Tag: vacation

An American in Literary Europe

An American in Literary Europe

A Phlog
(Photo Blog-photos by Jade Bookends, LCC and Zach Ruslan are copyrighted and acknowledged throughout)
9-22 September 2018

In a short, while seemingly long, two week time period, I ventured out on vacation. I proved to myself that I was ready to begin life as a solo traveler…and one who has many stories from the places and people over the course of two weeks.

And writing! So much writing! I was writing story notes and ideas, and poems on my phone when I wasn’t near my Surface, big notebook or smaller notebook. So much writing.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I began my trip exploring the places that sparked literary stories from writers like Ernest Hemingway; he spent time in Madrid. Only after I was done in Spain, leaving the airport, and looking at the hills in the background from my seat window, did I now fully understand Hills Like White Elephants. I previously mentioned I’ve never been a Hemingway fan, yet it was in Madrid that began my literary tour.  It was in Madrid where I stood at the top of a staircase, Escalerilla De Piedra, clearly marked by a balcony, leading down to Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world. It was at the top of these stairs where Napoleon stood. History lines the streets, stairs, buildings, and architecture.  Hemingway ate at Botín. He did not eat at a small restaurant just a few doors down and above the doorway hangs a sign-their claim to fame. Walking past Botín, further down the sidewalk, then taking a right to walk down a narrow street, my tour guide spoke of authors who walked in the same spot.

 

Madrid, Spain. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

I spent 5 hours in Madrid’s city centre, ate tapas with a cervaces (beer), enjoyed a chocolate (hot) and churro at Chocolatería San Ginés, and took the Metro back to the airport to continue my trip to Paris. My day of speaking Spanish would have to wait until I reached Barcelona later in the trip.

In Paris, there was Victor Hugo, and I could hear the music score of Les Misérables in the backdrop of my mind, taking me back to the root of my exposure to the story and music; signing a solo part of “On My Own,” scored for Eponine; going to NYC to see the show on Broadway. The Paris Opera House, inspiration for Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, in its sparkling evening glow light. I remember walking along the Pont des Arts bridge in 2014, and, somewhere, there are photos of the bridge railings lined with locks of love; those locks were removed a year later (2015) because they were too heavy and the weight threatened the structure. I was on the same bridge during this trip and the view of the Seine is now what accents the city of romance.

 

Notre Dame and Paris Opera House. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

Standing in front of Notre Dame, surrounded by a lot of people sitting, standing in line to enter the cathedral, and taking selfies, our personal guide asked our group how we heard about Notre Dame: the animated Disney movie was the most popular reason. For me, I have a more personal connection with the cathedral from my visit four years ago. I’ve never read the books, and this Disney buff vaguely remembers the movie. And it was Victor Hugo who wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

In my writing, Notre Dame is the setting for my short story, Lost in the City of Lights. When I wrote the story in October/November 2016, I did not have any clue that my life was beginning to unravel. I wrote the story for a class; when I read it at a much later date, there was an “Oh my!” moment, followed by “I had absolutely no idea I was predicting a future life not that far off.” The story is filled with hope, discovery, searching, and love of many levels. Writers love to talk about their stories, but this one seemed to be the pinnacle of one of the best stories I’ve ever written. Paris did that to me when I first visited in 2014. Notre Dame was my first sightseeing stop and it obviously made an impression.

On the Seine River, during a dinner cruise, a dear friend asked me to be his model for his new camera that worked well in low light; I readily agreed, and this was before I was sporting a beautiful Mediterranean tan. As the boat glided by, I said, “Notre Dame! It’s the setting for my short story.” And he took a few more pictures. My friends were really great during the cruise and one scolded me for taking selfies when he and his wife could easily take my picture, and he instructed I give them my phone. It really warmed my heart, and brought even bigger smiles to my face, being surrounded by such good friends. “You’re always smiling,” one friend said, as he lightly pinched my dimple. I think my energy and spirit was infectious. How could I not smile…I was in Paris!!!!  I was going back to Italy and Spain was a new country for me.

