Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reflections on Turning 55 ~ Some Amazing Experiences That I Savor

Reflections on Turning 55 ~ Some Amazing Experiences That I Savor

Having grown up in a relatively small town in Indiana during the 1960’s, I’m still transfixed by amazement at the opportunities I’ve been afforded and the wonders of life that I’ve had the privilege to experience.

During a time before computers, video games, play dates, social media, cell phones, GPA, and large screen televisions with hundreds of channels, we relied upon conversation, playing outside, board games, cards, family gatherings, the occasional movie at a cinema and books from the library. Books and my parents taking us on driving vacations to places like Gettysburg, Yellowstone, the Petrified Forest, and the Badlands opened my eyes to the world beyond Logansport, Indiana. The fact that my paternal grandparents lived on a farm in southern Indiana was a bonus. My memories of playing in the hayloft of the barn, tossing cow pies at my siblings in the pasture, and swinging on the porch of the smoke house still bring a smile to my heart.

But the opportunities to travel and meet fascinating people brought the most pleasure beyond the joys of inner peace found after years of challenges, bad relationships, divorce and bad choices. 

My top 55 experiences to date {other than #1, in no particular order}:

1.     Marrying my soul mate on the veranda of the Villa Sirio in Santa Maria di Castellebate, Italy with the local mayor presiding as we faced the Tyrrhenian Sea surrounded by family and good friends;

2.     Cruising on the QE2 from New York City to Southampton, England in 1978;

3.     Climbing up the difficult side to the top of the Great Wall of China;
4.     Sitting on the flight deck of a Qantas 757 flying from Singapore to the old Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong at night and enjoying a wide birds-eye view of the harbor filled with the lights of the city and the boats & ships;
5.     Dining with Madame Nguyen Phuoc Dai, a former South Vietnamese politician and lawyer at her home in Saigon in 1992; I’d seen her interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes in the mid ‘80’s and admired her resilience;

6.     Being greeted at the airport in Beijing by an immigration official opening a special line for me and my parents;
7.     Climbing Black Virgin Mountain in Tay Ninh, Vietnam surrounded by local children who helped me make the climb;
8.     Traveling by train with only a backpack through Europe in the winter of 1978;
9.     Celebrating Christmas Eve with the Weinmeister family in Salzburg, Austria in 1978; attending midnight mass at St. Basil’s; the trees and crèche were lit with real candles;
10. Attending Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome;
11. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Robert Plant;

12. Driving a Z4 convertible on a hot summer day;

13. Returning to my roots and deciding that red is the hair color for me!
14. Every time I visit with my parents; I am so blessed to still have them both in my life;

15. Riding an elephant in Chang Mai, Thailand;
16. Attending a Buddhist drum festival in Thailand;
17. Learning to practice wet plate collodion photography;
18. Taking a course in photogenic drawings at Laycock Abbey, where Henry Fox Talbot discovered the process;

19. Studying French at the Sorbonne in Paris for a summer;
20. Sipping cappuccino at a café on the plaza in Siena;
21. Exploring Virginia wineries;

22. A hot air balloon ride in Napa;
23. Snorkeling Molokini in Hawaii;
24. Participating in a Hindu cremation ceremony in Bali;
25. Living for 3 years in Hong Kong;
26. The collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei;
27. Visiting the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion with a girl traveling from Rhodesia.
28. Celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary with a Caribbean Cruise;
29. Learning about myself and learning healthy attitudes and ways of living through my years in Al-Anon;
30. Discovering that Natchez, MS is the ultimate destination for us;
31. The beauty of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC in spring;
32. Making the decision to interview for a position at Chubb – the 3rd time the recruiter called me;
33. Yoga;
34. Commemorating the 150th anniversaries of 1st Manassas (Bull Run), Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga;
35. My husband taking me to Lookout Mountain / Rock City so I could face my childhood fears and walk across the swinging bridge;
36. Living in Lewes, Delaware; Cape Henlopen State Park; embracing the beauty of the beach;
37. San Francisco – food, wine, walking, ambiance;
38. Riding a Tuk Tuk through the streets of Bangkok, being stalled behind a truck loaded with cut up red meat with three men sitting on the meat;
39. Getting pulled over for a traffic violation in Taipei (turning right on red) and having a police officer point a large gun at me;
40. Sailing on any body of water;
41. Studying mid 19th Century material culture and participating in immersion living history events;

42. Harvesting my home grown tomatoes and eating them with a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kalamata olives and feta;
43. Florence; Roma; Venice; Pisa; anyplace in Italy;
44. The Loire Valley in France – visiting the chateau and the vineyards;
45. Wandering around the US Capital Building alone looking for a meeting I was supposed to attend on an evening before 9/11. 
46. Any time I can spend with friends that have positive attitudes, an interest in the world around them, kindness, and enlightenment;
47. Providing a sanctuary for abandoned cats;

48. Books; there is no such thing as too many books;
49. Cashmere;
50. The kindness of strangers; the conversations one can have with people we meet;
51. Working from home at my rosewood desk looking, avoiding a commute;
52. Living in a house with hardwood floors; I hate wall to wall carpeting;
53. Learning to bake bread and having it taste divine;
54. Sunrise and sunset, wherever I may be;

55. Appreciation for my good fortune, good health, good genes, amazing husband, and awesome future.

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