something sweet. I had no idea that the research I would do on art and doodling for my character Grace Callahan in my young adult book, The Art of Chasing Normal, would lead to my own drawing finding a way into a really awesome art book.

In the key of doodle north light books_opt

 North Light has tons of really fun and inspirational art books. Check it out!

With change, though, there’s a lot of heart work to do. I’m figuring it out, and I know there will be more strange and unexpected minty sensations along the way.

But for me, it helps to believe, that even when we feel vulnerable and stripped to the bone, there’s still something strong and fierce (in the best possible way) inside of  us.

T Rex AMNH NYC_opt

 American Museum of Natural History, New York City

Wishing you the best for 2015!

HAPPY NEW YEAR,

Abandoned, but Maybe They’ll Leave the Light on for You

You know how some people need to sky dive or bungee jump to get their adrenaline going?

 

 

abandoned motel rt 1_opt

Not me.

abandoned motel roadside_opt

 

 

 All it takes to get me running scared, is an old, abandoned motel (during daylight).

abandoned motel old_opt

Haunted? Maybe.

abandoned motel tires_opt

 

 Just tires. But my mind added chainsaws.

 

abandoned motel air conditioner_opt

 

 Definitely no air conditioning (some find  that scary)

 abandoned motel _opt

 

 It was super quiet here.

And something made me start running back to the car. Fast.

 abandoned motel door_opt

 Probably just my imagination.

But I’m not opening the door to find out.

 

What scares you? Would you stay the night in a haunted motel?

Enjoy your stay!

Happy Halloween/Weekend!

Guat’s up? Building a Library, Friendship, & Community

MLWGS guatemala

 

Today’s post is brought to you by my son and his Relevance Rising seminar classmates.

For the past year they’ve been raising money and awareness towards their international service project Biblioteca Comunitaria Tzununa in Guatemala.

And last month they traveled there to lend a hand.

 

guatemala volcano

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

 

Fruits of labor

Santa Catarina

 

Panajachel Guatemala

Panajachel Nature Reserve

 

tzununa lake atitlan dock

Boat ride from Panajachel to Tzununa

Lake Atitlan

 

tzununa guatemala journey

The path to Tzununa

 

clearing tzununa library site

Clearing rocks and weeds for the site of the future Tzununa library.

 

guatemala library site

tzununa children guatemalaTzununa village children

 

 

These last two pictures were captured by the children–they loved playing with my son’s camera. 🙂

 

Tzununa school

relevance rising MLWGS

 

If you’d like to read some more words from the students, check out their Tumblr page HERE.

 

What’s inspiring you this week?

Happy Monday!

Gulls (and Boys) Just Want to Have Fun

focus and take the shot

 

Recently I challenged myself to try to catch some action shots with my phone’s camera.

 

seagulls on beach

 

Not much action here. Just some seagulls, hanging out.

 

seagull reflection

 

Although, some gulls took a little time for reflecting.

 

seagull showing off

 

Others stretched their wings–or showed off.

Can’t say for sure as I’m not really a gull expert. 

BUT…

I do know that birds like bread.

 

seagull eating bread crumb

 

They will crane necks to get bread. 

 

seagull landing

 

They will swoop and fly.

 

seagull frenzy

 

They will get rowdy.

 

seagull standoff

 

Not all though. Some will be cautious–maybe even a bit suspicious.

This gull probably has an agent.

 

beach boys

 

So I moved on to other subjects.

Replaced the bread with a Frisbee.

 

beach frisbee

 

And … action.

 

playing Frisbee on beach

beach frisbee action

catching frisbee on beach

 

What challenges have you set up for yourself lately? 

Happy Monday!!

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Around the World in Eighty Seconds: Where Would You Go?

henry miller inspiration

I like looking at travel/food blog posts.  I get a little boost, a little vicarious relaxation.

Maybe it’s the cold, rainy, icy weather we’ve been having lately, but I’ve been craving some go time, the kind of meandering that starts with a leisurely cup of (fancy) coffee and goes . . . wherever.

Fancy coffee always makes me feel like I’m on vacation.

Add in a great view and I’m set

 

 

 

 

Do you have any plans to travel soon?  Where would you go if you could go anywhere right now?  Would you eat seafood cake?

Have a great week!

Jump at the Sun and Reach for the (Pie in the) Sky

jump at the sun quote_opt

 

For the most part, I am a feet-on-the-ground and Thanksgiving-at-home kind of girl, but I have to admit that opportunities can arise that call for some “jumping at the sun” time.

grand canyon ledge_opt

 This is a little too close to the sun if you ask me.

