Thursday, June 27, 2013

#208 Try Kayaking

It's Wednesday. The day is beautiful and slightly overcast. I am at work and bursting at the seams. Everyday at noon I become.....unfocused? Bored? Tired? Spent? Withdrawn? Not sure what the proper word is for how I feel the last two and a half hours of my work day. What I do know is that those last 2 1/2 hours cannot go fast enough. Especially on beautiful days like this day was. I could not wait to get out of there.

I take my lunch very late in the day for a number of reasons. On this day at lunch I am harassing Becky via text in the form of funny pictures. We start talking about our plans for the night. She mentions she was thinking of going kayaking. Would I like to join her? All of a sudden I am revived. There is new life in this gal. Hell yeah I would like to join her. There were a few things I wanted to do after work but screw it, they could wait for another day. I was going kayaking for the first time ever and I was very excited to say the least.

After work I stop home to change into shorts and sandals. Damn my legs are white. Need to use more of that sunless tanner but now is so not the time. I am going kayaking!! I drive down to Beech Mountain Lakes to meet Becks. She has two kayaks. I get the blue one. It's my favorite color so this makes me even happier. ( I am such a goof I know. ) I help her as best as I can to get the boats off the Jeep and over to the boat launch. We are strong chicks, even if Becky may have knocked herself in the head with one of the boats. Sometimes people take boats to the head. It happens....usually to me but this time I was spared.

The blue kayak for me!! :)

Becky gives me a quick crash course on how to steer the boat. If you want to turn right, paddle to the left and vice versa. The color drains from my face for a second. I do not know my left from my right. I'm screwed. I'm going to be on the opposite side of the lake from Becky stuck in a pile of lake weed and branches. I'm going to flip the boat and never be seen or heard from again. The evening news will go something like this. " Little blonde woman mysteriously disappears into the depths of Beech Mountain Lakes. We believe the turtles and bass got her. All she had to do was turn left but she turned right because she could not hold her hands up to make an "L" to guide her with oars in her hand. Such a sad senseless tragedy.....that a 39 year old woman does not know her left from her right. And now for the latest sports scores here is our favorite sports reporter Jacques Strappe."

I breath a little. I will get it. The reason I don't know my left from my right is because I am a natural at getting the feel for just about anything really fast. It's true. My mind just knows what to do. So...I let it do it's thing. When I have to really think about something is when I have issues. That doesn't necessarily mean I am good at everything I set out to do, if you ever saw me play pool or horseshoes you would understand, but I do get a feel and a concept for whatever it is I am doing. If I just go with the flow, I'm good.

We get the boats in the water. Becky demonstrates how to paddle. You are to paddle overhand, reaching as far as you can, without putting the oars too deep in the water. I give it a go. Since my arms are short I keep hitting the oars off the side of the boat. Since my arms are short, my reach is not that far. I am also plunging my oars way too deep in the water. I do however, know how to turn the boat. And like I said, I didn't have to think about it. I just did it.

After about twenty minutes I have a good flow going. I am not making as much noise, I just have to lean a little further with my upper body. I also got the feel for using the oars at the perfect depth for moving. Using the rowing machine has paid off. My arms are not the slightest bit sore or tired. Granted, I am on a lake and not the rapids, but this is definitely the best place to learn. I am having such a blast kayaking for the first time ever. As we paddle the lake Becky tells me we are going to a place she calls Turtle Cove so I follow her lead.

"I'm on a boat! I'm on a boat! Take a good look at the muthaf@cking boat!" - The Lonely Island

 I notice in the far left hand corner of the lake ( I had to think about that, LOL!) there is a little water path. Is that where we are going I wonder? From the looks of Becky's direction, it is. Paddling and orienteering in the open water has been easy, but now we are going into a smaller body of water. I begin feeling slightly anxious about getting stuck and flipping the boat again. I don't allow my anxiety to stop me though. I figure a smaller body of water is perfect for learning how to maneuver the boat better.

As we enter the little cove, I notice the water is so smooth and still compared to the choppy lake water. As we put our oars in the water, they make a gentle sound, like slowly pouring water in a cup. It is very quiet and secluded back here. I tell Becky I feel like we are in a secret oasis no one else knows about. She tells me that is exactly how she feels and it is why she loves coming back here. She says she calls it Turtle Cove because she always sees lots of little turtles swimming around amongst the lily pads and leaves on her visits.

Beech Mountain Lake Drums, PA
Entering the cove

As we go further back into the cove I find myself headed towards a pile of underwater branches on the side of the lake. I panic a little at the thought of getting stuck and flipping the boat over into the stagnant water. I am positive that would not feel, taste or smell good at all. Becky notices me panicking a little. She tells me not to worry, the boat will not flip over. Her words are heaven to my ears. Nothing else phases me for the rest of the ride.

