Excitement and Travel Go Hand-In-Hand

It doesn’t matter where I’m going, I get excited about travel, I mean REALLY excited. I let excitement take over like a kid on Christmas Eve. I giggle. I jump up and down. I can’t sleep. For some trips, the excitement is worse than others.

I barely get any sleep at all before bucket list trips, for instance. Most recently, that happened before the Grand Canyon trip. I bring up that one because I know, as an adult who’s had a share of disappointments in her life, not all trips are going to end the way I want them to, even dream about. The potential for disappointment doesn’t get in the way of my unbridled enthusiasm, though.

So what? You may be wondering. Well, I bring it up because once again I had a sleepless night. Today, we are off to Hershey Park to spend the weekend celebrating my oldest granddaughter’s seventh birthday. While I am excited to spend the day with her (and her brother, sister and mom), that’s only a small part of what kept me awake.

Last night Greg gave up trying to keep my birthday trip a secret and told me where we are going. Before you ask, yes, we go somewhere for our birthdays every year. We love to travel so trips are our gifts to each other and we try (and usually fail) to keep them a secret.

This year, he’s taking me to the Mall of America. I know there are people who prefer high adventure, art museums, spas and so many other things. I like those things, too. But shopping has always been fun for me. I love the adventure of finding new things. I love the visual stimulation and creativity of window and store displays. I love the buzz of other shoppers seeking their own treasures. In other countries, I find stores to be a true and honest snapshot of the culture and sense of style. I don’t BUY a lot, but I love looking … and I’ve never been to the Mall of America.

Excitement meterIn addition, he said we should check another bucket list item off on the same trip – go to the airport with nothing but a toothbrush and an ID. It is, he pointed out, a trip to a mall. If we can’t get what we need there, then we probably don’t really need it. With that little added extra, my excitement level meter hit overdrive – and I spent the night tossing and turning.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I often say happiness is a choice. Excitement and happiness go together for me. Anticipation of something you’ve been looking forward to is a powerful mood booster. Whether it’s a stay-cation, a weekend jaunt to see family or a bucket list trip, let yourself feel youthful excitement. Call a friend with giddiness in your voice and share your joy. Put a huge smile on your face and ride the crest of happiness.

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … see it enthusiastically.

Flying is His Happy Place

Looking out at the worldI wake from a quick nap at 37,000 feet and look over at Greg. He’s in his happy place — the window seat this time. We take turns because we both love looking out the window as we fly.  He doesn’t see me looking at him. He is turned away; his face is pressed against the window pane like a small child looking into the window of a candy shop.
After a moment, he turns slightly and looks down at his iPad. He’s got flying charts for the entire US open and he’s following our flight … making a note of airports, private runways, landmarks and anything he can match between his view and the chart in his lap.Sky is the Limit
He notices I am awake and looking at him and breaks out into a grin. It’s a smile that says a thousand things: Good “morning;” Thanks for flying with me; Thanks for giving me the window seat; I love this whole experience. We say these things to each other all the time. On this particular occasion, I just smile back and ask, “where are we?”
He knows right away and points out a river and a small runway. Off in the distance is Oklahoma City. The skies are clear and the view spreads out for miles in every direction.
 J&G Flying
This flight is no different from others. We both love to fly. The majesty of the world spreads out below. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a commercial jet at 37,000 feet or in a Piper Arrow at 6,000 feet. There are always marvelous things to see.
He turns back to the window with a childlike sense of curiosity as I reach for my novel. Flying is his happy place. There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … find your happy place.

What do a Kiss and Exploring the World Have in Common?

Five years ago today I was on a trip for work. It involved a trip (by TRAIN!) to Stamford, Connecticut, a short walk to the hotel and a meet-and-greet style evening where coworkers from the northeast and mid-Atlantic would connect and spend some social time over dinner and drinks before a full-day event kicking off the next morning.

There were maybe two dozen of us chatting amiably over dinner at a nearby Italian place before wandering back to the hotel to linger in the hotel bar over wine and cocktails.

As is typical at this type of event, we talked about life and work and work and life. It was a back-and-forth conversation filled with laughter and easy banter. One-by-one, coworkers headed back to their rooms to “say goodnight to the kids” or “check in with my wife” or simply because it had been a long day.

Somewhere around 1:30 am, the bartender came over and informed Greg and I that it was last call. It wasn’t until then that we noticed we were the only two coworkers left. At that moment, we were deeply ensconced in a conversation about the tasks that needed to be accomplished “in the morning” at the jobs event we were attending. Neither of us was ready to declare the conversation over, so we tossed a coin to decide whose room we would go to so we could finish making our plans.

About an hour later, when the work planning was done, the conversation wandered to the past as we discussed the things we missed about being young.

I said, “kissing,” explaining how, as a high school student, kissing was everything. It was a time when the farthest a couple would go was maybe “second base” and the duo could spend hours just kissing. Yep, I admitted, “I miss kissing.”

Greg rose from the hotel chair and walked over to me, leaning down and kissing me. It was one of those tentative, first date kisses. There were fireworks. I saw lightning and felt the Earth move. We broke the kiss and gave each other that “uh-oh-I-wasn’t-expecting-THAT” look. We were, after all, coworkers.

