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My older son is a bona fide adult. He lives on the opposite coast, pays his own bills, has held a job for two years. My younger son is still dependent on us for food and shelter, college tuition, a phone and a car. Yet he legally becomes an adult in a few weeks, when he turns twenty-one. When he reminded me he was about to become a “legal adult,” I challenged him to define what it means to be an adult. He quickly agreed he was not ready.

Yet, to me, the fact that we can have these “adult” conversations does seem convincing. Both my sons think deeply about life, people, situations. They don’t act rashly, have good common sense, are respectful, helpful and responsible. These are the hallmarks of adulthood, so they are well on their way.

I was lucky enough to have quality time with them individually this past week. Piggy-backing on a business trip to CA, I spent a day and a half with my older son. I can only hope he relished our time together as much as I did. I felt particularly moved when he told me of a friend’s recent loss of his mother and said, “I can’t imagine not having a mother at this point in my life.” My sunglasses hid the tears that filled my eyes. Whether he realized it or not, that meant so much to me.

Upon arriving home from the trip, feeling so good, yet now missing him more than ever, I busied myself with work and catching up on jet lag and lack of sleep. A day later, I left with my younger son for Pittsburgh, for a fun tour of the highlights. We drove, so there was plenty of time for bonding. We spent day and night together for 4 consecutive days, with nary a cross word or bit of unhappiness. In fact, I was incredibly happy and he had a good time.

I know these days are numbered. Whether time, work, or eventual families complicate their lives, I know this may be the last or one of the last times I get to have with them alone. I will cherish the memories of this week. I also know I will make new ones in the future that will include others. That too will bring its own joys.

 

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This expression usually conjures up the image of a prayer to be safe on the road. Billy Joel wrote a song by this name to wish for the safe passage of someone he loved. For me, it is a prayer that I can travel for many more years, to many more places. Yes, it might invoke the divine to grant me the health to travel the way I would like to. It would mean having the means to make the trips. Hey, I’d like to throw one in for the chance to take an amazing trip (or 2 or 10) with my kids, and maybe even their families when they come along some day.

I have spoken of the transformational nature of travel. There is no education like it. No book, no movie, no TV show. They can only whet the appetite. Nothing but the real thing will elicit your senses. New sounds, like foreign languages; familiar and universal ones, like the laughter of children. New sights, like antiquity, ruins, indigenous fauna and flora; familiar ones, like the ocean, even if from a different vantage point. New tastes, like spices we don’t use in our part of the world; and familiar ones like those that grow in many climates. New smells, like the distinct smell of a rainforest or a dusty desert; and familiar, like an orange, which you will find most anywhere you go. New sensations like the fur of a cheetah or the skin of an elephant; familiar ones like the fur of a stray dog or cat.

Only by removing yourself from what you know can you broaden and deepen your appreciation for the vast potential of experience that is available by traveling. Too many of us long to do it yet keep waiting for the right time. There is no right time but now. You may not be granted tomorrow. I learned this as five people related to me or my friends lost loved ones this past month.

So, what are you waiting for? Call that travel agent.

 

 

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I deliberately used a question mark in the title of this post because that has been the reaction I got when I told people I was going to Pittsburgh. They would ask why and I said it was because I wanted to see It. They didn’t believe me. Except for one friend, who said she wanted to come too.

It all began many years ago, when reading an article in (I think) Business Week or some similar publication. It hailed Pittsburgh as one of the most livable cities. It defined livability as a place that offered cultural, educational and outdoor opportunities, with good housing prices and safety. Recently cited by the AARP, of which I am a card carrying member, as one of the best places to retire, I got even more curious. So one night, over dinner with my friend and our husbands, the subject came up. Before you knew it, we decided to go, abetted by our husbands.

We enlisted a realtor and told her we were on the first stop of a several year tour of potential retirement places. We wanted to see the housing stock and the city. We spent nearly two full days looking at homes and neighborhoods and one day exploring what Pittsburgh has to offer.

We were smitten! I saw many homes that I liked, and one I loved – mostly because of the kitchen. My friend, who is not afraid of taking calculated risks, said, “Why don’t you buy it?” I got excited. It felt right. There were several “signs” that I should do it, not to mention the mortgage interest rates being at their lowest ever.

I got on board immediately. There was only one hitch. My husband. Typically ultra conservative about any risk, as am I, I could not imagine him considering it. I would be able to do it without him, but I would face a penalty on early withdrawal of my retirement funds. It would be better to tap his, since he is old enough to withdraw funds without penalty.

All the way home from the airport, my friend and I sang the praises of Pittsburgh. My husband laughed in a way one does when not taking chatter seriously. When we got home, I told him I had something serious to talk with him about. I reiterated how much I loved the city. It had all the important elements I was looking for in a location: affordability, diversity, access to education and excellent healthcare, culture, good restaurants, an art scene, nearby airport and the ability to live in a suburban setting that is only 10 minutes from downtown. As a bonus, it was beautiful. Hills, parks, rivers, hiking and bike trails.

Then he said, “If you think you can buy this house for the price we can pay, do it!” Sixteen words that changed our lives! Not only did it determine where we would go next, it was the first time we took a risk – together. It is a calculated and safe risk – I did the math, interest rates are at an all time low, and the investment will hold its value. Further, time goes so fast and this next stage of our lives is only a few years away.

Well, the house negotiations did not work out, but I am returning to Pittsburgh to find another. Our paths have been forged and I am excited about it. Who knew, several weeks ago, that I would be retiring to Pittsburgh?