We spend about thirty minutes in the cove. I am in absolute awe over the lily pads. I've seen them all my life, yet I never knew how they were there, in the water. By drifting through the cove in such still waters, from the water and not the shore, I can see tube-like stems growing from the bottom of the lake. At the top of these stems are.... lily pads! Very cool! For some reason, they reminded me of water mushrooms. I have no idea why but the thought kept appearing in my head. Are there even water mushrooms for real? Who knows. I also notice little polliwogs swimming around the lily pads. When we were little and my dad took us fishing, we used to get so excited to see polliwogs. We would try to catch them in little containers. I believe he allowed us to take them home once in awhile.

They always died, just like the sunnies aka sun perch we used to bring home. We would go outside several times a day to peer inside the little containers to see our new pets only to be devastated by their untimely demise. This was how we learned about death as children. All things die eventually, but as my father explained, sometimes removing a living thing from it's natural environment, it's eco-system, can be a death sentence. He humored us by allowing us to bring pets home a few times because he knew there was a lesson to be learned. Eventually, even at our young age, we made conscious choices to stop taking "pets" home and to just observe and appreciate them in their natural habitat. I passed this same lesson on to my children as well. Their reaction was the same as ours when we were children. Observe, appreciate, enjoy, but let it be.

Lily Pads
Lily pads aka Water Mushrooms LOL
Beech Mountain Lake, Drums PA
They were all over the place.  

Becky is a good turtle spotter. She would call out to me and point where to look in the water so I could see them too. They looked so cute and happy swimming around. The would come to the surface, peek their little heads out of the water, then dive back down to the bottom of the lake. You could see just how much Becky loved the little turtles. She looked so happy. I also noticed some baby bass and little rainbow trout swimming about in the cove. Becky says once it gets really warm, the gnats and mosquitoes become a huge nuisance, but right now, I have yet to even take notice of one flying pest in the air around us.

I find it so relaxing and calm in Becky's Turtle Cove. Again, it takes me back to JR Tolkien's world. This time I think of the stream that divides the Shire from the town of Bree. We float around a little longer, observing and chatting. I practice maneuvering the boat some more. My turns are still a little wide and awkward, but way better that when I first started. We make our way back out to the main lake and just float around for an hour talking girl talk, admiring the lakeside homes, and watching a fisherman in a boat nearby catch some trout. I could sit here out in the middle of the lake on a day like today all day and not think anything of it. I always loved the water and I have always loved boats. The fact that for the first time in my life, I controlled the boat with my own body strength made it even more rewarding and enjoyable.

Enjoying the view from our kayaks. 

I remember something my bestie Wayne said when he first started kayaking a few years back. He has always been as attuned to nature as I am, if not more. He was a walker and hiker like myself. However, as connected to the energy in nature as he was when walking, he said being on the water in a kayak brought him even closer to being one with nature. Walking connects you to the earth. Kayaking introduces another element to the experience, that element being water. Your body is the motor for the kayak. Your mind decides where it wants to go. You become one with your surroundings. It's a spiritual experience. I understood exactly what he was saying, but now having done it for myself, I feel it too.

I so happy!

It is now time to head back to shore. As we near the boat launch, Becky tells me to paddle as fast as I can to get the boat as far up the launch as possible. She will go first so I can watch her. She does a perfect job. Now it's my turn. I begin paddling as fast as I can but unfortunately I realize I am once again sticking the oars too deep in the water. Instead of getting my kayak up the boat launch, I fly right past it into the little gully next to the launch. Of course the club house and restaurant is right next to the boat launch. If any of the diners happened to be looking out the window at that very moment, they were probably wondering WTF the woman in the big blue kayak was trying to do and that perhaps she should not be in a kayak at all.

Becky and I are both laughing like crazy over this. I get to practice maneuvering the boat some more since I got myself stuck in the gully. Lots of good lessons I am teaching myself today I laugh. I push off the side of the grass with an oar and turn myself around. This is not as easy to do when you can't stop laughing. Finally I manage to get the kayak sideways up the boat launch. Okay, so I still need some work but it's all good because I have found myself completely enamored with kayaking. I plan to do as much of it this summer as possible. I may even decide to get my own boat if the price is right. Then, I will just need to learn how to tie it to the Blazer.

