Daily Prompt: Stranded

Daily Prompt: Stranded.

This prompt is straight up my alley and I don’t even have to use my imagination. This has actually happened to me…In Madrid. All alone. On the first day of my arrival. I was so excited to be in Spain that I was not paying attention and somehow, some way, I was pick-pocketed.

It was a rainy day and I’d felt lucky to get into my hotel room so early. I threw down my bags and headed out into the city, anxious to see the Prado or some other site I’d read about in my Lonely Planet. In my haste I’d forgotten the cardinal rule of travel: put most of your money into the hotel safe. Also include your passport and any credit card you don’t need. I did none of these acts and ran off into the city in search of adventure and an umbrella.

In retrospect, I think that it was in the store where I stopped to buy the much-needed umbrella that someone lifted my lovely red wallet. I took it out to pay, fumbled to speak with the shop keeper in my marginal Spanish and dashed out the door looking for a place to lunch before spending a rainy afternoon in a museum.

It wasn’t until after I finished my sandwich and wine that I realized I was penniless. I dug through my pack, checked all my pockets, but my red wallet, full of ID, credit cards and 500$ cash, was nowhere to be found. The reality of this fact settled on me like a dark shroud. I was alone, in Spain, without a penny to my name and I owed a waiter for my lunch.

After chastising myself for being so silly and irresponsible, I mustered up my courage and tried to explain to the restaurant why I could not pay. The owner must have taken pity on me and realized my story was true. My face looked that upset and worried. He forgave me my bill and sent me back into the slick streets of Madrid, where I did my best to retrace my steps, trying desperately to locate the kiosk where I purchased the ill-fated umbrella. It took a while and in the interim I got doused on a street corner by a passing bus. Cold, wet and very forlorn, I found the place where I’d been earlier. I had my dictionary and tried to explain my problem…Wallet. Thief. ID and money gone. Had anyone seen anything?

The kiosk workers had not seen anything and had not found a wallet stuffed with 500 US dollars. By now my situation had sunk in and I knew I needed help. I dragged myself back to the hotel, which had thankfully been pre-paid, and began the necessary calls to Visa and home, where I had a good friend wire me money. I spent the bulk of my first day in Madrid stranded, alone and without a cent to my name. Western Union would not have my cash until the next day so I sat around feeling sorry for myself and cursing the person who lifted my wallet. I licked my wounds and read books until I could sleep, waiting patiently for the wire to arrive from America. Fortunately for me, the front desk clerk fronted me a Euro so I could take the subway the next day to Western Union. Visa also over-nighted a new card to me.

My relief funds arrived, I forgave myself my rookie-traveler mistake and ended up having a great time once that first day was behind me. The sun came out, I saw Guernica in person and spent many hours wandering the Prado and the streets of Madrid. To be stranded and alone in a city is not such a bad thing, I know this from good experiences. But to be in that situation because of a random act of theft made it feel like one long, very bad  day.

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Daily Prompt: Playlist of the Week

Daily Prompt: Playlist of the Week.

Another week flies by and what better way to remember than with songs. Good prompt and creating playlists is a fun challenge…

Wilco starts off the week with Monday from the album Being There… I love almost everything by Jeff Tweedy and Wilco.

The week carries on with a freakish snow/sleet storm and the track running through my head is 10,000 Maniacs’ song Like the Weather from In My Tribe…If you listen to this song in the morning, it will be with you all day. Natalie Merchant’s voice is one of a kind.

After 5 weeks of training, I am cleared to be a volunteer at the SPCA. I can walk dogs and I took out 12 on my first solo day. Tons of fun but also really hard work. Most of these dogs are big and full of energy. As I drove there, I listened to a new Josh Ritter song from The Beast in Its Tracks. Love his work and this new album has a very infectious tune, “Joy to You, Baby” that makes me smile. I sung what I could remember of the lyrics as I walk/ran around the fields with all my four-legged friends.

I think he writes brilliant lyrics:

I go to the parties
throw my hands in the air
I drink what they pour me
the cups of who cares
go up in the night sky
up in the clouds
fly over the houses
I’m looking down
Joy to the city

Finally, sunshine and a pretty day. Spring waiting just around the corner and you can see the winter film fading from people’s eyes. A little George Harrison and Here Comes the Sun always makes me feel good. Who doesn’t love a Beatle?

To wrap up my week I’m thinking travel…packing and getting on a plane to head south tomorrow. Paul McCartney and Wings’ classic Jet gets my blood pumping and puts me in the mood for adventure.

My playlist is a little all over the place, like me and my life. But mostly happy, upbeat songs that can make even a gloomy day feel better.

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Daily Prompt: All Grown Up

Daily Prompt: All Grown Up.

This prompt made me stop and think because in order to answer it honestly I have to determine what being a “grown up” is to me. Is it being able to support myself fully? Turning 21 and being able to vote and drink legally? Getting married? It’s a good question and one that I feel people will interpret differently.

In some ways I felt like a grown up in high school. My parents divorced, my mom had to find full-time work and I was often in charge of making dinner and taking care of myself. I also had to  work a part-time job in order to buy things I wanted, like clothes and music. At that time, 16 or 17, I felt I was an adult but in retrospect, of course, I realize how very young I was and that I was acting, trying to mimic the actions of older persons around me. I was naive, inexperienced and thrust into some heavy responsibility early in life but that did not make me a grown-up.

