Thursday, February 25, 2016

Some Things I've Learned About Winter Travel

I travel often and after years of trial and error have developed some specific travel habits. Here I share the knowledge I have gained for my fellow, crazy winter travelers. 

Planes are cold but coats are bulky and uncomfortable, so in the winter I always wear a sweater with a hood and bring a lightweight wool wrap to use as a blanket. Slip your coat into your carry on, or if you're feeling lucky, into your checked bag. 
12 hour plane rides are the best. . . 

Bring your slippers and your sweatpants. It will feel silly and granny-like when sliding slippers into your suitcase, but your feet will thank you when lounging in your hotel room or Airbnb apartment. 

Layers are your friend. You never know what the weather may bring. The weather app lies to me all the time! 

Long underwear or tights and then jeans. Your legs will thank you! 

The warmest boots you have and wool socks. Thank you Uggs, although why Australians need sheepskin lined boots, remains a mystery. 
that time we flew from Rome to Copenhagen
and packed all our clothes (apparently)

When you return indoors after a long walk, leave your coat on until you’re warm. This prevents a chill which can last all day. In cafes I often take my husband’s coat and drape it over my legs until I’m warm. And wear your hat all day. 

Wear your sunglasses even when it’s cloudy to keep the wind from your eyes. 

Be very sure that picture you want is worth frostbite. This is a hard rule to follow, and I am always breaking it. 

The coffee shop is your warmest friend. 

And always walk on the sunny side of the street. 

Happy Travels!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Eight Frigid Miles

Last weekend was the coldest in New York City for decades, so of course Kevin and I were there. Saturday it was minus 10 degrees with wind chill, a perfect day to explore the city - eight miles of it - on foot. It was a blast. We walked across Central Park, towards Morningside Heights, then across the campus of Columbia University and mingled with people much smarter than us. We stumbled across an amazing service at St. John the Divine. We ate delicious Ethiopian food, and as the hours passed, the temperature plummeted. The frigid air hurt my nose even though it was covered by a face mask. Yes, we were fashionably dressed in America’s fashion capital.

We arrived in New York City earlier in the week, and Kevin spent his days in business meetings while I explored. For the weekend, we moved out of the business hotel reserved for us in mid-town Manhattan and traveled uptown to an Airbnb apartment.

As we turned onto the street in East Harlem where we would be staying our last three days in New York, consternation filled me. This neighborhood looked sketchy. Towers of public housing units surrounded us. I wondered if we would be safe. The situation wasn’t made better by the fact that instead of hailing a cab, we had hired a town car (they are more reliable and cost the same as a taxi). However, the car company sent a stretch limousine rather than a normal black car; not a little awkward. It felt weird as the driver parked the ridiculous stretch limousine in front of public housing units. As I climbed out of the car, pretending to be invisible, I saw children racing home from school, moms holding their little ones’ hands as they hurried towards shelter.  As we climbed the worn steps to our fifth floor apartment, I reminded myself this apartment received great reviews. And, indeed, we had a delightfully cold stay in East Harlem. I loved being in a  real neighborhood with real families.

This was our first foray into East Harlem, and I confess I chose this location because The Corner Bookstore is just blocks away on the Upper East Side. I like to get away from sameness. I like new things. New places. New people. One of my favorite things is to attend different churches in different cities. In New York this was easy, because many churches have services every day. I was excited to attend a Noon service at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Cathedral in mid-town Manhattan. It was beautiful and my feet especially enjoyed the break from New York’s concrete jungle.

This was my favorite experience with NYC. In year’s past I would never have stayed in East Harlem. I would have taken one look at the street and said, “Take me to the nearest Marriott.” But a few years ago I decided to live a brave life. And I discovered once we let go of fear, the doors to adventure and beauty and friendship, and all manner of new things, are flung open. 

Life is precious and fleeting. I want to embrace it. I don’t want to live a "Groundhog Day” life, every day a rerun of the last. When we do things that make us uncomfortable, we often find waiting for us, joy and satisfaction. I am the boss of my life. I want to look back and say, “It was good."

About a dozen times Saturday, as we walked those eight frigid miles through East Harlem and Columbia University and the Upper East Side and Central Park, I said to Kevin, "What a good day."  We watched a hockey game outdoors in Central Park, and strolled down St. Nicholas Avenue discovering architecture we’d never before seen in Baptist Church buildings. 

We made one last stop at The Corner Bookstore, and the shopkeeper laughed out loud when we entered wearing our face masks, hats, scarves, gloves and long coats.