It was just a kiss … but it was life altering. Nothing else happened that night, but it was enough to put into motion a series of conversations and chain of events that helped us both realize that we did have options other than staying in unhappy relationships and living sad, unfulfilling lives.

Since that day, we moved in together, got engaged, got married and regularly remind each other how important communication is to a healthy, happy, thrilling relationship. We laugh about that kiss and how we had no idea then how many dreams and hopes we had in common – and still do.

It’s been five years and thousands of kisses. Sometimes the best trips don’t involve even getting out of your chair. When we say there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored, we mean so much more than travel. We mean exploring each other, people in your lives, yourself … everything. So get out there – explore! The world is calling.

Inspiration Comes At the Strangest Times

Why does flying always make me want to write? It’s odd, but soaring over this great nation at 34,000 feet stirs something in my brain that gets my poetic juices flowing. 20170224_134821

Our co-pilot just welcomed us aboard and, uncharacteristically gave us the route with landmarks … between Cincinnati and Lexington … right over Louisville,  over St. Louis, just north of Albuquerque, then right over the Grand Canyon. I can’t help but dream of clear skies the whole way. Flying over the heartland, gazing down over the Ohio and Mississippi rivers before crossing the wintry gray Plains of the southern “amber waves of grain”.  They will be followed by the mysterious gray crevasses as we enter the west and peer into the depths of the Grand Canyon from our lofty aerie.

It’s all majestic and every bit “home.” Flying makes me feel American. It is hours over one great country. It is the epitome of freedom and adventure. It stirs my curiosity and reminds me how many things I still want to see. It is small towns, big cities and vast expanses of wilderness. It’s people headed to work, students off to classrooms everywhere, stay-at-home mom’s, the unemployed … every type of person imaginable.  It’s joy and sadness. It is everything and, somehow, up here in the air, it is nothing.

20170224_144103Greg dozes comfortably next to me as the flight crew offers movie-loaded tablets for rent before beginning the first beverage service. A five hour  flight means we will get two runs of the drink cart. Our upgraded seats mean we can look forward to a snack box.  But the major draw is the view.  We take turns in the window seat and it’s my turn this time around.

As the captain suggested, I’ll lean back and enjoy the flight, after all, there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored (or at least viewed).

Distractions: Is a Billion Dollars worth it?

Would you risk everything for a billion dollars?

A friend of mine recently posted something on Facebook about how he’s never bought a lottery ticket before and was wondering, with the jackpot over one BILLION dollars, should he go for it?  His reasons for asking really got me thinking.

He said that his life is incredibly blessed and wonderful. He was talking to his partner about the lottery and, like most of us, they got into a discussion about what would happen if they won. They realized they would have to move, get security, change their phone numbers and deal with all the attention that would come from a win.

As I read his post, I was struck by his wisdom and honesty. Excellent point, I thought. I mentioned it to Greg. We have a lot. Most importantly, we have each other, good jobs, the flexibility to travel to a lot of exciting places and more.

All of my friend’s points are true. If you win a billion dollars, your life … nearly every aspect of it … will change. Sure, you’ll be able to buy whatever you want, but your freedom will be restricted because you’ll be hounded by the media, at least for awhile. Some of the things that frustrate you won’t change: idiot drivers will still be idiots; stores will still be out of stock of certain items; clerks will still be rude … you won’t be able to control those things.

Is it worth the risk? I decided, for me, it is not! Then I went out and bought a couple of tickets anyway.  Good luck to you all!

Distractions — I’m No Poet, But…

I left my phone at home today. Oh, the delicious freedom!

To look around, to ponder the faces,
most strangers, but some familiar,
my Metrorail companions.

I wonder…

Col. Beggs…Your lips move to some earbud voice,
but no words are uttered.
Are you singing?  Or maybe practicing a language?

I wonder…

Mom, your five-year old is reading the newspaper.  How rare these days!
What will he grow up to be?

I wonder…

Mr. Sad Sack Bureaucrat…eyes down, a frown on your face,
stomach lapping over your belt. What makes you so miserable?
Just the mere thought of going to work?

I wonder…

And you, Mr. Starbucks man…don’t spill that Venti Chai no-whip Latte.
Rules aren’t just for other people, comprendi?

I wonder…

On the right, my eyes are drawn to the airport,
glistening under a bright sunrise sky.
I want to go! Anywhere!  As long as I get to fly!

Suit and tie businessmen jump out of black SUVs,
late again, running for the gate.
Where are you going in such a hurry?

I wonder…

Two cars back, lovers embrace,
longing for one last kiss before letting go.
When will you be back together?

I wonder…

We roll underground. My focus comes back inside.
The train car is quiet, save for a few muffled voices.
Heads are down, deep into devices.

And I wonder…

Rejoice people!  Get up and get out!  Smile and laugh!
Because whether going to work or play,
Every day is full of wonder!