Where I tried to park the kayak. So much not the boat launch! 
In closing, Wayne had mentioned when I first joined the gym last year that I would probably find myself favoring one piece of equipment way more than any other. I told him I had already bonded with the rowing machine. Considering how much I enjoy walking, hiking and as a kid, riding a bicycle, it was strange that it was the rower I found myself drawn to and not the treadmill, bike, or elliptical. He pointed out that my affinity for the rower was my mind naturally expressing what it enjoyed doing the most. That maybe I should eventually transition from the machine to an actual boat. As usual, he was dead on. I had always loved being on a boat in the water, but there is something so much more fulfilling about being the one powering the boat yourself.

Even going into the autumn of my life, I am still discovering new things about myself everyday. Some of those things were there all along, I just didn't notice or empower them for one reason or another. Self discovery is a beautiful thing no matter what your age. As CS Lewis once said, " You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." Wise words indeed.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

#106 Attend The Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival

Spring, what a perfect name for the season. It brings life full circle. It springs hope in the form of infant blooms from the weathered, storm tested branches of the glorious towering trees surrounding us. It springs perseverance in the form of saplings and perennials pushing through the cold, frozen ground, bringing new life from the dormant roots and bulbs beneath the surface. It springs determination in the form of new vegetation and flora, by cracking through the toughest of seed casings, breaking free the beauty encased from the pod, springing forth it's own radiating and resplendent contributions to the planet.

Cherry Blossoms Washington DC
Cherry Blossoms along the Tidal Basin, Washington DC

Every season has a purpose. Spring's purpose is to promote rebirth and rejuvenation. Summer's is to promote flourishing and ripening. Autumn's is to promote utilization and maturity. Winter's is to promote resting and regeneration. Seasons are a lot like people when you think about it. And while people oft refer to being in the spring, summer, autumn or winter of their lives based on their age, seasons for human's are so much more than that.

Each year of our life has a cycle just as the planet does. Each year of our life also has a season. And if you really pay close attention, you will notice your behaviors, attitudes and actions mirror the very season you are experiencing. We as people sometimes forget that we are just as big a part of Mother Nature as the vegetation, weather and atmosphere. We are part of the universe as well.

Okay, enough going deep. I'll stop now. Instead we will talk about........ ME! Lol. Well, it is my blog.

I myself am aware of the cycle of seasons that flow through each year of my life. I am connected to them. And I would have to say spring is my most favorite cycle/season. I find I feel most alive and spirited in the springtime. Most of the chances, gambles and risks I take, I tend to do more in the spring than any other time of the year largely because my attitude reflects the season. Mind you, I do not try to reinvent myself. I don't want to. However, I do strive to become a more diverse a person. I strive to become a better version of me.

One of my most favorite parts of spring is the dazzling, gorgeous trees in bloom. Their lush pastel colors of pinks and whites and yellows and purple make for a visually stunning representation of all that spring embodies. I find them so inspiring. And my most favorite of all the spring trees is the Japanese Cherry Blossom. It's weeping structure and alluring soft pink petals that number in the thousands fascinates me. I always wanted to have one of my own. I still do not have one but one day......

Let's go back ten years to a flea market store I was perusing. I am a big fan of vintage post cards and this store had thousands of them. As I was flipping through them, picking out a post card here and a post card there to utilize for some home project that to this day I have yet to decide on, I came across a vintage postcard of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC. It was the most beautiful postcard. There were fluffy pink trees surrounding the monument. "Does it really look like this?" I thought. When I flipped the card around to read the caption, it read Jefferson Memorial and Cherry Blossoms.

I went online to see if DC actually looked like this in the springtime. Turns out they have an entire festival dedicated to the blooming of the Cherry Blossom. It was then and there I added that to my bucket list. Fast forward 8 years to 2011. It was a hard winter for us. My daughter had turned 18 in December but the only thing I could afford to do at the time was take her to dinner. I told her as soon as I got extra money we would go to NYC to celebrate.

Motor Transportation, a local charter bus company, sends me a book every year containing all of their bus trips for the year. I could not remember for sure what days the bus went to NYC. I knew Wednesdays and Saturdays were a given, but I wanted to see if there were other days we could go as well. As I was flipping through the pages I noticed they had bus trips to the Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival. The price was right but I kept thinking how annoying sitting on a bus for five hours would feel. I could drive but DC traffic is right up there with NYC traffic. It is not pretty. I did not want that aggravation either.

For the next two days I kept debating the trip to DC. My son had been to DC but neither my daughter nor I had. My daughter was also just as big an admirer of the trees as I was. In addition to the allure of the Cherry Blossoms, I was also eager to see the WWII Memorial since my grandfather was a three time purple heart recipient whom served in Italy during WWII. Ten hours on a charter that was going to be a long day but I decide it is worth it.