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Notre Dame from the Seine. Photo Copyright @Zach Ruslan

I got lost in Paris.  Physically got lost. Google maps did not help between the hours of 11pm and 1am. This blondie’s compass is already broken, and I remember standing some place, looking at my location on the map that put me smack-dab in the middle of the Seine, and I began to panic: I was lost, I was alone, and I was a female, lost and alone in a foreign place. The moment I felt these feelings rush into tears, I stopped walking, cursed my phone and Google maps, and gave myself a pep talk. I had been in worse situations, and with someone standing right next to me. After drawing in a deep breath, I told myself to regroup, back track, and find my way. “You can do this. You got this.” It was just me-I had no choice…and taxis sleep at night,

When I was telling this story to my friend, K, recently, she said, “Sometimes you have to get lost to find your way.” Paris was my getting lost, and I certainly stumbled in Madrid, but it was a bit easier to navigate because of a more structured street system; I understood the public transportation system (wish I had used it from Disneyland into the city-would have been a huge money saver!), and my knowledge of Spanish. (I can actually read French, German, Spanish, and Italian very well…German is my strongest speaking language, followed by: Spanish, Italian, French, and a few phrases in Mandarin.) My stumbles in Europe weren’t of the knee-scraping kind, but more of moments I braced myself to prevent a fall; my knees never really touched the ground this time.

While wandering, and getting lost, I read The Real Midnight in Paris by Paul Brody. The Lost Generation, as I mentioned, is my forte literature period. I’m beginning to think 18th and 19th century French literature might be my next hobby for studies.

I can’t seem to read enough into The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), and have read a few more of his works. I’ve read a few books about Zelda, including an autobiography, and I must say while those two were free-spirited in their own unique ways, they were also toxic to each other. From reading about their lives from both sides, there is no one side to choose (Scott vs Zelda) in their marriage. Both parties were to blame. It’s one of those slippery-slope conversations, because I do defend Zelda at times. Scott certainly could have provided more support, but this leads into the testing waters of the Fitzgerald’s’ marriage-that slippery-slope.

That was such a different generation and the whole reason expatriates ended up in Europe: they were (to put it bluntly) pissed off at the previous generation. And the US entered WWI late. I studied literature through war at SNHU, and it covered just about everything from WWI all the way through to the Civil Rights and Women’s Movement, and not stopping there. We began to study literature around the Afghanistan war.

“I’m going through my own war; how can I possibly survive this?” was a question I asked several times throughout the 10 weeks of class, often in tears because I couldn’t be the A student I strived to be; it was hard to take literature and apply it through the lens of life (in this case, war). I struggled. I struggled with my own personal war the last six months of grad school, and I struggled with the class because it didn’t focus on any one generation.  It didn’t focus on a specific type of literature and seemed like it was an all over the place progression; kind of like my life during that time. It was the worst literature class.

After using Europe as my literary excursion, a few things make sense now.

Literature changed because of the Lost Generation. The freedoms that the U.S. didn’t allow were part of a different tapestry in Europe. Writers could be exactly who they chose to be; who they wanted, and needed, to be.

Perhaps that’s my correlation to Europe: France and, now, Spain. There appeared to be more of an US presence in Europe than in our home country during various stages of wars and everything in between.

Europe certainly gave me more of a chance to experience the food, culture; delve deeper into literature terrains, and a good way to lose myself (Thanks, K. That was the perfect explanation.). It also reminded me that: I still love Paris. There’s something about the City of Lights that acts likes a spatula, folding me into layers to mold something dynamic.

I didn’t discuss my trip around the Mediterranean Sea and the stops in ports. I will touch on it briefly.  Alexander Dumas was prominent in Malta, where you could take a boat ride to Comino to see St. Mary’s Tower, a setting in The Count of Monte Cristo film).

In Naples (Napoli), our cab driver got us past the long queue into the restaurant where Julie Roberts ate during Eat, Pray, Love. While I still haven’t had my EPL moment, or I did in some other fashion, the pizza and beer was so good, my friend and I split the pizza. In our cab, we zipped around side streets.  Once back on the boat, I grabbed a glass of wine and my Surface to write with Mt. Vesuvius in the backdrop.

In Genoa (Genova), I ate gelato after our excursion allowed free time. Nothing beats gelato, cannolis, wine, and the food overall in Italy…and France…and the Sisk beer in Malta is the best.

In Sicily (Sicilia), Mt. Etna was smoking and I amply used beach time to get some rest, before walking into the Sea to feel the cool water quench my body.  I still have Milan, Venice, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast and Verona on my next to visit Italy list. I’ve been to Rome, Florence, Lido, Pisa, and the Vatican City.

