Holiday Road Tripping

Taking a road trip on the dreaded day before Thanksgiving, declared the WORST travel day of the year by the media and anyone who has ever been silly enough to travel on this day, I keep reminding myself why this journey must take place.  The rainbow at the end of the trip.  Mom.  She’s worth it.  She’s our pot of gold.

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Living in Seattle, far away from my family, I haven’t spent a holiday with my Mom and Sister in ages, perhaps 20 years or so.  This is the year to break that spell.  While spending Thanksgiving away from my kids for the first time will be tough, off to Indiana we will go.  Planes, trains and automobiles lay ahead of us today and I’m not just quoting a fav holiday movie title.  LITERALLY, we will Uber, fly, hop on the local C line from Midway to downtown Chicago, drag our asses and luggage through the streets of Chicago to the South Shore Line and tonight at 9 p.m. arrive at South Bend airport where my sister will pick us up, if and when we arrive alive.  Our travel day will take as long to go from Seattle to South Bend as what we experienced travelling back and forth from Seattle to China, which was an easy 14-hour day at most, spent in Business Class being wined and dined with a nap in between and some movies throughout to keep me entertained.  Ahhh…I miss those travel days for sure. 

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But, I surely don’t have it as bad as the fellow traveler observed this morning at 7:30 AM at the wine bar at SEATAC sipping a champagne tasting flight while waiting for her journey.  How bad do your relatives have to be in order to do that?  I walked by, did a double take and told Thom to sneak a picture.  WTF!  Not a wee nip to get you going or a gentle hair of the dog to get over a bad night but 3 full glasses of the bubbly for breakfast.  Wow.

Reading news articles about the apprehension many people face over the possibility of interactions with dysfunctional family members, not often seen or heard from but present at the holiday dinner table, always makes me appreciate our family more.   We don’t fight over who cooks the meal or what is included in the menu. Thom and I will both be very happy to just show up and enjoy what is beautifully presented to us by my sis and her husband, both very good cooks.  We will let them have it and instead go see my Mom and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade the morning of Thanksgiving before the big meal.  It will bring back great memories of our time spent in NYC during the holidays, wandering the parade route in 2012, seeing the ginormous balloons up close and personal.  Everyone should do that one time in their lives.  It was special.

We spent this past weekend cooking up an early Thanksgiving feast so that our son and his girlfriend could partake in our family favorites of stuffing, corn casserole, green bean casserole, yeast rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and, of course, turkey.  A carbolicious buffet that sent me straight into a coma after watching the new Ghostbusters movie with the kids.  Not the best movie I’ve seen lately but at least it didn’t have any embarrassing scenes that weren’t family friendly.  Even at 23, my son is very protective of me and filters what he considers “appropriate” material to watch with his mother.  When I expressed that Sausage Party looked like a fun film, he shuddered and declared that there was NO WAY we should watch that together.  What could be so bad about a film featuring a party where you cook and serve sausages?  In speaking with a co-worker who experienced the film, she had to agree with my son.  Apparently, I was spared an embarrassing and tragic movie-watching experience.

During and after our hectic travel day, I am concentrating on being calm, relaxed and tolerant.  Here’s hoping the Trump supporters and neo-Nazi confederate flag-waving Midwesterners stay out of our paths.  I grew up in Indiana amidst the KKK so I’m just being realistic of that demographic being real, not that I’m saying that of all Hoosiers, though they are a conservative bunch in general.  Blinders on and diligent to avoid politics at all costs this weekend, Thom and I both need at least a brief respite from the despair and terror we experience daily reading Twitter or watching the news.  Now, it’s all about family and love and kindness.  Happy Thanksgiving all!

I. Miss. Thom.

Being married to your best friend is a wonderful thing.  The only problem with that is when your partner is gone, your soul feels incomplete.  Days are an empty vacuum without your sidekick accompanying you to take on life’s adventures.  Damn I’m lonely.  I.  Miss. Thom.

He’s been in Boise now for several weeks working on much-needed home renovations to a house we own.  While we did just hire someone to do the heavy lifting, Thom is doing much of the work himself.  It will be awesome when it’s done but, for now, we must live apart.  I am just finishing up working a second assignment at work in addition to my day job so my life in Seattle has been super busy no doubt.  Yet, when I started feeling sick this week I immediately started to panic.  Who will take care of me?  James is still living at home and has been a huge help with the daily walking of dogs but he can only do so much.  I need my Thom.

