Nous somme Paris!

I’ve enjoyed so many exciting adventures since last November. In fact, today is the first anniversary of my retirement. I’ve traveled all over America and spent the last 3 weeks in Europe visiting Manchester for a Jesus Culture conference; London, Brussels, and Paris with my daughter; staying on a few more days in Paris on my own and continuing on to the Amalfi Coast, Florence, and finally Faulensee.  Of those cities I visited, 2 of them are experiencing fallout from terrorist acts or threats.  In fact, I left Paris on a night train just a couple of hours before the coordinated attacks occurred.

I don’t watch the news even when home much less when I’m on vacation.  I was on a train all night and didn’t arrive at my destination until about noon Friday.  My daughter messaged me, “Where are you?” When I told her on was on the Amalfi Coast, she then texted, “You should probably let people know you’re not in Paris,” and alerted me to the attacks.  I scoured the internet for details.

I had such mixed emotions about being out of Paris. I feel spared. Glad. Sad. GRATEFUL.  I enjoyed Paris 2 days with my daughter & 3 days on my own & I was feeling a little shaky that I had escaped being locked into Paris by just a few hours. I had debated staying one more day to spend it at the Louvre, but in my morning quiet time, I felt encouraged to move on. Though I would not have been out (I don’t often go out at night alone in San Diego, much less an unfamiliar city where I don’t speak the language), several of the attacks were close to the hostel we stayed at.

I had so many good experiences throughout Europe and particularly in Paris.  My heart broke for those who lost friends and family.  I could not help but remember 9/11, another terrible terrorist attack that I felt a connection to.  Connected to Paris because I just left there, connected to 9/11 because New York is my home. Over the next few days, I continued to reflect.

After 3 days on the Amalfi Coast, I headed to Florence and had dinner with one of my daughter’s childhood friends who happens to live nearby.  We had a stimulating conversation prompted by the recent events.  We touched on morality, who’s responsible for teaching morality, the inability to legislate morality. I questioned whether we don’t have a responsibility to each other not to stir up any people group with our opinions. Taylor said “you shouldn’t poke a bear but you shouldn’t stay out of the woods cause there might be bears.” We went on to discuss freedom of speech. That conversation continued stirring my thoughts for the next several days.

I think morality is a personal choice which we each have the freedom to make. As I thought about morality and holiness and choosing how to live, I contemplated the difference between those who commit acts of terrorism and those who deplore those acts.  I think those who commit acts of terrorism are living out their “morality” and “holiness” with passion. Though I abhor their acts, I wonder if I could live out my morality and holiness with the same commitment and passion as they.  Will I help the world be a better place if I do?

I caught a clip of Jimmy Fallon honoring Paris and her citizens.

This video by Antoine Leiris who lost his wife in the attacks is deeply moving:

We must live our lives with commitment and passion.  Don’t be a hater.  As Antoine so eloquently states, to hate will be to exhibit the same ignorance that carried out the attacks.

I could not leave Europe before saluting Paris.  Nous somme Paris!

 

What a disaster!

Doc from BTTF

Doc from BTTF

There is much I would like to share about my experience. For now,  I encourage you to visit this website to volunteer and/or donate, as the LORD leads.

Responding to disaster.

I’m heading home following an unscheduled adventure!  Just 2 days after completing the 3rd and final leg of my R.A.T., I received an email from the leaders of the recently formed Rock Disaster Response Team. The call for volunteers to help Samaritan’s Purse (“SP”) in recovery efforts for Northern California fires tugged on my spirit. 

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ve felt that God has been calling me to spend my retired life in disaster recovery and/or human trafficking rescue. The timing of this call to arms was perfectly nestled between R.A.T. ending and a European trip beginning. I made the necessary arrangements, completed yards of paperwork, and packed my ULA Catalyst to hit the road again. 