I purchase the tickets over the phone, then pull my daughter aside and tell her I have a surprise for her. I pull up the Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival website and turn my laptop to her. She starts fawning over how pretty the trees are. I tell her in a few weeks she will see these very trees in person. I was hoping she would be excited about it and.....she was very excited to say the least.

Saturday April 9, 2011 we awake before the birds. The bus is leaving at 6AM sharp. I curse doing this to myself on a non work day but know I can sleep on the bus, whereas I can't sleep at work. My friend Donna also gave me a book to read for the travel. Between reading and sleeping on the bus, the morning went rather fast. We arrived in DC around 11 AM. It was definitely different from NYC. As we drove past Congress I became very excited. For how much you see the building on TV, it does not do justice to the sheer size of the building.

I say to my daughter that hopefully I will be able to get some pictures of the Congress building when the bus goes by it on the way home. Our bus drops us off at the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. We are to report back here for 5:45 PM. No exceptions. I pull out a little map of the Tidal Basin that I printed off the internet. I am so used to navigating NYC, Southern Jersey and the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. I have no idea where to go or where to start in DC. I also later come to find that I printed a not so great map of DC. It did not have half the attractions on it that were right in our vicinity. It only had the trees really. Well, I wanted to see the trees right?

I turn to my daughter and inform her she needs to bare with me as I try to figure out how to use our time the wisest. There is way too much to see and do in a short amount of time. We start walking towards the Washington Monument, which is HUGE!! As I am walking and checking out the map, I tell my daughter I hope we pass Congress again. She is looking at me funny but doesn't say anything. We stop for a moment so I can review my game plan with her. She has already noticed the Smithsonian's Freer/Sackler gallery which has Asian art and artifacts on display. She would like to go there. Well sure!

We map out our day. We will visit the WWII Memorial, walk the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial and back, find the Lincoln Memorial, then visit some museums in the Smithsonian starting with the Freer/Sackler Gallery. I also tell her if there is time I would like to try and find Congress. As I am saying this and tracing the route with my finger on my map, my daughter falls quiet. I glance up at her from the map. She has a half amused, half quizzical look on her face. I guess she is entertained by her mother's inexperience navigating this city.

We start walking again. There are many people strolling about in the National Mall. I have no idea why it is called a Mall though. There are absolutely no stores here. It is more like a really, really long stretch of grass. As we near the Washington Memorial, we notice people going inside it. There is also a sign that says no smoking around the memorial. I of course, am smoking. My daughter tells me to put it out. I tell her we are outside. She retorts that the sign says anywhere on the monument grounds which includes the outside. She also notes we are on federal property.

I finish my smoke defiantly as she looks on with disapproval. I start blabbing to her yet again about hoping to find Congress before we leave because it was such an amazing building. My kid is now openly laughing at me. I tell her that I know I sound like a broken record.

Finally she says "Mom, turn around." I turn around. Guess what is sitting directly across from the Washington Memorial on the other side of the giant humongous patch of grass known as the National Mall? The Congress building, that's what.

"Oh my god." I mutter. "Are you kidding me? How the hell did I not notice one of the biggest, most famous buildings in the city right behind me this whole time? And I call myself observant?" I am shaking my head in disbelief while my kid laughs at me.

There it is!! Congress

"Well, now I know where it is." I laugh. "We'll get pics when we come back." I tell my daughter. We proceed forward down the path to the WWII Memorial. As we pass the Washington Monument, which I was unaware you could even enter, I notice it is free. I ask my daughter if she would like to go in to which she replies yes. As we walk around the bend to the entrance, we change our minds immediately. It is swamped. The line in enormous. We decide to keep walking towards the WWII Memorial.

As soon as we come upon it, I am immediately taken by how magnificent the memorial is. Stone pillars with iron wreaths representing each of the 50 states envelop a large pond complete with several fountains. We walk around the monument awestruck. I remember Tom Hanks doing fundraising commercials to build this memorial on TV. I was so pleased to be able to visit this memorial not only to honor all those who served during WWII, especially my grandfather, but to appreciate the stunning architecture and design of the memorial. It was truly glorious.

The WWII Memorial Washington DC
The fountain at the WWII Memorial. 

The WWII Memorial Washington DC
So well said. 
The WWII Memorial Washington DC
Private William E. DeCosmo, Pennsylvania, 3 time Purple Heart recipient and doting grandfather.
The WWII Memorial Washington DC
The Washington Monument from the WWII Memorial
The WWII Memorial Washington DC
The Northeast
Mom and Daughter Field Trip to the nation's capitol. 
After spending thirty minutes exploring the WWII memorial we begin our trek along the Tidal Basin. Had I been a little more savvy I would have realized the reflecting pool and Lincoln Memorial were right behind the WWII Memorial. Unfortunately, we did not get to see them on this day because....I was just so confused. How can someone navigate through NYC and find everything she is looking for yet not be able to find monuments right next to each other in the same park? I have no idea. Welcome to my planet.