Drinking my morning coffee, going to the gym, watching endless political news, eating, shopping, cuddling with the pups-it all seems blah without Thom.  Married for 28 years, some couples by now would have formed tight friendships with others of their own gender and not rely on their partner so much but Thom and I are so happy with just being with each other that we haven’t really felt a need for that extended group of friends.  Quite frankly, we would really just prefer to be with each other.  I appreciate and like other people don’t get me wrong but Thom is just the funniest, smartest, kindest person I’ve ever met and I enjoy his company so much.  He’s hilarious and makes me laugh every day of my life.  Now, he gets to crack up Mia too!

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Mia and her GiGi taking a walk in Boise before getting ice cream.

 

And it’s not enough that Thom isn’t here and I’m lonely but I’m also terrifically jealous that he gets to be in Boise with our family, babysitting Mia when he’s not working on the house.  Yes, my daughter will miss her daddy and Mia will miss her GiGi when he has to leave and come back to me.  Oh, if we could just live in Boise full time!  Dream. Unfortunately the jobs there just don’t compare to Seattle and supporting my family means that this NaiNai needs to stay the course.   I will look forward to the holidays spent with the entire clan in Boise and many wonderful memories to be made.

 

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Thom’s scary costume for Trunk and Treat event in Boise where people decorate their car trunks and kids go around the parking lot to Trick or Treat.  Must be a Boise thing.

 

Life lessons as taught by seagulls

It’s 5:22 a.m. and I am wide awake sipping strong coffee as I watch the rooftop across the street.  The fuzzy brown toddlers race around the obstructions on the roof of the apartment building while ever vigilant momma perches on the ledge and observes.  Her fierce devotion to her children is obvious.  Day and night, she is there.  As a crow drops to the edge, she immediately attacks to scare the predator away from her babies.  She clearly demonstrates that messing with her brood would be a very bad idea.  Don’t mess with the momma seagull! 

I worry when she is not there, knowing at some point she has to go get food for the young ones but fearful that, while she is away, harm will come to them and I may see it happening and be powerless to intervene.   I can just see myself on our patio screaming at the top of my lungs at a marauding crow.  It could happen.   Just as in life,  I worry daily about my kids who are off living their lives and I can’t protect them. Stuff happens.  You pray.

Being a parent is life-changing and doesn’t end when they grow up.  I watch with pride my daughter take care of little Mia who she loves with all her heart and is the focus of all her family’s life decisions.  She spends her paycheck ensuring Mia goes to the best pre-school in Boise and every waking moment loving and taking care of her.  As I tell my family, I have and always will work hard solely so that I can take care of my family.  My daughter now does the same.

One of the three babies is smaller and runs by himself while the other two hang out and waddle around together.  I feel bad for the scrawny outcast and want to shout to the siblings to be nice and play with him too.  Silly.  It’s tough being different in birdland too.  I wonder when they will have the strength to leave and know I will miss seeing their antics. It’s a cold, cruel world out there once you leave the roof.   If they get to close to the edge and fall, I hope they will have enough wing power to float vs. flop to the ground.  Terrifying.  When they do leave, will they go far or be local Queen Anne birds?  The lure of the sea is close by and the smell of low tide must be enticing.

We did see birds mating on this very rooftop earlier in the year so wonder if this was the same bird who has now brought her babies back to the scene of the crime so to speak–maybe she has fond memories of her time with the daddy.

It’s time for me to get ready to go to work.  To take care of my kids.  Momma Seagull, have a happy day chasing around those beautiful babies of yours and be safe.  Enjoy each and every moment.  They grow up too fast and soon will be leaving the roof to fly off and do great things.

Me-Host with the Least

I realized this weekend that I am most definitely NOT the perfect host.  Actually, far from it.  As our hosts in LA anticipated and provided everything we could want and more, it became clear to me that, as I judged myself by comparison, I have been the host with the least in the past.  So here is my public apology to all our past guests.  Positive intent but bad execution.  I’m a sort of “take care of yourself” person.  I don’t expect anyone to take care of me, being fiercely independent and all.  When we have guests visit us, I have always told them to make themselves at home and just assume they will.  Who am I to hover when I’ve told them that what I have is theirs?