In addition to completing numerous online forms, you must get yourself to the site and bring your own linen. A partner church must qualify as a lighthouse church (in this case, San Andreas Community Covenant Church) and they then host the SP Senior Leadership Team, which goes in ahead of all the other volunteers. When overnight volunteers arrive, the church arranges space for sleeping.

SP has some of the most amazing equipment, including a shower trailer (6 shower rooms, each with bench & sink), a cooking trailer (including stove top, ovens, counters and a freezer), not to mention, the DVR unit which houses the tool shop and office.

It was a gratifying and deeply fulfilling experience to help people who lost all their possessions and their homes in this ravaging fire. 

What you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.

Matthew 25:40

Heading home

Waiting at Austin airport I’m feeling a little glum because being at Austin airport means my R.A.T. Middle America has ended. And they pipe in only county music. Ugh!!  Thank God for headphones and my worship playlist.  No offense intended.  I just don’t like country music. Sorry Blake!

East coast leg was completed in December 2014, west coast January 2015 and middle America began August 5.

Quick impressions:

  • All hostels are not created equal. I’ve stayed in 2 rat traps.
  • All hotels are not created equal. 2 more rat traps.
  • Biggest surprise is that Lincoln, NE is a nice place to visit.
  • Second big surprise is that not everyone in Texas wears cowboy boots.
  • Biggest disappointment is that I didn’t see everyone I hoped to see.
  • Second big disappointment was when my thru hiking/backcountry trip had to be cancelled,
  • Missouri Botanical Gardens is worth the trip to St. Louis.
  • New favorite city is Chicago.
  • The reaction people have when I tell them how much they blessed my life has made me smile/cry/glad and will stay with me forever!

R.A.T. Stats:

  • 35 cities
  • 5 planes
  • 13 trains
  • 7 buses
  • 9 subways/light rails
  • 3 taxis
  • 5 ferries
  • 4 car rentals
  • 1 castle
  • 2 gardens
  • 6 museums
  • 20 hotels
  • 6 hostels
  • 10 homes
  • # miles traveled  ??
  • 56 people visited

I did not write as much as I wanted to and still have the entire west coast R.A.T. to re-live thru many blogs.  I was much more interested in visiting the wonderful people I went to see, catching up with important events in their lives and laughing over our past shared experiences, even the painful ones.

There are many more adventures to have, e.g., my upcoming European tour and how God is going to spend the rest of my life. I’m ready. Let’s roll!

Home for a minute, “Home” for the holidays

There’s no place like home.  Home is where the heart is. Anywhere I hang my hat is home.

At the moment “home” is Lincoln, NE.  Lincoln is more interesting than I thought it would be.  More on that in a later post.

Things change quickly and now “home” is St. Louis.  I visited a friend of 19 years i haven’t seen for 5 and now with a friend of 29 years I haven’t seen for 14!  It has been tons of fun to catch up with such wonderful sisters!  Let’s go back to where I left you hanging.

Between East Coast and West Coast, Christmas 2014.

I had to be at the Charlotte airport to catch my flight home to San Diego and did not want Don and Margo to get up at o’dark thirty again to get me to the Clemson station. I decided to rent a car for the 2-hour drive.   I reserved a car through Enterprise in Anderson, and they had no car available when I arrived. Reminded me of Jerry Seinfeld: “You know how to take the reservation, but you don’t know how to hold the reservation.”

The Enterprise rep suggested we “start the paperwork and maybe a car would be available by the time we’re done.” Mama didn’t raise no fool.  If I “started” the paperwork, that would keep me locked into an Enterprise rental until a car showed up. Lucky for me, Hertz was right outside the door across the parking lot and they did have a car, though it cost a good bit more than the car I reserved.

Away I drove, sad to leave after a too short visit with Margo.

Thankfully the ride to the airport was uneventful.  I was on a huge plane with 9 or 10 seats per row, flanked by two woman. The young woman to my left sold something and the military was her client.  She was deathly ill.  She was kind to show me how to operate the in-seat tv screen, no doubt sharing her virus in the process.