That’s some of my family at the Grand Canyon.  We broke from our routines and typical Thanksgiving traditions and flew with my husband’s family to Las Vegas.

From there we took a day trip to the canyon.

grand canyon jump_opt

 Jumping at the sun.

 

We all had a fun, and very uplifting time.

 

Expanding comfort zones on the Las Vegas zip line.

 

Yeah, that’s me up there.  Totally exhilarating.

Okay, so I have to admit that as I stepped on that platform, I considered the expertise of the kids trussing me up like a turkey and hooking me to that line, but I put that fear aside.  And I’d do it again.

Comfort zone . . . what’s that?  Waistbands weren’t the only things stretched this Thanksgiving holiday.

Although there was plenty of that too.

Finding pie in the sky is a tasty bonus.

 

Okay so I missed my usual Thanksgiving festivities like the parade and my mom’s turnip mashed potatoes.  And leaping from a platform that’s almost 7o feet in the air?  Well, that was a stretch for me (if you don’t believe me, check out my post on flying).

But, new experiences offer growth, confidence and in the case of a writer, research!  Plus, new stuff can offer a deeper appreciation for your regular routine and traditions.

Of course, some new things aren’t difficult at all . . .

That’s a TV and a bath tub.  Together.  What?

I hope you get the chance to try something new and awesome this week!

 

 

What new opportunities are within your reach?  Do you struggle with stretching your comfort zone?  Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon, or on a zip line?  

Tell me, I love it when you comment!

Have a great week!

Flying the Anxious Skies

 

“It is difficult, when faced with a situation you cannot control, to admit you can do nothing.”
~ Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid

fear of flying cocoon of denial_opt

I am not on a plane, over the ocean.  It only looks that way.

 

Anxiety sucks.
I don’t know what unleashes it first, the need for control or the lack of control.  It’s kind of a chicken/egg thing.  Either way, I know that control is a major factor in my anxiety.

Take my fear of flying (please!).  It combines my dislike for cramped spaces and playing what my overactive imagination likes to call The Life Lottery.

  • You can’t get eaten by a shark if you don’t go in the ocean.
  • You will not plunge 36,000 feet if you don’t fly.
  • You will not get stuck in a crowded elevator if you don’t get on one.

Because life can be so freaking random.  There are so many things I can’t control, that maybe when I feel like I can avoid something, like say the parachute not opening or the bungee cord snapping, then I feel like I should.

(Note: I can safely say there will not be any sky diving or bungee jumping posts from me in the future—not of me anyway.)

But what do you do when a fear or phobia is in the way of something you DO want to do?

“While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

Really??

Believe me, I try to rationalize my fear of flying, but it’s like trying to explain to my teenage daughter why I don’t want her to walk down the beach alone at night in a foreign country.

But I’m almost 18! Why not?

It makes sense to me, but not to her.

Like my husband the engineer trying to explain Bernoulli’s Principle regarding air flight to me:

As the speed of moving fluid (liquid or gas) increases, the pressure within the fluid decreases.  The airplane wing is designed to split air as it travels through it, and adjust the air speed above and below the wing so that there’s low pressure on the top of the wing’s surface, and higher pressure on the bottom.  This variance in air speed and pressure generates lift.

And generates great confusion.  I don’t get it.

At the science museum in town, they have a beach ball floating atop a stream of blowing air to help demonstrate part of this principle.

Doesn’t help.  Not when kid after kid walks up to that display to knock the ball out of the air stream.

I don’t even need to see that beach ball hit the ground to worry, my overactive imagination distorts airplane aerodynamics all on its own.  Besides, as a writer I spend a lot of time thinking about the WHAT IF?

 

“Yeah. Calm down. Two of the most useless words in the English language.”
~ Lili St. Crow, Betrayals

On our flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt, the pilot introduced himself and then said, “I anticipate some bumps at take off and as we cross over Serbia.

What?!

Now I know some people like to know what they are getting into.  I however, did not appreciate this knowledge because it made me then have to consider the definition of bumpy according to the tyrant pilot about to fly our plane.

After all he’s a pilot and he’s used to turbulence.  In fact, I often look at the pilot and the attendants before a flight, checking their faces for any stress or anxiety.  I figure if they’re okay, I should be okay.  (See?  That’s me trying to be rational.)  So if you’re a pilot, don’t mention bumpy unless you clarify it.  Because bumpy could mean a range of things, from a gentle hiccup to your plastic cup of coke hitting the ceiling.

So after that announcement, I immediately called up the course map on my personal TV screen.

Where the heck is Serbia??  (I’m cleaning up my unfiltered, anxiety driven language here for you.)

