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

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 – 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.

A Bump in the Road

How do people keep up with blogging?  Really.  Being alive takes time and energy even when nothing is going on.  Add social engagements, fulfilling obligations, or promises to help anyone and the agenda becomes unmanageable.  And there is always more than one more thing to do, book to read, place to go.  Once I subscribed to a blog and the author wrote 3 times a day!  In spite of best intentions and great plans, I can’t get it together to write once a month!

Several weeks ago, one of the women in my Bible study called me about an hour before our study was to begin.  As long as I know her, she has drama in her life. Drama is her middle name.  This time the drama was: we’re moving to another state in a week, have to leave the place we’re living in TONIGHT and that’s why “I won’t be coming to Bible study”.

I read in her words a cry for help.  She did not ask me to help but I barged in to solve a problem that was not mine.  I arranged to stay with my brother and SIL in their guest bedroom and gave up my apartment to this woman and her family (husband and 3 kids). They arrived with 3 large storage containers, numerous bags of clothing and linen, luggage, infant seats, etc, etc.

Eight days later they boarded a plane for the east coast and I was so happy to return to my bed.  But not for long because the next night my daughter came into town for a visit and I gave up the bedroom to her and I slept on pull out bed in the living room. That’s when the fun began.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Over the course of the next 15 days, I was bitten 28 times during my sleep.  Bedbugs.  I won’t bore you details about:

    • research done on these parasitical suckers

http://ohsimply.com/7-natural-ways-to-get-rid-of-bed-bugs/
http://m.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Bed-Bugs http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/11/sleeping-tight-bed-bugs-started-bite/ http://www.theawl.com/2010/08/how-i-fought-bedbugs-and-won

    • expense of various non-toxic methods employed to eliminate the bugs
    • expense of homeopathic methods for treating the bites from which I suffered an allergic reaction
    • time traveling to numerous stores to buy the various supplies needed to eliminate and treat
    • numerous loads of laundry–always hot water and high heat for drying!
    • sleepless nights
    • preparing for arrival of exterminator

wpid-20150520_141353.jpg wpid-20150520_141708.jpg

Suffice it to say that I was CONSUMED with the task for over 3 weeks.  In the end, I spent big bucks to hire an exterminator to be as sure as I could be that “they” were gone. One can only hope.

I have not suffered unto death

I do not have any unforgiveness in my heart towards the family I helped.  I had forgotten they had bedbugs. Even if I had remembered that they had bedbugs several months before, I did not have enough knowledge to realize that I was at risk when they moved their worldly possessions into my home.They did not, I’m sure, intentionally bring the bedbugs and probably thought they had eliminated the problem.

Was it a mistake to volunteer to help?  What was my motivation for doing so?  Is the lesson to learn wait for people to ASK for help?  Is that the high road?

I’m not sorry I gave up my home to them.  We hold on too tightly to things and God wants us to love and bless people with everything He gives to us.  Though I question whether or not I was actually hearing from God when I “solved” their problem, what was done was not a bad thing. And it really did help them out.

As to the expense to eradicate and treat, I’m blessed that I have the money to take care of it.  God provided.  I was inconvenienced and a little uncomfortable for a short time.  It’s been 11 nights without a bite and about 7 days of deep and restful sleep.  Now I can get back to reliving my R.A.T. adventures.

Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite!

East Coast – Baltimore

The weather was cloudy and/or rainy since I left San Diego on December 3 and this travel day is no exception.  Taking the LIRR to Penn Station in New York to switch to Amtrak to get to Baltimore was non-stop action.  Because I had two rolling bags to manage, I had no hands free for train station photos, Starbucks, scratching an itch, etc. Stairs, escalators & many people going every which way made me feel like a bumper car.

I used the Amtrak Android app to buy all train tickets and struggled with my bags and needing my phone out with e-ticket showing for the gate attendant.  The attendant was positioned at the top step of the escalator and with the crush of humanity pressing at my back to get down to the station platform I was anxious that I’d be trampled. Note to self: get a better luggage system soon!

I was on my way to visit Karen.  We met through Urban Walkers, a San Diego meetup, back in 2009. Karen moved to the East Coast to spend more time with her family, planning a return to San Diego after a couple of years.  However, life intervened and she has stayed. She lives in an ocean front community in Delaware. Being off-season, it would have taken many hours and four public transportation changes to go to her home, so we made arrangements to meet in Baltimore.

20141210_190827The Wyndham Peabody Court in the Mount Vernon neighborhood was my resting place. Sounds posh right? The room was gi-normous, feeling even more so after the really tight quarters at the Americana Inn in NYC. However, the hotel was showing its age and could use some remodeling. Perhaps someone could take down the sheer drapes and get them cleaned. Nonetheless, I had a deep and restful night’s sleep in the king-20141210_190926sized bed and met Karen the next morning.

We drove to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and had brunch at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court. Karen and I haven’t seen each other for a couple of years yet our visit felt like just a week or two passed since our last visit. Talking has never been a problem for us! 🙂 http://www.sonesta.com/baltimore

Our next stop was the American Visionary Art Museum (http://www.avam.org/), a unique exhibition of the unusual.  Life-sized sculptures made of match sticks, a huge ship model made of toothpicks (I think it was the RMS Lusitania), scientific displays about things I can’t remember but found interesting, garments made of wool, paper art, paintings . . . an eclectic collection.  The Visionary Experience: Saint Francis to Finster was a somewhat unsettling exhibit, like living in the book of Revelation.

I was most intrigued by a sculpture hanging from the ceiling down through the center of the spiral staircase.  It was called Falling Angel and I regret I did not note the artist.  The sculpture spun slowly and but for the expression on the angel’s face, you wouldn’t have known there was a problem.

FallingAngel AVAM

This photo of American Visionary Art Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Overall, art that was, to me, offbeat and odd yet compelling and arresting.  I would definitely visit again!

20141211_130123Even the gift shop was, well, offbeat and odd. The Sideshow Shop (http://www.sideshowbaltimore.com/) boasts a unique potpourri of items, in addition to many art books.  One of my favorites is Criminal Crafts. This D.I.Y. craft book has the instructions for making many “useful” projects, including a ransom note kit and a John Dillinger soap gun. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1449409857/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

CriminalContentsThis entertaining bulletin board can be found in one of the ladies rooms. Click on image to zoom in.20141211_123720

20141211_131019While we were at AVAM, it began to snow.  Big fluffy flakes.  It was the first snow I’ve seen in years.

20141211_135519We went shopping, visited a pub in the old part of town, some more shopping, and generally did those things friends do when they get together. A short but sweet visit in a place I’ve never been.  Thanks for the whirlwind tour Karen!  It was great to see you.  As the former California governor says, “I’ll be back.”

Ending Confusion

Over the past few weeks as I’ve posted about my travels, I’ve heard from numerous people who think I’m writing about something I’m doing now.  However, these posts are about my travels from December 3, 2014 through January 31, 2015. I’m re-living my adventures by sharing them with you.

If you visit the first post of this series (Coming Home, http://wp.me/p1BaJh-59), you’ll understand how this all began.  Perhaps these calendars can help keep things straight as you follow along.  The next post will relate traveling to Baltimore December 10 for my visit with Karen on December 11-coming soon!

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