The woman to my right was going to visit her daughter who escaped the holidays because they were too painful to celebrate.  Her daughter had one child and he had been killed while at a baseball camp.  Another camper had hit him in the back of the head with a baseball bat.

I didn’t want to press for details cause it seemed difficult for her to talk about losing her only grandchild.  She was a woman of faith and we said all those things one says about God–He is faithful, with us through every trial, has a grander purpose than we can know–and yet … words are so inadequate.

The flight home was smooth sailing.  Well, smooth flying.  I spent the next couple of days getting ready to travel down the west coast.

First stop Seattle to spend Christmas with family.  My reserved flight to Seattle, connecting in Oakland presented challenges. The first flight was delayed which meant a missed connection–the last flight out of Oakland to Seattle for that day,  The Southwest rep calmly suggested I sleep in the Oakland airport overnight. WHAT!  In the end I flew the next day on a nonstop flight, but it was frustrating to have my plans delayed.

My daughter was ill when I arrived just a few days before Christmas. I spent a rainy Monday negotiating Pikes Place, that famous Seattle market packed with holiday shoppers.  I had saved my holiday shopping til arriving in Seattle and went to several other downtown shops in the rain. I was cold and wet in a very short time. Needless to say, between sharing virus spores with my seatmate on the Charlotte to San Diego flight and spending the day in the rain, I was ill myself by Christmas day.

Nonetheless, we celebrated Christmas with family and friends. My brother and SIL were in town and their daughter hosted us all for dinner and a lively game of Pictionary.  I was glad to not have any plans for the next several days and equally glad that Urgent Care was across the street from my daughter’s home. Between the antibiotics and rest, we were finally all well again.

IMG_2008My daughter and I had tickets to see Mike Birbiglia on New Year’s Eve at the historic Moore Theater.  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner before the show at List.  What a great night we had!

East Coast R.A.T. complete and Christmas and New Year’s celebrated in grand style, I was ready to begin the West Coast R.A.T.  More adventures to come!

East Coast–The Carolinas–Anderson, SC

Hopefully you haven’t been waiting with bated breath for the next installment. I’m currently on the 3rd and final leg of my R.A.T (Retired American Tour). Since last post I was busy preparing: buying supplies and bus tickets, reserving campsites and hotel rooms, etc. Today I’m writing from Denver, CO.    I plan to catch up to where I actually am, which means multiple blogs each week for the next several weeks.  I will be unable to include photos from East and West coast R.A.T. blogs until the end of September because all photos are on my computer at home.  For now, you’ll get the words. Enough about the present.  Let’s return to where I left off back in July.

This visit with Margo and Don occurred December 2014.

The 4-hour delay resulting from the train accident brought me to Clemson, SC at 5:39 am.  My friends Don and Margo met me at the station, and we drove to their Anderson, SC home in the dark, cold, early morning hours.  Don and Margo made us a 5-star breakfast and then we all went back to sleep!

I met Margo in Lexington, KY at Second Presbyterian Church a few years before she and Don married.  Margo was the director of Christian Education at Second Pres.  At the time I was a single parent and Margo was always generous and gracious toward my daughter and me.  She is the first person I met who I can say upon reflection walked out the love and grace of Jesus.  Margo never talked about it though.  Humility is one of her many virtues.  She simply walked the walk.  I don’t believe I ever saw Margo angry or impatient.  She was ever pleasant and calm in every circumstance.

Margo brought out the best in everyone,  She was always encouraging which made it a pleasure to do whatever Margo asked of you,  Even if it was something you had never done before and didn’t think you could do.  If Margo believed in you, you believed in yourself.  You always wanted to come through for Margo,

Like the time Margo asked me to “play” Mary Todd Lincoln at the Mary Todd Lincoln House as part of the week-long celebration for the church’s 175th anniversary. Mary’s dad, Robert Smith Todd, was one of the co-founders of Lexington, KY, instrumental in the establishment of Second Presbyterian Church and, the Mary Todd Lincoln House was preserved as an important part of Lexington, KY history.  I read no less than 4 biographies written about Mary so I might portray her accurately.  I could not let Margo down.