I never found Serbia, but apparently it’s very large.  The entire flight felt like we were making a trip up to Walton’s Mountain in an old Ford with blown shock absorbers.

Rationalizing wasn’t working, I needed a distraction.

So I tried to watch a movie, then a TV show, but the only thing I could get my screen to do (other than watch the excruciatingly slow progress that we were making even at a ground speed of 600 mph) was play a special Lufthansa meditation CD.

(I had my own iPod, but my headphones were no match for the jet engines which were apparently working very hard at doing what I have no clue.  Don’t get me started on how the weight of engines and everything else can stay 36,000 feet in the air.)

So I started the meditation CD, and then proceeded to listen to a (German? Austrian?) psychologist talk me through visualizing Edelwiess meadows, lonely goatherds, and Heidi singing Do Re Me.  Then Dr. von Trapp told me to envision jumping into the cool waters of a babbling brook while remembering to release anxiety by clenching and unclenching various muscles, including my buttocks.

Um, if you’re taking notes, this may be out of order—I should mention I also took a Xanax.

Mostly I jiggled my feet up and down for four hours, because my brother-in-law said it helps to make you feel like you are the one causing the bumpiness rather than Bernoulli pot holes (again with the control) I imagine I looked like Fred Flintstone pedaling his car.  I was exhausted.

And the second we landed?  I burst into tears of relief.

Yea, I was a hot mess.

But I had to think positive because we weren’t done. We had two more flights to go.

So I concentrated on the positive—avoiding all negativity.  Especially thoughts of movies like Bridesmaids.  As much as I love that movie, Kristen Wigg played a nervous flyer and ended up sitting next to another nervous flyer who said this:

 “I had a dream last night . . . that the plane went down. Yup. It was terrible. You were in it.”

 

Instead of that, it’s helpful to focus on your travel destination and whatever fun things you are looking forward to.  For me, my favorite positive, happy place is usually a white sandy beach next to clear blue water.  I imagine the warmth of the sun, a cool sea breeze and hopefully relax.

Sometimes though I just imagine being finished with whatever is causing me stress. On the way home, during the third and last leg of our plane itinerary, I imagined walking out of the airport, going home, seeing my house, I even went so far as to imagine the warmth of the wood floors and the smell of the shampoo in my shower.

If that doesn’t work, other distractions help. I also did crossword puzzles—easy ones that didn’t require me to stop too long to think.  For me that meant the puzzles in the People magazine. When desperate I used the airline magazine—and I wasn’t above flipping to the back for answers. After all it’s not the SATs. The point of this exercise was to keep my mind  occupied in a positive way.

I have to say I’m pretty grateful that (crying aside) I managed to at least look mostly calm. At least my freak out did not involve a hallucination or the airplane’s PA system, like the character in Bridesmaids:

“I have an announcement too, there is a COLONIAL WOMAN ON THE WING. The woman on the wing, I saw her! There’s something they’re not telling us! There’s a Colonial woman. She was churning butter. She was churning butter on that wing; she’s out there right now! There is something they’re not telling us! Look out there, she is dressed in traditional Colonial garb!”

 

Really what you need to do is keep your anxiety in check long enough not to resort to using the PA system, but send off enough distress vibes that your name gets picked for the FIRST CLASS LOTTERY.

Yup.  You heard that right.  After that bumpy Lufthansa flight, we got another kind of bump on our overseas leg–an upgrade from coach to US Airway’s Envoy class.  Not just myself and my husband, but our kids as well.

Sparkling water (or wine) with lemon, warm mixed nuts, a menu to choose your meal, a seat that reclines ALL THE WAY FLAT, noise (read: jet engine) reducing headphones, steamed wash clothes (I had no idea what I was missing there!), hot fudge sundaes and your very own kit of personal toiletries like lotion, chapstick, an eye mask, socks and toothbrush!.

Feeling especially rich and fancy, my son did his best impersonation of James William Bottomtooth III from Family Guy.

flying fancy bottomtooth style_opt

 

It was so much fun to see the excited looks on my kids faces.  Plus I learned it’s still possible to impress my teenage daughter.

flying first class happy _opt

 

Thankfully I am the only nervous flyer in our family, but this perk got all of us grinning–even me.  I was SO grateful.  Gratitude can go a long way in reducing stress and anxiety (and so can the amenities of first class).

The proof?  I actually slept for almost 5 hours.

Yay!

So maybe first class won’t always be an option (one can always hope though), but if you can, treat yourself to a good pair of noise reducing headphones. They help maintain the cocoon of denial if all else fails.

 

“The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.”

~ Maya Angelou

 

Are you cool as a cucumber or do you imagine Colonial women on the wing of the plane?  How do you deal with anxiety?