Our trek along the Tidal Basin is going to be somewhere between 3-5 miles one way. That is a lot of walking but the scenery makes it easy not to notice. Even though the day is overcast, it does not affect the blush spring beauty of the trees. The entire basin has been painted pink. We are visiting on the tail end of the blooming period, but the trees are still so beautiful. I had read that there were over 3000 Japanese Cherry Blossoms growing along the path. They were a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo back in 1912, 99 years prior to our visit.

It is incredible how some gestures of goodwill can stand the test of time. The Cherry Blossom festival promoted that goodwill, despite going to war with our good friend Japan in 1944. They say some friendships can stand the test of time. The USA and Japan are that very proof. While walking along the basin taking in all the beauty, I notice the path around the basin is a pretty narrow regular sidewalk. In fact it becomes very narrow in some spots. In other spots, you must actually go onto the grass to go around the basin because there is no sidewalk.

I also stare at the basin water. I wonder how deep it is. I later come to find it is only 10 feet deep. The trees nearest the basin are weeping so much that it looks as if they are actually bending into the basin to sip the cool spring water. The pink petaled branches reflecting off the basin create a beautiful mirage of thousands upon thousands of delicate flowers floating peacefully in the still waters. In fact, I have to look several times to remind myself it is only a reflection. The flowers are not really growing from within the depths of the basin.
Overhead, it is an infinite canopy of pink blossoms. There is no sky, only flowers. That is okay by me. The aura and energy emanating from the trees is so positive and glowing, even the most miserable of spirits would not be able to deny the feeling of serenity and contentment warming their hardened soul. We stop to pick up some of the millions of little petals scattered along the ground. They are so soft and heavenly.

If only I could nap in a bed made of cherry blossoms. It would probably be the most relaxing sleep I would ever have. I am now smiling uncontrollably. I am breathing the fresh, subtly fragrant air so deeply, my eyes clear and wide, soaking in the view. I find myself humming as we walk further down the path. I have allowed myself to become one with the spirit of my surroundings. And when one does that, one is at their most well being.

Cherry Blossoms Washington DC
Pretty in Pink
Cherry Blossoms Washington DC
Sipping some water.
Cherry Blossoms Washington DC
She's got curves.
Cherry Blossoms Washington DC
Each photo takes on a different characteristic. 
Cherry Blossoms Washington DC
Sweeping the water.

We continue our walk along the basin. Up ahead we see the FDR Memorial. We stop to look around. Mr. President does look a little green but that is what happens when bronze is exposed to the elements. I find it adorable that there is a little bronze statue of Fala, FDR's Scottish Terrier sitting obediently next to his master. Such a sweet touch. He did love him very much. After our visit to the FDR memorial we press forward. There are so many more beautiful pink trees up ahead near the George Mason Memorial. These trees are not all Cherry Blossoms though. There are many gorgeous magnolias at the height of their bloom.

The trees are very large, very lush and very pretty. Their big pink petals are just beginning to shed, carpeting the the grass beneath them. My daughter and I stop to rest in the park. We sit on a bench and admire our surroundings. We both comment about how much we wish the trees remained in bloom all summer long. However, would anyone appreciate them as much if they did? I think we would, but I believe part of the lesson nature provides via the spring blossom is to remind us not to take for granted the life we are given; to remain in bloom as often as possible for as long as possible because in the big scheme of things, we never really know when the last petal is going to fall from our tree.

FDR Memorial
FDR and Fala
FDR Memorial
FDR Memorial
FDR Memorial
I have seen war....I hate war. 
Magnolia Blossoms Washington DC
Stunning Magnolias

Magnolia Blossoms Washington DC
The Magnolias blooming around the George Mason Memorial

My beautiful daughter 
My baby all growed up! 
After our little breather, we make our way to the Jefferson Memorial. It looked so minuscule from across the basin where we started our journey. However, as we near it, I realize just how large the memorial is. It is also by far the most crowded memorial we have visited today. There are people everywhere.

A military band is playing music outside the memorial as soldiers from all branches of are military walk about proud and tall, dressed in their respective uniforms. They look so sharp. I am humbled by their presence and reminded how very proud I am to be an American.