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The Endeavor-an awesome sight and story to experience in person at California Science Center in LA

 

This self-revelation came when we visited Thom’s brother Jimmy and his wife, Shari, to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert at LA Sports Arena.  Worried about that pesky LA traffic, I suggested we take public transportation vs. driving, even though we didn’t expect the concert to be over until very late.  WHAT WAS I THINKING??  Finally, after much conversation and  hearing Shari’s concerns about the walking involved and train service limitations, I accepted that we should drive and, boy, was I glad that we did.  Not only do I need to be a better host but I need to be a better guest too.  First lesson-listen to your hosts!  With Bruce playing his heart out for nearly 4 hours, we were able to quickly exit and jump in the car to hit the highway and get home by midnight.  Arriving earlier in the day we got to check out the space shuttle Endeavor prior to the concert.  So fun!  Thom declared it a perfect day-experiencing the space shuttle simulator and dancing to Bruce and the E Street Band.  I may not be a good hostess but I do good at birthday presents for my hubby!

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Four crazy kids at a rock conert

 

But back to being spoiled rotten.  Not wanting to put anyone out, I think I was rude in denying Jimmy and Shari the right to take care of us at the level they wanted to.  I don’t really eat breakfast so no need to cook, right?  But here came a lovely fruit plate and breakfast wrap our first morning.  Instead of being nice and eating it, I declined and that was probably rude.  Shari is from Hong Kong and embodies the Chinese culture that we saw when we lived there.  Food is important and when family comes together, sharing a meal is significant.  Shame on me!  Lesson learned.

I’m the one, who in the past for work events, did not order enough food when in charge of picking the menu because I didn’t want to waste food and liked to save money.  I learned quickly from my boss in China that he expected that to never happen and I had better forget the budget and order the damn food and lots of it.  To the point that I knew to also order takeaway boxes so everyone at the meeting could take home leftovers.  Okay.  Good reminder for family gatherings as well.

As we drove to dinner Friday night in LA traffic, I was thinking to myself, aren’t there restaurants closer to home?  But no, on we went until we reached an adorably charming town where an old lemon factory had been converted into shops and restaurants and I bought some handmade jewelry from a friendly artist.  We ended up eating outside under the stars and, with Jimmy ordering LOTS of delicious food, we had a night to remember.  Had I been in charge, we would have schlepped to the closest place and probably gone home hungry.

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Dinner under the stars with an old fashioned to sip and awesome family time.

 

Today, we had barely gotten back from a huge dim sum feast today after our foot massages (heaven!) when Jimmy was pre-ordering pizzas for dinner and concerned that he get everyone their favorite toppings.  This morning when the power was out at the house, he was up early to run to Starbucks because he knew we loved our caffeine fix.  By the time he got back with venti Americanos for all, the power was already back on but, just in case it wasn’t, his guests were prepared to start the day right.  Jimmy and Shari ARE the perfect hosts.  Me, not so much. The first step is admitting it.

Here’s to 2016-expect nothing and appreciate everything!

2013 Times Square-2014 Shanghai-2015 Seattle-2016 Boise…it was never my intent to celebrate New Year’s Eve in different cities/countries but that’s just how my life rolled and I enjoyed every second of it.  So what’s ahead in 2016?  No idea but I’m excited to find out.  Reflecting today on 2015, I am so thankful for all the experiences I’ve been so blessed to enjoy.  Life is truly wonderful and amazing in so many ways.

Cheers! Here's to 2016!
Cheers! Here’s to 2016!

2015 for us was all about transition and travel.  We moved back from China in late 2014 and settled into our new place in lower Queen Anne.  Oh, how I love that water view and our urban neighborhood.  Being able to walk everywhere you need to be is liberating and so healthy if you don’t count being a convenient block away from the greasy bliss that is Dick’s.  Having decorated our apartment last year to make it cozy, we can now enjoy entertaining more in 2016.  Bring on the cocktail cart and amazing sunsets!  Having James move back in with us while he attends Seattle U. Law is an added bonus as well.  I appreciate being closer to family but we do miss living in China so much-a unique adventure I will never forget.

Last year was also a travelling time with my old job taking me to exotic locations like Detroit in February, San Antonio during the torrential rain storms, Durham, Orlando in the brutal summer heat, Vancouver and NYC-my favorite that never disappoints.  I may not travel with my new job for awhile but then it will become a global odyssey.  Cannot wait.  Oh the places we will go!