In Barcelona, it was more about Gaudi’s architecture that is extremely prominent around the city.  Our city tour excursion, mostly on the bus, took us past Casa Batlló and we had time to walk around La Sagrada Familia, forever under construction. I had paella and sangria for lunch when were given free time to explore the city.

 

Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Spain.  Below La Sagrada Familiar. Gaudi Architecture. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

 

I got to see the rare tiger dolphins from my cabin balcony one morning and loved the way the Mediterranean sun bronzed my skin, without much effort; I only had 2-3 hours on the beach, didn’t really sit on the pool deck of the ship, and spent most of my time walking around. I am truly of a Mediterranean (and European) descent; I am the only one in my family with an olive complexion and green eyes.

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The Mediterranean Sea. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

But, Italy…ah, Italy. I fell in love with Italy in 2010, and that love is even greater after this trip. I threatened to pack my suitcase and get off the boat to stay. It could have become my own Under the Tuscan Sun.  I’ve had numerous people tell me I need an Italian man. I don’t need any man, but when/if the time comes, it will have to be someone who appreciates me, won’t hold me back from any dreams I continue to pursue, nor oppress me or suppress me. If that man is Italian, then bonus! And this is getting off topic quickly. I’ll keep dreaming of spending significant time in Italy.

I’m always happier when I’m away from “home.” These two vacations (Paris and the Mediterranean cruise around France, Italy, Malta and Spain) was exactly the type of vacation I needed to get completely away. I was exactly the person I know I am with a few surprises and did the one thing I’ve become really good at: doing anything that makes me happy…and it shows. In Paris, the City of Lights, the city known fro romance, I was able to learn what it means to truly love yourself. I needed that kind of love back and found it within. It took quite a while, and it started with being kind to myself, as JDF told me from the very beginning. I worked my way through kindness to find love. It’s been a long journey.

Underneath, I know I still have some work to do. Underneath, I know my anxiety and depression hasn’t disappeared, but to continue down the path I’m going between working out, writing, talking to my therapist, asking friends for help when I need it, I know these mental health issues are only temporary in the grand scheme. And that’s okay.

More than anything, my vacations inspired me to keep writing, to begin new stories, to make my current stories and poems even better, and to remember the writing path I dream of traveling. Tying in the literary components of the trip also made me realize it’s everywhere. With some effortless research, we can go anywhere in the world and will find literature and history seeping up from the stones, dirt, and even water to remind us of an imagination that can transform the writer and reader to some of the most fantastic places in this world and in other worlds.

Writing with Genova, Italia in the background from the cruise ship. *Sheer bliss* Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

Genova writing

A special thanks goes to my good friend, Zach Ruslan, for the fabulous photos he provided…and it was tempting to use them all, but didn’t.

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Doesn’t Belong Here

Doesn’t Belong Here

2 September 2018

“X doesn’t belong here” was a strong opinion, recently told to me as a bunch of friends and I were on a boat along the Seine River in Paris. I need to get past this. I can do this. I am on vacation and moving forward is only going to get better.

Ah, Paris. How I’ve missed you. Between the literary scene, and inspiration of Notre Dame, used a setting in my short story, Stuck in the City of Lights, I forgot how I missed the smells of fresh baked goods and cafés along the sidewalks. During this part of my trip, I have: gotten lost along the streets for nearly two hours, trying to find my way back to the hotel (this blondie’s compass has always been broken); got my luggage stuck in a subway turnstile <facepalm>, and not gotten much sleep, as it goes when doing work on a committee. I spent five days in Paris: two and a half days working. Prior to my meeting, my primary dinner was bread, wine and cheese. The bread is so good here, I honestly don’t need anything else. Plus, I’ve had two really good dinners and some good lunches. Because Parisians eat so late and take several hours for the meal (starter, entrée/plat, dessert), breakfast is even more sustainable for me: a pastry and cappuccino. And more cappuccino. I need espresso or straight-up coffee to truly get through mornings as a human.