We climb the steps, all 50 million of them, to see the gigantic statue of Thomas Jefferson. Here is a great man whom did not waste one moment of his life. He was everywhere. He was involved in everything. He moved mountains. He created paths of opportunity. He definitely lived a full and productive life. How many of us can say that? After touring the inside of TJ's memorial, we sit on the steps with the other visitors and soak in the view. Across the basin is the Washington Monument, towering above the National Mall and all of DC.
The Jefferson Memorial Washington DC
The Jefferson Memorial from the Tidal Basin
The Jefferson Memorial Washington DC
The famous steps and Greek architecture complete with Ionic Columns.
The Jefferson Memorial Washington DC
What a view!
The Jefferson Memorial Washington DC
Thomas Jefferson
After our visit to the Jefferson Memorial, we begin our journey back to the National Mall. Time is creeping by and I promised my daughter we would visit the Freer/Sackler Gallery. If time permitted, we also wanted to see the Museum of Natural History. The walk back doesn't take nearly as long so we make good time. As we arrive at the Freer Gallery, I try to find out how much admission is. There are no signs posted. I always dislike going into a place and having to ask "How much?" but I had no clue.

I walked to the counter near the entrance and asked the museum lady ( I don't know what to call her) how much admission was. I was expecting it to be about $20 a piece. I literally dropped my camera when she told me admission was free. All the buildings in the Smithsonian were free! What?? I had no idea. This was fantastic news! After I retrieved the batteries that rolled across the floor when I dropped my camera and made sure I didn't break it ( I didn't. This thing is definitely indestructible because I have dropped it at least 100 times.) my daughter and I began our tour of this museum.

I may have gotten in trouble for using the flash when taking pictures of the 5000 year old Chinese scrolls. ( I swear I forgot to turn off the flash.) This would be the second time in the last fifteen minutes I got reprimanded for something. ( I also got schooled by a cop for jaywalking outside the museum. What a great example I am for my kid. Whose the parent?) My favorite exhibit was the 21 Monkeys Grasping For the Moon by artist Xu Bing. Each monkey was designed out of lacquered Baltic birch wood in a different language. We followed the chain from the top of the gallery all the way down to the bottom floor.

I was very moved by the moral of the sculpture. My translation: Sometimes we work so hard chasing illusions of grandeur that we are in fact setting ourselves up for disappointment. Our mind has a way of portraying an unrealistic image of the things we want most in life, blurring what is the actual reality from the reality as we have it designed in our minds. In other words, sometimes we create our own unhappiness by expecting the perfect impossible instead of striving for the imperfect possible. See everything for what it really is and you will find your happiness.

Monkeys Grasp for the Moon
Monkeys Grasp for the Moon by Xu Bing
Monkeys Grasp for the Moon
Some of the languages represented
Monkeys Grasp for the Moon
From the top
To the bottom
Monkeys Grasp for the Moon
Would love a wind chime or something like this. 
Monkeys Grasp for the Moon
The pool at the bottom.
Monkeys Grasp for the Moon
More featured languages
After touring the Freer/ Sackler Gallery we had time to visit the Museum of Natural History. The museum was packed. We fought through the crowds to look at dinosaur bones, fossils, crocheted coral reefs, the Hope Diamond ( Doubt they had the real one on display) and orchids. It was the orchids in which we were most enamored. Seeing them on display in the museum, well they were so pristine, colorful and perfect that we didn't believe they were real flowers.

In fact someone was so convinced they were fake that she may have pulled a little too hard on a flower to prove her point, thus pulling the petal right off the flower. Guess someone takes after her mother after all. I inform my daughter that I am going to call the museum cops on her. It's about time someone else got in trouble for something besides me. Smoking on national monument grounds, jaywalking, taking pictures with the flash on.... now we are pulling petals off of museum flowers....yep, my daughter is just as bad ass as her mother.  Look out world....

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
This is what my daughter's house is going to look like.
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
They are real...ask my kid how real they are.
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Gorgeous colorful delicate orchids
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
The hyperbolic crochet coral reef
The Hope Diamond Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
The Hope Diamond
Our day is coming to an end. We have a looooong bus ride back to Hazy. After all the beauty, fresh air, and walking, it will be nice to sit back on the bus and relax. The Cherry Blossom Festival did not disappoint. My daughter and I got to spend some quality time together doing something we both love to do, explore new places.

Since my kids were little ones, I made it a point to get them used to travel because it is something I love to do. I wanted to share that with them. I wanted to share my love for new experiences with them.

Both of them are in love with NYC. Both of them love exploring new places and taking in all the sites. And while one is afraid of heights and one can't swim, neither of them seem to allow their fears to hold them back from doing the things they want to do the most. My daughter has flown and my son loves boat rides. Now if I can get the both of them on roller coasters....well my work will be done here. LOL! Live, laugh, love, appreciate, experience, and most of all just be. Embrace all the seasons of your life.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

#296 Climb to the Top of A Lighthouse

Cape May Point Lighthouse
Cape May Point Lighthouse. 
It was August 27, 2010. My parents had taken their camper down to the Beachcomber Campground in Cape May for the week. They were set to come home that weekend and invited us down for a visit. My father had even given us the blessing to use his new Chevy Tahoe for the ride down. How sweet was that?