One Christmas Margo learned that we didn’t have a Christmas tree,  It was a hard season and I didn’t have a penny to spend on a tree, whether live or artificial,  I don’t remember how she found out, but after the Christmas Eve service was over, Margo brought the church office tree, fully decorated, to our apartment,  “Well, the office is closed for Christmas, so no one will miss it,  Everyone should have a tree on Christmas,”  That’s Margo.  See a need and meet it, no hesitation.

Margo is the reason the R.A.T. was conceived,  It all started with a desire to see Margo again,  I decided that If I was going to travel that far to see Margo, I might as well see everyone else I knew on the east coast,

My visit was too short and I hope to have another chance to visit Margo and Don in Anderson.  Thanks Margo! You’re the tops!

East Coast – The Carolinas – Cary, NC

The plan to write more often has not been achieved.  I’m still battling bedbugs and visits from the exterminator which means packing up stuff before he comes, then unpacking stuff and doing lots of laundry after he leaves.  It’s exhausting.  The best way to handle bedbugs is don’t get them.  They are ridiculously difficult to get rid of.

Cirruzzo Family 001

2010 Christmas Card

Back to happier times. . . the next stop on my RAT was Cary, North Carolina.  I arrived late Sunday, December 14 and stayed in the Windsor by Wyngate near the arena.  Don’t be fooled by the regal sounding name. I was here to visit Laurene and her family (husband, Doug, daughter, Julianna, and pet dog, Snickerdoodle). We met at work in Colorado Springs, CO several years ago.  Laurene and her husband are native New Yawk-ers (like me!) and there is always an instant bond between New Yawk-ers! They moved to Cary, NC about 6 years ago.

LC Paint to winWe always laughed a lot together, even during difficult situations, and managed to entertain each other on the job. In fact, I do believe I was once instructed to stay away from her desk because I was keeping her from doing her work. Haters gotta hate. Laurene is a great storyteller shared some of her incredibly interesting experiences with me which I enjoyed through gales of laughter.  Some of the experiences weren’t funny at the time, but she made me laugh when telling the story nonetheless.

Another amazing skill she has–the girl can cook! But, she can’t sew.  Laurene is petite and every pair of pants she ever bought was too long for her.   We had this deal: Laurene would give me one homemade genuine Italian meatball for each pant leg I hemmed for her.  Reminds me of The Wedding Singer getting paid in meatballs for singing lessons.  Worked out well for both of us.

Their new home in Cary is lovely and it was a joy to see them all.  One room in the house is filled with a cardboard box fort.  What a fun and unique playground for their daughter and her friends!  I was sorry post-trip that I didn’t take any pictures.  I was so wrapped up in traveling and visiting that I rarely thought about pictures. Now I wish it had been a priority.  I’ll never see a fort like that again.

Laurene and Doug had to work the next day and Julianna had to go to school, so I kept my visit short.  Even though we hadn’t been together for many years, our friendship crosses miles and time and we had no trouble filling every minute with conversation.  They talked about maybe someday moving back to Colorado.  I hope they are there by the time I visit this summer.

Naked

Hiking the PCT is on my bucket list. This is an interesting word about parts of the trail.

Hikeology

I don’t feel safe here. I’ve already hiked 25 trail miles today but the little voice inside my head is saying “keep moving”. So I bypass my first chance at a campsite, ford Deep Creek just below the Mohave Dam and start climbing back up into the dry hills of the San Bernadinos.

Mohave Dam ready for 1000 year flood
Maybe it was the vandalism to some of the PCT trail markers which were put in place around the dam to help hikers stay on course as they pass through a very confusing jumble of ATV trails and maintenance roads that chop up the PCT into little pieces.

Maybe it was the graffiti and tagging I saw along the trail over the last 4 miles as I approached the dam area, much of which volunteers had attempted to remove by sandblasting the paint off the rocks or by painting over…

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