The third part of my trip: a Mediterranean cruise. My girlfriend had me at “balcony” and “Italy” back in February when we had our final meeting date. She mentioned she was surprised how fast I answered her email (less than 5 minutes); she wanted to do this cruise, but really didn’t Mewant to travel alone. She thought of me, and I am thankful. I thanked her for asking me. She thanked me for coming along. So far, we’re having a great time. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring more bottled water, and drank from the tap last night. I will remember water is included with my drink package.

It’s 11:37pm in my time zone. After a day of travel, taking the TGV from Paris to Marseille, and boarding the ship, it’s been a full day. Yet, here I am: without another day at the gym or getting some serious walking time in and I’m feeling my anxiety build up a little. To unwind, I’m on the balcony, writing. Writing helps to clear my mind. It’s helping me to wind down, when my mind continues to whir at an exponential rate.

The humidity has done some great and bad things to my hair. It’s made my skin glow while creating a small minefield on my chin. I tried a new drink tonight, couldn’t figure out why my nose was running until I read the ingredients; gin, and I can’t drink gin. In fact, I asked my new friend to finish the gin I had in my house (back in the US). The sun is bronzing my skin, and this blondie will return ridiculously tan.

I see another cruise ship not far on the dark horizon. In the distance I notice a coastline with lights, faint, but a city is still there. I’m unplugged from my phone until I’m in ports, while remaining plugged in to my music. I can still hear the waves over the music currently playing. This is the calmest cruise ship I’ve been on. And the water, the water is a blue I’m still trying to find words to describe it.

And all day long I’ve been saying, “I can’t believe I’m on a boat again. I can’t believe I was in Paris again. I can’t believe I’m going to return to Italy.” This trip is my way of making new memories. Could I see myself on another cruise by myself?  Perhaps, but why…it’s safer to travel in numbers. I know I can do it; I’ve proven to myself I’m capable of doing anything; I am Wonder Woman. Someone else does not belong here at all!  The most important thing to remember is this is my life and how I want to live it. I still want to do the things I spoke about…it may just take me a little longer to get there. I’m not letting anyone stop me. For those who dare to criticize me, share negative opinions, I’m done-take what you think I should and shouldn’t be doing and shove it up your ass. I’m done!  I’m done with the negativity. I’m done with the criticisms. I’m done with the drama. All of this, too, doesn’t belong here. I’m done letting it enter the space I’ve created for myself. I have no shame in blocking out those once in my life who don’t mean well or are simply too toxic.

Wonder Woman stands for strength, grace and love. She is a fighter, protecting without bias. I still have room in my heart for love, just not yet. This is my time to be selfish. This is my time to be myself or even more of myself than I thought I could become. I’m on a stepping stone (title and topic for my next blog) and only working my way up. I surround myself with people who are happy to see me smiling and laughing again; I know it’s been a long haul; I know where I came from and where I still need to go, but I’m stopping to enjoy life along the way. I’ve lost too many close to me at young ages. I need to take time out to remind myself life is short: here today, gone tomorrow.

Outside: I feel the boat turning. I see another cruise ship out on the water. The coastline lights dimly point the way to where we’re headed Sunday morning. The cool air is welcoming after a blistering NM heat. The calm sea gives me a rhythm to write along with it, slowly relaxing me so that I can sleep longer than 4-5 hours. I have a new friend whose kind, and I haven’t had that kind of kindness in a very long time. I am returning home to do more travel in September before I begin working on Plan B and C in October. The new friend won’t have a place in these plans.

Inside: I’ll sleep in a twin bed as I am sharing a room with my girlfriend; her husband didn’t want to be in Europe or on a cruise, and she has a bucket list, too. There are some attractive men on the cruise, but I don’t think there are many single ones. Maybe I can learn more in the sports bar. The food is spectacular. I was judged by a Frenchman for the amount of wine I was drinking at dinner.  Mr. Judgy Judgerson, you don’t know a thing about me…stuff it.  There are two couples at our table speaking French, not appreciating our efforts to speak the language. They claim they don’t speak English, but I’m calling out “bullshit.” Our waiter speaks Spanish…I cannot believe I came to France to speak Spanish so much!!

Removing myself from the daily life I have in New Mexico, I am really focused on enjoying a vacation I deserve and worked so hard for. I am not the same person I was in 2016 or even 2017.  There are things that don’t belong here with me, and I metaphorically just threw all of it overboard.