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Whew. What a ride!
It started with my friends’ announcement that she was coming from France. I checked my work schedule (which is per diem scheduled in advance) and identified my time off. I had already planned to go to New Orleans with my husband for four days.
My friend arrived the day after we got home, so I returned to JFK to get her. The day after, we went to Rhode Island for two nights. Home again to unpack and repack, I went to Brooklyn NY for my high school reunion (more about that in a future post!)
I arrived home once again to refresh my suitcase, heading out the following day to Niagara Falls, Niagara on the Lake, and Toronto. Four days later, we were on the road back to Connecticut.
Whew! Tired doesn’t begin to describe the pace of these past few weeks. But, lots of fun was had!

But wait! There is one more trip next week – to Pittsburgh. But at least I have time to wash some clothes, and see my husband and son for five days before I leave again . . . . . . . .

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This is the motto of New Orleans. It means “Let the good times roll.” And let me tell you, they mean every word.

I’ve been to New Orleans twice before. I came for business, but always left time for pleasure. It would be difficult not to have any appreciation for the city unless you never leave your hotel room. If you eat and walk about anywhere in the French quarter, you will experience the tastes, smells and sounds of the city. Venture out past the tourist areas and you will experience her soul and rich history. There is no denying the city’s rich roots in jazz. It is the birthplace of the great legends of jazz as well as a spawning ground for today’s great musicians.

Music holds this town together. Street musicians play for the sheer enjoyment and hope for a few bucks. So profound is their need to make music, they make their meager livings from appreciative passers-by. If America’s Got Talent were to go out into the street any night of the week in New Orleans, they would find a treasure trove of talent worthy of recording contracts.

The city also attracts artists and misfits of all kinds. On one evening out, we saw many unusual artists including a man in 100 lbs. of feathers (on a 90 degree day).

Travel can open your eyes to so many things. Food, culture, even odors you could never imagine. In an Emily Dickinson quote, I see the way the people of New Orleans view life:

“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”

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Is it the comfort of the familiarity of my hometown or is it simply the energy of the city that makes the blood in my veins flow faster? When I step out of Grand Central Station into the throngs of humanity, my body automatically goes into high awareness – of my surroundings, the sights, sounds and (oh not so pleasant) smells. It is hot and muggy, reminding me of one of the reasons I happily left NY behind for the fresh air of the country. It has been half my life now that I have lived away from NY but I have never let go of my “New York-ishness.” I will forever be a New Yorker. As they say, “You can take a girl out of New York but you can’t take the New York out of a girl.”

As I leave Grand Central my first thought is to protect my valuables. The second is, “What do I want to taste first?” So many options; only so much time and stomach space. The salted soft pretzels scream out, but no. Why would I want to fill up on this empty (but so appealing) food? I see the black and white cookies and resist those too, knowing it might trigger diabetes immediately. I’m thinking of my favorite delis – a nice, lean pastrami sandwich would be awesome. So would any fish salad from Russ and Daughters. I’m hoping they are closed today, being the sabbath and all, but probably not since Jews are no longer their only customers. How to resist? How to choose?

I end up at Starbucks for “breakfast,” since good coffee supersedes good breakfast and I know what to expect. And they have free wifi, which my hotel charges an obscene amount of money to use. Thank Starbucks for this morning’s post.

My husband and I came into the city for the weekend with few plans. I’m happy to walk for miles and miles, simply observing the people, ducking into interesting shops, and happening on good food. Last night we walked toward Dangerfield’s, our destination, thinking we will just look at restaurants and pick one along the route. We have done this in many cities and have yet to be disappointed. Our worst meals were acceptable, but many more were fabulous. Perhaps we have developed a knack for picking them. And there’s always Yelp to double check our instincts.

So this morning, I am writing from Starbucks while hubby stands in line at the Shubert Theatre box office, hoping to get tickets to Memphis for tonight. I am trying to decide where to go today and it’s hard because there are so many places I would like to go that I am nearly paralyzed by the options. I think I’ll check the weather which will help me narrow down whether to be in or outdoors.

Better get going. Have a nice day. I know I will!

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I’m sure you have noticed that no one knows the rules of the road, except for kids practicing for their road tests. Once a license is secured, all bets are off. Every single day, I encounter a person (or more than one) who just ignores the things you learn in order to secure the privilege of driving.

To refresh ourselves, note some basic rules of the road:

A yield sign means give the right of way to other traffic. So why does the jerk speed up as he (sorry guys, it most often is a he, but there are a few shes) enters the highway, to cut me off at 60+ miles per hour, when there is plenty of space behind me, into which to merge?

At a 4-way stop sign: The first person at the intersection goes first. (Seems logical.) ┬áIf 2 cars arrive at the same time, the person on the right goes first. Then others rotate in the order they got there. So, Why does the car behind the one that just went, jump into the intersection when all the corners are filled with lines of cars? I’ll tell you. Because they are idiots.

Stop sign: You would think this needs no explanation, but believe me, it does. It does not mean roll halfway into the intersection daring the other people to get out of your way. It does not mean fly through the intersection as if no one else is around. It means stop your car and look both ways before you proceed.

Red light: You would think this needs no explanation either, but again . . . . . . unless you are permitted to make a right turn on a red light, and then only if no one else with the right of way is moving through the intersection, you must wait for the damn light to change.

Where is a cop when you need one?

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