Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” Jon Stewart

On Thanksgiving Day, I would ask my family what they were thankful for. My mother used to do that. It was a tradition – something I wanted to carry on from my childhood.  Thanksgiving is a day to remember to be grateful. We never prayed before a meal but one day a year we said thank you. 

I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving with my mother in many years. Our families lived back East and Thanksgiving was the holiday that my in-laws came to visit.  My sister-in-law loved to cook Thanksgiving dinner and we had it at their house. Since we were not cooking, we had Thanksgiving movie before going to dinner. There are always big movies that open on Thanksgiving. That was our family holiday tradition.  

When our life changed, Thanksgiving became one of those days that we didn’t know what do with.  We didn’t have a tradition anymore. There are so many expectations and family issues that come up with holidays. It is hard for me not to have a plan but I try to let go of that now.  Sometimes I do it at the house and sometimes we go somewhere.  We spend it with other people’s families or we do something by ourselves.  I miss the security of having a tradition but I have learned to go with the flow. Whatever we do, it always turns out to be fun and delicious – different, but fun. 

My mother died on the weekend before Thanksgiving so I am always a little sad now around the holidays.  Wherever I am celebrating, in my head, I hear my mother’s voice asking, what are you thankful for today?

Here is my list.

Sunsets. I can see the sunset on the beach every night.

The way the light hits my house in the morning.

My dog – even though he is not the same as my first dog.

My kids are happy, healthy and doing well.

 Morning coffee.

I’m still traveling.

Having an amazing day in a country not your own.

A great walk through the Venice Beach canals to have lunch.

Opening a beautifully wrapped present.

An interesting conversation.

The feeling I have in an airport.

Someone who makes me laugh.

A good hair day.

Fun with my friends.

A great movie,  museum, play, ballet or TV show.

Dessert.

Kindness.

Walking or driving by a beautiful street art mural.

Having an amazing meal.

Pizza night.

Great music and  rock concerts.

Getting lost in a book.

Healthyish.

Writing something that I’m proud of.

My favorite jeans.

Shoes that do not hurt.

The endorphin rush after exercise.

Still able to have some of my photographs and art.

Hitting every green light on Venice Blvd on the way home (especially at Lincoln Blvd – the world’s longest red light)

Happy Thanksgiving.

JAZ

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Amelia’s Divorce

Amelia’s  Divorce

“But in the real world, you couldn’t really just split a family down the middle, mom on one side, dad the other, with the child equally divided between. It was like when you ripped a piece of paper into two: no matter how you tried, the seams never fit exactly right again. It was what you couldn’t see, those tiniest of pieces, that were lost in the severing, and their absence kept everything from being complete.”  Sarah Dessen

 I  have noticed that kids around the world are all the same. They might eat different foods or attend a village school in the rainforest but they share universal commonalities. They all need to have their basic needs met and feel safe, secure and loved.

A little girl came over to my dog Banksy  at the hairdresser.  She wanted to pet him. I said that  he was kind of nervous because we had just moved to a new place and dogs don’t understand moving, She asked where we had moved to. I said to Venice/ Marina Del Rey.

“My dad used to live in Marina Del Rey but now he lives in the valley.  My dad doesn’t live with me anymore. I am from a divorce now. I live with my mom near here in a new house,“she replied.

“Since you are in a new house,  maybe you could help Banksy. Do you have any ideas how to make him more comfortable in his new home?“

She asked if Banksy was from a divorce? I said “No, it was just me and Banksy.”

”It is just me and my mom now,”she answered. Amelia told Banksy not to be sad because everyone will still love him the same even if he has a new stepmom who is going to have a baby.  “My new stepmother is Filipino so we don’t know what the baby will look like because my dad is Jewish. But the baby won’t look like  me and no one will know that she is my sister.”

“You will know and she will know and that is all that counts.” I said.

“She isn’t really going to be my sister. She will be my half-sister because we don’t have the same mother.”

”To her, you will be her big sister and a very important person in her life when she gets a bit older.“ I said.