Amsterdam/Bruges/The Hague dazzled us on our autumn trip and was a highlight for sure and just as charming as I thought it would be.  We definitely need to explore more of Europe SOON.  Nothing beats a family vacation, though, and we got to all be together on the lovely Big Island as Baby Mia was learning to walk while on the beaches in Hawaii!  That was priceless and appreciated so much.  That Mia makes me smile.

Zip lining on Big Island with the kids was a joy!
Zip lining on Big Island with the kids was a joy!
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Enjoying the dive diner experience with Patti & Larry in Vancouver

 

Flying through the trees and across the valleys in Hawaii on the zip line with the kids was breathtaking.  Travelling with friends is also fun so when Patti and Larry drove across America on their road trip, we joined them to enjoy an Amtrak trip up to Vancouver where we took walking tours and found the best dive restaurant in town, serving milk shakes AND martinis right next to the triple XXX shop.  Yummy and crazy at the same time!

I was lucky enough to enjoy lots of great musical moments in 2015 and got to experience the great artistic stylings of Glen Hansard, Florence & The Machine, Allen Stone x2, Eilen Jewell, Griffin House, Elvis Costello, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, Dave Brumbeck plus interesting talks by David Sedaris, John Oliver, Jesse Eisenberg, David Axelrod, Ira Glass and Joe Klein.  Such smart and talented people!  Looking forward to seeing Lewis Black soon in Seattle.  He always brings me to tears of laughter with his passionate rants.  Need to seek out some women speakers this year.  Here’s to diversity and hoping Hillary comes to town!  Best concert of 2015-Glen Hansard with Allen Stone as a close second.  I would go see them anytime, anywhere.  GO SEE THEM!

Allen Stone and I hanging out at his private concert for my company. Cool dude!
Allen Stone and I hanging out at his private concert for my company. Cool dude!

We also got to go to many Seattle Storm basketball games at nearby Key Arena and see Jewell Lloyd win Rookie of the Year. It was a rebuilding year so they should win more in 2016.  The Sounders were inconsistently frustrating but always a fun game to go to with awesome fan support.  Throw in a few Mariners games and the Seattle Reign too and we have begun to truly immerse ourselves in the Seattle sports scene.  Of course, Thom and Mike got to see their beloved Mets play in NYC in the World Series.  Epic moment for those two-here’s hoping the Mets come back swinging again this year so I don’t have to listen to Thom cry and whine.

2015 WTF Moments

Trump-if by some horrible chance he wins, we would have to leave.  Are you with me?  Belize perhaps?  That he is even in the race, let alone leading, is embarrassing for the U.S.

Guns & Violence-something must be done.  Hopefully Obama will look at his Fu*&it List and take action.  I’m looking forward to seeing Hannah make a difference with her work for Moms Demand Action, an organization funded by Bloomberg.  People, we need to take a stand and say NO MORE.

My shoulder froze and my local gym closed so health and fitness were challenging for me this year.  Frozen shoulder, mainly affecting women of a “certain age”, made moving painful and awkward but it’s getting better now with the aid of my masseuse’s cruel and painful sessions and it certainly could have been worse.  Going to try out a new gym next week and start the new year off right.  Hoping 2016 is a healthy one for all of us.

2016 Highlights to look forward to

Have fun in 2016 and be silly at least once a day!
Have fun in 2016 and be silly at least once a day!

*watching Mia turn 2-she grows more enchanting and smart every day.  Definitely want to spend more time in Boise if we can carve out some time in between renters of our cute cottage there.  It’s popular!

*publishing a book on our adventures in China-Thom will explore consulting opportunities around our expat experiences as well and we even have our own YouTube Channel now to bring the book to life:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC46Dht4h7e7Tebgx6Ri9tMA?view_as=public

*discovering Dublin and seeing Glen Hansard sing in his natural environment and a NYC trip to see old friends and old haunts once it warms up some and the Mets are playing again.

*back home again to Indiana to see Mom, Sis and corn waving in the fields.  Once Hoosier, always a Hoosier!

*an art-filled year.  We just became Seattle Art Museum members so our weekly dates will probably be including art as well as going to their incredible Remix events.  If you live in Seattle, check out these after hour events with music.  Fun.

*learning a new job-again but trying for better work/life balance.  Finally!

Here’s to 2016 and savoring the wonder of each and every day.  Expect nothing & appreciate everything.

Home Sweet Home Seattle
Home Sweet Home Seattle