Late that Friday night, my sister, my kids and I piled into my dad's Tahoe and headed towards the Jersey Shore. Turns out, the Tahoe had lots of neat gadgets and features as we would soon find out. You see, my sister and I can sometimes be the female equivalents of Harry and Lloyd from the movie Dumb and Dumber. No, we are not dumb, not at all. It's just that sometimes common sense eludes us and we F things up.

What happened during the ride to the shore was not at all a shocking to anyone, especially my father. For instance, someone managed to jam the sun roof open (Me) while unwittingly activating the heated seats (Me). We didn't even notice the seats were that hot until about 30 minutes into the ride. Of course, I didn't know how I activated that feature so, I also had no idea how to shut it off. Nothing like driving 4 hours in 80 degree weather while sitting on heated seats. My ass already felt sunburned and we hadn't even made it to Jersey yet.

The 70 mph air blowing through the jammed open sun roof while driving on the turnpike gave us some relief from the neck up but it was not enough. Our butts were getting really hot. They were sticking to the heated leather seats. So, we started playing around with the air conditioner. We may have accidentally turned the air conditioner to the highest setting but were unable to figure out how to turn it back down, leaving my kids to freeze in the backseat (Alicia). So now we were driving with the sun roof open, the air conditioner on full blast and the heated seat function fully activated.

My sister and I were the poster children for global warming and the reason why there is a go green movement wrapped into one.

One of the stunning Victorians in Cape May.
To add salt to all the wounds we were inflicting upon ourselves, we also took the wrong exit in Philly (Alicia). Instead of taking the Walt Whitman Bridge to get into New Jersey, we were now taking the Ben Franklin Bridge into Camden NJ at 1:00 AM in the freakin'  morning. I never prayed so hard in my life to not have the car break down.

Thankfully we did not have to go directly into inner city Camden, but the thought of being anywhere in the vicinity of Camden, especially with my two children, day or night, was enough to unnerve me quite a bit. My sister and I breathed a sigh of relief once we were safely on the Atlantic City Expressway. We were even more happy to get onto the Garden State Parkway. It was a straight shot to all shore points from there.

We arrived safely at the campground around 3:00 AM. Sheepishly, we told our dad about how bad we effed up the Tahoe. All he could do was shake his head and laugh. We are his daughters that is for sure. No question about that. My father fixed the sunroof and gave us a quick tutorial on how to turn down the air conditioning and turn off the heated seats. I just stood there exasperated by how ditzy I could be.

After getting some sleep, we woke up the next day and drove around Cape May. We came across the lighthouse while visiting Cape May Point State Park. It is still an active lighthouse used by the Coast Guard to aid in navigation but it is also open to the public during the day. For as many times as we had all been to Cape May, we had never once climbed to the top of the lighthouse.

Cape May Lighthouse from the water. 

My son suggested we do it. My sister, my son and I were all game to give it a go. My daughter passed on the opportunity. She is afraid of heights. I asked my daughter if she minded that we visited the lighthouse. She said she had no problem relaxing on a bench on the lighthouse grounds while we climbed to the top. There were seagulls and many other birds hanging around since this particular area of Cape May was a popular spot for bird migration.

My daughter enjoyed nature watching so she would be able to occupy herself while we climbed the lighthouse. She found a nice spot on a bench while the rest of us walked into the base of the 151 year old lighthouse. (At the time I am writing this, it is now 153 years old.) It was $7.00 to climb all 199 stairs to the top of the 157 foot structure.

We paid our money and prepared for our ascent. Just as I had imagined, the inside was very narrow. Looking upwards created an optical illusion. The metal spiral staircase winded elegantly all the way to the top of the cylinder shaped building. It was dizzying but also very cool. The walls of brick and mortar were in pristine condition. You could immediately tell this lighthouse was well maintained. I also noticed that there wasn't much room for passing anyone else on the stairs.

Cape May Point Lighthouse
The stairwell of the Cape May Lighthouse. 
At the time we were doing this, I considered myself to be in okay physical shape. Boy was I wrong. We began our climb. My sandals were not agreeing with the metal stair case. They were bothering my feet. When we hit the first landing, there was an elderly lady resting by the window. We smiled and nodded at her then began climbing again. In the back of my mind I had hoped she would be alright to climb the entire staircase.

My son was counting the stairs as we climbed. By the second landing I was already finding myself winded. I realize I am a smoker but this was very disconcerting to me because I do not believe it is the smoking alone that was hindering me. I was just that out of shape.