I am going to retreat to get, what I hope is, a good night’s rest. There’s more sun and fun to be had tomorrow and many days to follow. Even though I may be sleeping, the writing never stops. I’m writing in my mind, on my Surface, on my phone, in a special notebook and on napkins. Inspiration strikes every day. Bon soir!

Dinner Cruise along Seine River. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLC

Eiffel Tower Background

 

Choosing a Path

Choosing a Path

31 August 2018

The very first stamp in my passport was Madrid, Spain. Not France, not the United Kingdom, not The Netherlands, not the United Arab Emirates, not any country in Central or South America or any other country I’ve visited in the past, and a past that included a form of “we.” There is no we here.

With an eight hour layover in Madrid, on my way to Paris, I exhausted myself to try and sleep on the overnight flight, to be ready to explore a new city in a country that is my first as a single woman, but there is so much more meaning beyond this simple trip…and the remainder of my time in Europe.

Madrid was an interesting city. I went on a two-hour free tour, visiting some of the highlights, but not stopping to enter anything specific. I did the tour because I would learn something about a city I’ve never visited and could get some local tips. I did; hot chocolate and churros at ChocolaterÍa San GinÉs. Yum. The churros, unlike those we get in New Mexico (or anywhere else) had a tinge of salt in them, and I’m not a salt fan. For lunch I found a tapas bar for tapas and a cervaces (beer). I used my Spanish around the city and at the airport.

Then the language barrier went to hell. By the evening I was in Paris and couldn’t switch my gears fast enough to go from si to oui. We speak Spanish here and there around the state (NM), so it’s more or less ingrained. I really wanted to use my French; I didn’t study it for two years (three years, according to the state of New York) to not use it. I used it four years ago between Paris and Grenoble. It took me nearly two days, and a 14-hour marathon at Disneyland Paris, to get into the swing and begin using the language a little more.

That’s right. I took a small holiday, arriving in Europe early to “play” which meant finally going to Disneyland Paris…because I could. My original plan was to spend two days at the parks, but the weather on Wednesday was forecast to include rain, so I decided (at the last minute) to spend one very full day between both parks. I regret that I didn’t get to spend more time at Walt Disney Studios, but had the chance to immediately hop on Tower of Terror (the couple next to me thought I was crazy holding my arms up, cheering, and laughing) and Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster ride.  The Phantom Manor ride (Haunted Mansion in U.S.) was closed for refurbishment, which was a shame because it was another ride I was looking forward to experiencing, especially since there is a story attached. This is a great reason to return, but in a couple of years.

I was the last one to leave the park, and it was intentional. I wanted a picture of Main Street…empty, and it didn’t take a lot of effort or loss in sleep. I also have one from Disneyland (CA). At some point there is a plan to create some type of collage.

By the end of the day, I was ready to fall-no, crash, into sleep; the motto of my life. Into a world where the boundary lines between reality and another world are transparent.

The rain fell on Wednesday. Lightly, but enough to make me think it was a good day to transfer to the city; an hour’s ride away from the magic that steals my heart and captures my imagination. But my adventures in the City of Lights were only beginning and stories will continue as I write my way through Europe.

Disneyland Paris-Main Street. Copyright 2018 Jade Bookends, LLCIMG_1601

 

2018 Loading: Reflections From a Year

2018 Loading: Reflections From a Year

31 December 2017

Whoa.

This has been a hard month, where recollections from a little over a year ago continue to plague my thoughts, while some of the strangest dreams infiltrate my sleep…what little I still get.

I am still in a state of depression, and, recognizing this, I am persistent in keeping the exercise going and the writing flowing. I must.  Even on days when it’s been ridiculously cold by 7pm, and it’s too cold to walk Duke-puppy, I move around the house, do some yoga, and find more housework to do.

When I was discussing this with my therapist she offered sound advice. “Think about how far you’ve come.”  And she’s right.

I think back to where I was a year ago: in pieces, sitting in an airport in Chile, Santiago, in tears, no appetite, as my then husband was off “getting me coffee” which was the new translation for him talking to his whore. Often. Exhausting. And I’m still exhausted.

Then life ran away with a bullet train this December, and I swear God was testing me. After NaNoWriMo, I had to get my holiday baking extravaganza done, and got away for some much-needed family time. (That’s another post I’ll put up in 2018.) My brother survived a near-tragic accident and I am extremely thankful he is with us here today. Proof that our (my siblings and I) guardian angels were with him that day. I was ready to hop on a plane to NY immediately, but he didn’t want me there.