She smiled and said “Yes, but the valley is very far away. Banksy, even though you are scared now, your new home will be great. You won’t have to miss things when it is your weekend with your mom or your weekend with your dad.” Amelia is seven.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The House In Los Angeles

`The House in Los Angeles

“Walking on a path of uncertainties, Shuffling on the probabilities of uncertainties, Waging on the possibilities of uncertainties,Waiting for the occurrences of uncertainties, Solving the mysteries of wandering uncertainties, We move, lead and live’’Pushpa Rana

I’ve learned as I get older that no matter how much I want to hold on to the past – things change. If we stay where we are, when something new is trying to get in, we will get stuck or that is what I tell myself anyway.

The house was the last remnant that a family existed. To my ex husband, it was an inanimate object. But to me it was as much a part of the family memories as the people who lived in it.

I was very scared to be in this house alone when he first left but I had to be brave for my daughter who was still here. I have a lot of safety issues and anxiety about being alone and having to face those on top of the loss was very hard. But I had this heavy thing hanging on top of me that I was the only adult in the house responsible for my daughter who was still home and my son in college.

My fear did often evolve into anxiety or panic. But gradually as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months and years, we encountered many of the little things that malfunction in a home, car accidents, emotional and health problems, illness, death, holidays, graduations and we survived, even conquered them. And with each incident my self-confidence grew and my fear subsided.

He could not afford to give me the house so I have lived with its impending loss for a while.–the loss of familiar, beautiful well-loved surroundings, the neighborhood, the routine, and the security of owning a house.

Driving up and down the street now, I know I will never see another Mandeville Christmas light competition. There are financial and age restraints so I will not live the way I live now which makes the emotional situation much worse. I will miss the pale cast of light in the morning which illuminates my house as the day goes on. I will miss seeing every shade of green from my windows  – olive, jade, leaf, kiwi, lime, a silver-green and a bright pistachio. i will miss the wide open spaces and high ceilings and walls that have my big art on them.
I imagine that the physically moving out of the house alone will be the hardest thing I will ever do.

I will be mourning the loss of living somewhere that I loved. I will be mourning the intact family life, roots, values, security and inheritance that I couldn’t give my kids. I expected to have grandchildren, showers, holidays and birthday parties in this house. I will miss the children who became adults here. I will be mourning the loss of me, the person I was when I lived in this house. I once wanted to grow old here with the boy I met when I was 16.

Worse I will be mourning the loss of my memories. I have always had a bad memory and pieces will fade because the person who also remembers and the house won’t be here to trigger them.

When you have to get through something big, you must remember that you have tools – friendship, conscience, honesty and strength. You need to look at the mess and know that you will never completely get over it. It turns out that writing helps me reflect on my life and the changes I am making. Maybe as much as I wanted my roots to be in a house, my roots turn out to be in my travels, my stories and where I am going next. Maybe my roots turn out to be in the uncertainties of not knowing.

Fly safe,

JAZ

How To Travel Alone

How To Travel Alone

“All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.” Cameron Crowe and Alice Mckenna

Just to be clear. If you told me ten years ago I would be writing any blog, I would not have believed you.   First of all, I’m not a writer. Second , I didn’t go to a PTA meeting alone or anywhere else. My life and my future were on a safe, secure path . Then everything fell apart. I picked up the pieces of my crumbling life. I didn’t do it willingly, quickly,  easily or happily. But after a while, you just get tired of looking at them on the floor.  I had to build a new life.

Soon after that, I became an empty nester. I would like to go on record as saying I hate those words. It just creates a sad picture in your head.  I’ve seen those nests. They are so cute with the baby birds in them and then you are left with  a dry crumbly mess of twigs.  I leave them for a while in case the birds come back.   When you pick them up, they fall apart in your hands. The nests looked so sturdy with the birds in them. A lot of metaphors arise in my head.  I think we need to go into this time in our life with different words.  Once you get over the sadness, it is kind of nice to get your house and your life back. In my case, it was a life I never had. I never took the time for myself to create one.

You have four choices as you get older: to go back to adolescence -marry a younger woman get a new sports car etc; to prepare to die and feel that your life is over; to live in the past; or to become wise, check your value system and continue on as a better human being.