On our last night I stood looking out the window. It was negative degrees and people were bundled and rushing to escape the cold. Cars were streaming down the hill from the Upper East Side. The wind was blowing through the the cracks in the windows of the old apartment building. I wondered in amazement that this is my life. I could have stayed home and Kevin would have flown to New York, conducted his business meetings and caught the first plane home. Instead, we had an adventure. We went where we had not been. We saw what we had not seen. We brought home new memories.

And it was good.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Learning How to Be

I have been thinking lately about the difference between "being" and "doing" and what that actually looks like. How does a person go about "being"? I'm pretty sure it looks less busy than I have been this winter.

The New York Times article entitled, Love People, Not Pleasure, says if you want to be unhappy, seek external or "extrinsic" goals like achieving reputation or being famous. If you want to be happy, seek internal or "intrinsic" goals like deep, long-term relationships.

Apparently, "People who rate materialistic goals like wealth as top personal priorities are significantly likelier to be more anxious, more depressed and more frequent drug users, and even to have more physical ailments than those who set their sights on more intrinsic values."

This made me think of Beth Moore's book, Children of the Day. She says, “The idea of shifting the approach of our prayer requests from achieving to receiving is not an original concept, but it’s a fresh perspective for me. . . seeking God to achieve nobler things like love for someone hateful, clarity for mind-tangling scenarios. . . I’m just learning that approaching Him with an emphasis on achieving is a pale second to an outlook of receiving.”

I want to learn how to "be" during the hard, confusing times as well as the good times and not just how to "do", how to act or react.

There is a lot of fun to be had and I am all in for that! Bring on the family vacations, the outrageous laughter of silly, inside family jokes, cold days spent skiing in the Idaho mountains, blistering hot days spent floating down the Boise River on a paddle board. Still, it is in knowing who I am and sharing my life with others that brings lasting joy. And I am really, really all for that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

We the People

“Bravery may mean learning when to shut our mouths and to observe rather than to opine, to seek to understand rather than to be understood.” Jonathan Merritt

There’s a presidential race taking place in the United States? Maybe you’ve noticed. It’s super fun for Americans. Except it’s not. 

The message from each candidate is mostly negative and blaming. They each want us to know who to blame. This means we need never take responsibility for our own problems, individually or as a nation. This is great marketing. Use your words to instill fear and people will follow you. We are a people easily duped.

Yet we’re all citizens of the same country. Some of us believe in a conservative government. Some of us believe in a liberal government. Some of us even believe in a libertarian government (after all, I do live in Idaho). We’ve bought into the belief that these different views require us to despise each other.

Why must we dislike each other because we believe differently? To me this is like saying, “You prefer Starbucks Coffee and I prefer Peet’s Coffee so, of course, we can’t be friends.” It’s more complicated than that. I get it, but your differing political beliefs should not bring out the bad in me. How you present your political beliefs, well that’s where it gets tricky. I am dismayed by those friends of mine on social media who seem only to look for the negative, who post angry and hurtful articles about how “those people” are ruining our country.

Here’s the thing. I will rarely listen to your opinions if they are presented from a negative viewpoint. If you want my attention, present what you believe in a positive way, without disparaging all other views. There must be something good in your beliefs. If the only way you can discuss politics (or education or religion, etc.) is by tearing down the “other,” I will disregard what you say.

I do not live life from a  negative viewpoint (this is mostly true. . . ). Maybe you think that’s naive of me or Pollyanna-ish, but this is my life and I refuse to wake up each day and look around for what’s wrong or who is wrong. I choose instead to, “Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Because it is for freedom Jesus set us free, and living into fear or hate or negativity is not freedom. It is self-imposed bondage.

“Integrity consists not in having no presuppositions but of being aware of what one’s presuppositions are and of the obligation to listen and interact with those who have different ones."  N.T. Wright

One of the greatest joys in my life are my friends who are completely, radically opposite from me politically. I love them so much. My friends who hold to different beliefs enrich my life. I cannot imagine life without them. How boring! I want conversations that push me to consider why I think what I think. I want to be in relationship with real people who believe differently than me, so I keep remembering they are real people. I want them to be all up in my face, so when I am tempted to let enmity grow in me towards that other political party or that other denomination, I see instead the faces of those I love. And I remember there is no other. There is only we the people.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.” John 13:34

"As life carries on, I hope my edges soften, my defenses weaken. I so desperately want it said of me that I loved well." Jen Hatmaker