The holidays are extremely stressful and trying. Even as I suffer from depression, I use my outlets (talking to my “twin” cousin and close friends; writing; exercising) to get through some tough times. Recently, a cousin committed suicide, and nothing is more disheartening than someone who feels their life is not valuable. I ask you, my readers, to take care of yourselves, and encourage discussions around depression and even suicide. It’s important and help is always available. Life is too short, as I learned after the deaths of my parents and a brother, and we should all Carpe Diem!

I still have people tell me they are amazed by my strength; they’re not sure how I’m still on my feet because they couldn’t have survived what was done to me and in the manner it was done.  My sister and I refer to this time we call, “when shit hit the fan.”

I had to survive.  For so many reasons I had to. I have decided to write a memoir, and have begun the story’s beginning, but that book will be a product in 2019 or 2020.  In the meantime, watch for the 2018 publication of THE DOWNFALL (TBD) to read about one woman’s journey from the depths of hell, overcoming her worst fears from a marriage, and how she needed to stand her ground.  No woman, or man, should ever be treated the way I have; and I know so many do, and they feel stuck. What happens between four walls is not what everyone else sees, and I can tell you it is not pleasant. It’s heartbreaking, sad, and disrespectful.

I finished two novels and one poetry book in 2017. I will be in full edit mode in 2018, while I’m in the middle of packing. I have an expiration date of all sorts by early March. Please note that this pertains to dwelling and work. I am simply looking as 2018 as a new beginning for a new life.

While I am reflecting, I would also like to add how much I cannot express my gratitude to all my friends and family who have been with me during this tumultuous year. It really warms my heart with the outpouring of support, love, opportunities for gatherings as a distraction, and even shoulders (or ears) that I have cried on during my crumpled moments. I still am evaluating those who do not have my wellbeing in their best interest and have zero problems cutting the cord.

I have three hours left until 2018 arrives, and this princess is almost ready for the ball…after I wrap this post up for 2017. I really cannot wait for 2017 to join 2016 and go where it belongs-in the past. However, it’s not all bad and this is something I can’t forget. I had significant time with family and friends; I got the degree I’ve always wanted, and even made new friends from my newest alma mater (SNHU); I took trips to do my heart good; I was wrapped in love by my siblings and family back home and around the U.S.; my friends around the world have also stood by my side, and we have watched bridges burn, separating the “us” as they stood on the ledge with me, watching it fall as an opposing individual is on the other side still oblivious of what has happened.

And I am on vacation!!!!!  I am doing what I love to do: spend time with myself, learning more about what I want out of my next wave of life.  It’s been one hell of a ride, with so many interesting stories this storyteller has banked in memories.

Finally, I became an aunt for the tenth time! My nephew is absolutely adorable, and I got to spend “time” with him, his new mother (my sister), and her husband. It snowed on Christmas Eve day when I landed in Indiana, and snowed on Christmas night when my sister and I left the movies. She really wanted to see “The Last Jedi,” and I was up for watching it a second time (contemplating a 3rd while on vacation! Haha). His little face lights up every time I tell him he is “my golf and Disney buddy,” and this is not something I will waiver from. This kid will be well-versed in all things Disney by the time he’s 5 years old, and we take our first trip to both parks.

This belle is ready for a ball! No, I am dating yet, but I am going out to have a great night welcoming 2018 with open arms. Be safe if you are out tonight. I am doing the same (will let someone else drive me around safely).

So long 2017!  I am moving in one direction and that’s forward. New adventures await.

Happy New Year to my friends and readers.

adventure-2528477_640

One

One

12-21 June 2017

Flying solo.  It’s not the first time, but it’s official. There’s more on that later.  However, the moment arrived on June 11, at 3:30pm when I turned in my very last assignment, turned off my computer, closed the blinds, packed up a dog and a human to spend time away on vacation (I still get separation anxiety when I board Duke).

Or, as I call it, the “escape I’ve been wanting since January.”  I was on a mission, a one week tour, and on a self-care program.  I was celebrating three milestones in life, focusing more on my birthday and graduation.  I was concerned about surviving the last three weeks of school.  I was simply trying to move forward one day at a time.  It was the hardest part of my life, but I am thankful I had the trials and tribulations because it gave me a focus.  This is something I’ve spoken of many times.