Distractions – EAA Oshkosh

I am an aviation fanatic. I credit my Air Force dad for instilling in me a love of all things related to flying. Growing up on Air Force bases I fell asleep to the sound of jet engines.img057 One of the great, fun memories of my youth was mom packing up a picnic and driving to the end of the runway to watch planes take off and land.

When Greg found out he had the opportunity to spend a week at one of the biggest aviation events in the U.S. I knew I had to go with him. I just couldn’t miss out on this! I took vacation, booked my flights and tagged along to EAA Airventure 2015 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

20150721_120513Every year the Experimental Aircraft Association puts on a weeklong show with workshops for pilots building their own airplanes, private pilots and lovers of aviation. It’s mecca for flyers. I got the weeklong pass to the show and took advantage of Greg having a parking pass (since he worked everyday) to get up close in the morning and stay the whole day.

Day One: I was in complete AWE! There were acres of planes of all sizes parked everywhere. Many of the private pilots pitch small tents next to their crafts and sleep right there on the grassy space next to the runway.  20150721_154729_001The FAA brings in special air traffic controllers to keep a close eye on the busiest airspace in the nation for the week. Hundreds of planes fly in and out every day. Each afternoon there’s an airshow of acrobatics and flybys. You can wander four completely full hangars of aviation related vendors. All the big companies set up gigantic, store-sized tents to show off products. You simply cannot see it all in a day. As we wandered, Greg introduced me to a few people he ran into who he knew from previous jobs and contacts in the aviation world.

Day Two: OK, I had the lay of the land. I’d figured out the free tram that runs from one end of the event to the other. I’d sort of mapped out a strategy in my head. This day we’d walk through the small planes, just checking out the different types until Greg had to get to his booth. EAA OshKoshThis day was for dreaming: What kind of plane do we want to buy? Can we afford this one? Or that one? High-wing or low? Single engine or twin? At the end of the hundreds of planes we had a better idea – and aching feet. We were starving and it was HOT! We hopped on the tram and stopped for ice-cold water and lunch. For the rest of the day I was on my own. IMG_4486I found a nice spot in the shade and watched the airshow that kicked off with the scream of an F-22 flying by. The jet made a couple more passes over the field and made way for some classic WWII warbirds. A biplane left looping, spiraling contrails in the sky as it flipped and rolled and soared. More little aerobatic planes zipped and whizzed through the air showing off. I can only imagine the crazy grins on the pilots’ faces when they get to play around like that in the sky!

Day Three: I took a day off to connect with a friend and her family who drove up from outside Chicago. We popped into a local brew pub for lunch before wandering the town of Appleton and checking out several of the shops. (I even went back with Greg later in the week to pick up a few things.) We made our way to a cheese shop. We stopped at a Wisconsin fast food staple, Culvers, for ice cream. It was a nice break from the airshow, but I was ready to head back the next morning.

Day Four: With Greg working all day, my goal was to check out the warbirds and marketplace.  IMG_4618  WOW! The B-29 and the B-17 are inspiring aircraft. The T-38s, the F-4 … I could go on and on.
Many of these are the planes of the air shows of my youth. My memories danced in the sky like the aerobatic shows every afternoon. I spent a little time chatting with the pilots of a Beech King Air owned and operated by NOAA. IMG_4603I tried my hand in a Wright Flyer simulator. I snapped a few shots during the air show in the afternoon, but the fun didn’t end there. Oshkosh at night is also an experience you can’t miss. Friday night was a celebration of Viet Nam-era veterans and Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band brought down the house. As the crowds thinned, we worked our way to the edge of the stage…what a way to see a great performance by one of our generation’s best supporters of veterans.

Day Five: Saturday is the busiest day at Airventure. Much of the early part of the week is for the enthusiasts who are building their own planes and the pilots. Saturday is more like a traditional airshow – lots of families and people just looking at everything. I wonder how many of the kids I saw walking around are bitten by the aviation bug like I was. It’s amazing to watch the runway as many of the small planes take off on Saturday to head off to wherever they call home. It’s a constant flow of planes into the sky. The grassy edges of the tarmac become less crowded. The buzz changes from an aviation focus, to a curiosity one. You can almost feel the difference in the air. By the end of the day about half the small planes are gone. But the crowds stayed for the night airshow! Watching airplanes (and even a glider) loop, roll, and chandelle with fireworks attached to their wings is nothing short of spectacular. And the fireworks that capped the show were among the best I’ve ever seen!

Day Six: We get out to the airport about nine and the fields are mostly empty. It’s the last day. We’ve been told by noon almost everyone will be gone and the crowds will dwindle drastically. It happens as we walk out through the few remaining home-built planes. IMG_4664A line of four planes sit idling on the edge of the runway for their turn to taxi and take off. We take off just before two for our hotel. Our feet are aching from a week of walking and my eyes have taken in as much as I could see. It was a total blast. We meet up with the group from Greg’s work for an after-party now that the show is all packed up.

Airshows aren’t for everyone. I know that, but if you like planes and airshows and the buzz of aviation aerobatics, there is no better place than Oshkosh at the end of July every year. Next stop, our local small field near home – I’m going to fulfill a lifelong dream to be a pilot!