By the third landing, I had to stop and rest. My legs were beginning to feel like jello and I was starting to gasp for air. This was not nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped it would be. However, the view from the top kept me inspired enough to keep going.

By the fourth landing I had become very slow and needed to stop again. I told my son to go ahead without me. I would meet him at the top. He was beginning to look a little concerned for me which made me sad for him and angry with myself. My sister was tired as well but not nearly as winded as I was. She waited for me to catch my breath.

Slowly, I finished the climb to the top. My son was waiting for me, still looking concerned. I told him to give me a moment to regroup and I would be just fine. Unfortunately, it took more than a few moments which began to alarm me. My legs were complete jelly and my upper thigh muscles were starting to burn. I was gasping for air. My head was beginning to ache from all the gasping. I refused to allow my condition to ruin this moment. I told myself to suck it up, and mustered enough strength to do just that.

We walked to the banister to take in the view below us. It was a beautiful vista of the beach and ocean. We glimpsed the Cape May Lewes Ferry in the distance shuttling passengers from New Jersey to Delaware. We saw the old concrete WWII bunker, now abandoned, sitting on the beach ahead of us. During the war it had contained heavy artillery and was manned by naval gunnery crews. Near the end of WWII, a German U-Boat commander had actually surrendered his submarine off the coast of Cape May.

Cape May WWII Concrete Bunker
The Concrete WWII bunker from the beach.
The bunker, beach, marshes and parking lot from the top of the lighthouse. 
The pretty beach houses of Cape May and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in the background. 
The marshes popular for fall bird migration. 

Heather is sitting down there somewhere under the trees.

The wind was gusting wildly. My hair was whipping around like crazy. We were towering 165 feet above sea level. It was definitely worth the effort it took for me to climb the stairs. We strolled around the platform, taking in the fresh air and beach town vistas.We checked out the giant glass light that torched into the night sky to direct ships to shore. I would have loved to see the sunset from the top of the lighthouse but it was not open that late.

Eventually it was time for the descent down the 199 stairs. My breathing was back to normal but my legs had this weird sensation like they were unsure whether to keep burning or keep wobbling. Our descent down was a little scarier for me because my jello legs keep giving out. Tumbling down a metal spiral staircase would definitely not be a fun experience I thought. In fact, it would probably be very painful. Taking other people out with me along the way would be even less fun.

My sandals were not helping the situation by constantly slipping out of my feet. I did not think this though at all I scolded myself. I took it slow the whole way down, allowing room for people who were climbing the stairs to pass me. Once we reached the bottom I felt like my legs were about to completely give out.

Cape May Lighthouse
Cape May Lighthouse at dusk. 
I walked outside and joined my daughter on the bench. My right leg was now shaking uncontrollably. It was in that moment where some clarity came to me. The view itself was worth all the pain I would feel tomorrow. However, I had just turned 37. Why did I feel 80? There were people 20 and 30 years older than me on those stairs and they were not struggling. There was no reason I should have been struggling as much as I was.

I was taught an important lesson walking into the lighthouse that day. I was not nearly as healthy as I believed I was. I needed to make an effort to get myself back into shape. I wanted to do so many things even more challenging than climbing to the top of a lighthouse. There was no way I would be able to do many of those things if I did not take my health seriously.

Even slow progress was better than none and I am all about baby steps yet I refused to change. I could no longer afford to be stubborn. Little did I know the Cape May Lighthouse experience was just the catalyst, it was just the beginning. I was meant to experience exactly what I was feeling. Fate was intervening.

Run For You Life Zombie 5K. I finished it!
If someone would have walked over to that bench at the very moment on Saturday, August 28th, 2010 and told me almost two years from this exact date that I would find myself not only running in the 8th most challenging 5K obstacle course in the world but finishing it, I would have told them they were completely insane.

On Saturday September 1st, 2012 I did just that. It is amazing what one can accomplish when one believes in oneself. The human spirit is such a powerful force. Yet, for some of us, self doubt, insecurity, fear of taking chances, fear of failure and being lazy are given so much more priority.

We are the only ones that have the power to change our body, mind and spirit. We are the only ones that have the power to decide how we are going to live our lives. We are the only ones that have the power to change the way we think. No one else has that right. Do not give them that power. Take it for yourself.

I have decided to distribute my power to being positive and working towards positive fulfilling goals in my life. I want to flourish not flounder. Trust me, It's not always easy, I fall down pretty hard sometimes but I am also willing to fight for my life and as long as I am willing to do that, no one is going to stop me. That power belongs to me and me alone.

Veni Vidi Vici!


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