One.  It was just me.  “How many in your party?”  One.  “How many?” Just one.  Single riders inquire here.  So I did.  “Tell me about single riders.  I’m one.”  A few male cast members fought over who was going to give me a pass as a single rider on the Indiana Jones ride; the third one-upped them and gave me a pass that was even better, and more like a Fastpass.  It was my birthday, after all! They asked about my novel, that I am now calling the most anticipated read of the year.

I spent the best three days of my life at Disneyland, and completed a bucket list: physically spending my birthday at both parks in CA and FL.  I was at Walt Disney World five years ago.  Crazy how time flies!

I did my normal 14 hour marathon. I got the photo I’ve always wanted: an empty Main Street at night.  I ate a little, treated myself to a manicure/pedicure, a nice steak birthday dinner, and discovered the kids menu around the parks was better suited for my appetite.  I lost more weight.  I watched the fireworks on my birthday.  I spent time hanging out in Mickey’s house.  Sitting on the couch, at his desk, shaking my head at the kitchen, and his gardening tool house (still not for me).  It was great…and I forgot to get selfies!!!  Mickey applauded me, and Pluto gave me wet kisses.  LOL.  I want to thank the Green Army Men who taught the crowd how to clap.  I was on the bench finishing two beers before heading back over to Disneyland.  I was drinking when the Sergeant told a guest, “There isn’t any noise when your hands are open, ZZ Top action figure!”  and almost spewed the drink out. He spoke to “ZZ Top action figure” several times during their performance.  I am not afraid or ashamed to laugh out loud, and that’s exactly what I did.

I enjoyed my drinks. I found another new hangout place in California Adventure, in conjunction with the Karl Strauss beer truck.  I had a stalker. I met some new friends, and spent the remainder of my last night in the parks with them.  We met another person who was doing a one-day marathon and wanted to get in a few more rides before he had to leave.  One became three, then four for a while.  AND, there was football talk; three NFC East rivals/fans present: NY Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys.  (The season can’t come soon enough!)

I had the best time with me, myself, and I.  I was told if anyone could pull off Disney alone, that it would be me.  And I did it.  I did it all.  I would do it again. In fact, I’m itching to go back.  Disneyland is a short flight west.  I am also looking at a 2018 Walt Disney World vacation, before I say goodbye to New Mexico.

I have stories.  Then again, as a writer, don’t we always?  I spent time with my in-laws and helped a very special young woman celebrate her first major milestone graduating from high school.  I am proud of her.  She’s seizing an opportunity to pursue her dreams.  We’ll be friends for a long time, and I’m still proud to call her my niece.

If I can replicate a Carthay Manhattan (there’s still something missing), then I can do something with these lemons that are still waiting to be pulverized into the perfect drink.

I miss my patio days.  I miss writing from sun-up to sun-down.  I miss the days waking up late (because sleep still eludes me), not having to go into work because I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I couldn’t perform efficiently.  Several of my family and friends might be relieved to know the drinking has slowed down, and I’m rebuilding my bar.

There are new chapters ahead, but I can’t get to them yet until I finish writing the last ones to wrap up this journey.  I have learned a few more things about myself during the week away.

And for my thesis?  Well, I have approximately 50,000 more words to write to complete the novel, and I’m still writing.  Now, I call it work and make it a priority to write every day.  I have some back stories to insert, and a few clarifications to make.  It is an epic story, and a crossover where women’s fiction meets speculative fiction.  There is female empowerment.  There are moments of paranormal activity.

Stories, journeys, lemons, individualism, an empowered woman; a sister, a daughter, a cousin, a niece, a friend, a new friend; a stranger, a peer, a colleague, a former student…a writer.  I’m not going anywhere, and, as I mentioned, there are a few more chapters remaining here.  More importantly, there is nothing wrong with being alone.  There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.  I am far from the latter.  I encourage you to embrace being alone sometime!

Stay hydrated and cool!

Featured image: Stunning New Mexico sunset.  Below: Walt and Mickey.
Photos by Karen M. Hellinger.  2017

File Jun 21, 11 44 56 AM