I stood on the verge of uncertainty and thought, what kind of life do I want? What do I love?  For me it was travel.  I traveled as much as I could when I was single and then I spent the next part of my life not traveling.

But now I have a choice. I’m not brave or lucky. I just stopped worrying about what was logical, attainable or expected anymore. It became about how I constructed the possibilities in my life.

At first I traveled with friends. My destinations were based on other people.  I went where they were going or  visited where they lived.  But there were other places that I really wanted to see. The first time I went on a tour alone I cried most of the nights. I was not the cool, young girl anymore  but I was now one of those people that I used to make fun of. I was one of the on the bus off the bus  older alone women. Meals were traumatic.

On my first tour, a ninety year old man came up to me. My mother told me that people weren’t nice to old people so I tried to be nice and planned my escape. I asked if it was his first trip to Spain. He said “No. The last time I was here, I was working with Reuters and touring the bullfight circuit with Hemingway.” He was trying to write a book on it and this trip went to a lot of the places he had been to. I googled him. It was true.  As we walked in Rondo, Spain ( a city on the bullfight circuit ) he remembered everything.  “Hemingway called me the kid,” he began and I was right there with them.   I learned from that first encounter never to  prejudge anyone. I’m not going to  say that everyone I meet is as interesting as he was  (though Australian author Susanne Gervay and British Peruvian explorer Peter Frost come close) but everyone has a story and I love to hear them.

It was nice to have a tour leader make all the decisions, pick up your luggage, deal with the trains and  airlines.  There was usually plenty of free time to do what I wanted to do.  I learned an awful lot from local tour guides which I hadn’t used before.

It was an easy way to travel alone and not be alone. It was a great option to go wherever I wanted to go. I have now found the kind of small group tour companies that I like to travel with.  A week is perfect.  I mix it with time alone  in a place and with friends before or after.  A little of everything is a good trip. You get the taken care of  experience and the  exploring a city alone and having adventures experience.  I’m fine alone in a city but lately I am exploring deserts, rainforests, mountains  and villages. It is much easier to do that with a guide.

I learned  how to be alone as well.  It was really hard at first. I always try to have a book or magazine with me.  Reading has probably saved a lot of people from loneliness . I learned how  to ask if I could sit with someone on a tour for lunch or dinner. (I admit that  I could be better at this). When I am by myself, I use a health spa or gym at night or stay out all day  late instead of sitting in a restaurant alone.  I hire a local tour guide from the internet if it is a country that I’m not comfortable in by myself. They have all been amazing. .

I’m not going to tell you how to go to bars and restaurants alone .   You are either a person who is comfortable sitting at a bar alone or you are not.  I am not. It is a different trip than traveling with a mate, family or friends. But lately I have been meeting people.  I’m not outgoing – I have to work at it.  I’m not adventurous and I don’t take chances or put myself in situations or places that I can’t get out of easily..

When I started traveling, I wrote funny things to my friends and family about my trips.  The thing about traveling alone is that you observe a lot more of the world around you.  It turns out that writing is something you do best alone.  I was encouraged to write a travel blog. My computer skills included email and google.  I had no idea how to blog  and worse, I had no idea about social media. I make a lot of mistakes. At first no one but my friends and family read my blog because I didn’t know that I was supposed to “put it out there”. But little my little I am learning.

I don’t have to worry anymore that I’m not good enough or talented enough or smart enough. I’ve already failed  at what I thought I was good at. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone.  I have no more personal limitations or restrictions and not a lot of time to do all the things I really want to do. I have no more if onlys.

I love writing about a subject that I love. It’s great if people read it.  But even better is the moment when it comes together and I think – this doesn’t suck. I can put it out there now.  It is a blog so it doesn’t have to be perfect. There is no stress.

When you are  a kid, everyone encourages you to follow your dreams. When you are older,  you don’t get that kind of support. Don’t let the people who didn’t have the courage to follow their own dreams discourage you.  Maybe it doesn’t  matter anymore which way you go.  It just matters that you go somewhere.

Fly safe,

JAZ