So I went away to college, worked various jobs, moved overseas for two years and even got married and divorced before I truly felt like a grown up. The moment I realized I had crossed the threshold into adulthood was when I signed my first mortgage. I recall being exhilarated and terrified at the same time. Taking out a 30 year loan for a piece of property, knowing I had to earn the money each month to pay for it, understanding that I was solely responsible for upkeep, repairs, furnishing, etc., was the act that propelled me fully into being a grown-up. I’m not sure if it was the sense of permanency or financial commitment that made this act such an important one for me. Maybe a little of both. But I was quite proud that I was able to secure a loan and make payments all by myself. I did not need to rely on anyone else for a down payment or a co-signature. I was on my own.

Certainly there were times in the 9 years I lived in that house that I questioned my decision. When the basement flooded, the roof leaked, the sewage lines backed up….plenty of times I wanted to shirk it all and leave this realm called adulthood. But I also loved my house, my yard and the sense that I had accomplished it all by hard work and a little luck.

my house in snow

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Say Cheese! March is Phoneography Month

Say Cheese! March is Phoneography Month.

I’ve did not know that taking pics with my IPhone actually has a fancy name. I like it! I still have a pretty decent digital camera somewhere….but I’ve not used it in so long. Now I readily depend on my smart phone to help me capture images that seem important to me on any given day.

I can now consider myself a Phonographist. I shot this Iphone gem yesterday to send to my husband who was working. It is our new rescue dog, Atticus, going on a long walk in the chilly afternoon air. I ask…who’s walking who? He’s one strong and curious little bundle of fur.  I love the way this picture captures his movement and urgency as he sniffs and snuggles his way down the street.

Atticus plows ahead

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details.

As a very visual person, I often wonder if I see more than other people or if how I make sense of the world is vastly different from others. I am, by nature, observant and my eyes gravitate toward shapes, forms, colors, textures and other minute details. I don’t know why I view my world in this manner and sometimes it can be annoying. I jokingly call my acute awareness of the external world hyper-vigilance. And while it can help me in some ways, like playing punch buggy with my husband on car trips, it can also be exhausting. On that same journey, I find it very hard to relax and close my eyes as I feel it necessary to relentlessly scan the horizon and monitor all traffic around us.

I like the idea of seeing things in broad terms, of looking at the trees in my yard as furry conical forms or bushy green spheres. Similarly, I like to flip that approach and encourage my eyes to zoom in and analyze something by studying it closely. In the summer, I find it fun to lie in the grass and look at a single blade. Soon, a whole world opens as tiny ants and other bugs wander by or a wind pushes the grass making its color and forms change. To see in exquisite detail and to be able to shift your own perspective to that of another are important skills to cultivate. If life becomes ordinary or stagnant, change your perspective: stand on your hands, climb a tree or simply stretch out in the grass.

This magnificent piece of abstract art is actually the natural bark of a tree I found in Costa Rica!  Each tree was extraordinary but to see many in a grove was breathtaking. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

This textured surface, with its mottled grays and pinks is part of an elephant’s trunk… I took these elephant pics at the Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And this landscape, which to me looks to be an ant’s perspective crawling through some kind of arid desert plain, is actually a close up of an elephant’s back. They have bristly, coarse hairs over much of their body.

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Daily Prompt: Happily Ever After

Daily Prompt: Happily Ever After.

When my husband and I married a year and a half ago, we wanted to have a small but very special ceremony followed by lots of fun. Our wedding invited people to be present while we exchanged vows and then to join us in “dinner, dancing and happily ever after.” That was how we saw the life we were embarking upon. IMG_3384

I think now, at this sort of middle period of my life, I am more grounded, more content and far happier than I’ve ever been. For the first time, I feel I have the unlimited, unconditional love and support from another human, my husband. Before we met I was not unhappy. I had a house, a good job, plenty of friends and my dog. My life was full but I was going through it alone. When big (or bad) things happened, I had no one to truly share with. Of course, friends and family where there for me, but that is a different kind of love and connection than I get with my husband.

I am in my “happily ever after” now and I hope that I am always grateful for it and never, ever take happiness or love for granted. My husband and I bought a house, fixed it up so it is a comfortable, welcoming place where I like to hang out. I have many things I enjoy doing and the luxury of time to do them…and now we have welcomed a new dog, Atticus, into our lives, which is like icing to the cake. He’s a rescue and joined our family only 3 days ago. We are bonding over long walks, cuddles and serious talks about commitment and what it means to be home.

Atticus en route to York

Each day is new and ever-changing. But I am happy and more peaceful than I’ve ever been and I can only hope that my life, the one I now share so closely with another, will continue to be this good. But even if tough times do come, and I’m sure they will because life is an unpredictable ride, I know we can make it through anything as long as we support each other and try to do our best with each day given to us.

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Daily Prompt: Undo

Daily Prompt: Undo.

Back in Time….Fast Food

When I saw this prompt my first thought is to demolish guns and nuclear weaponry… After all, I live in America and we are fraught with too much gun violence and we unleashed the atomic age into this world. But then I thought about something else that causes a very different kind of destruction…more covert, insidious and pervasive. On almost every corner in most major towns all across America stands a McDonald’s. If not a Mickey D’s then there is a Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s…the list goes on. So I don’t know if fast food really constitutes an “invention” but it certainly has changed the face of world culture..and not for the better.

Now I am not going to write and pretend I don’t like a good serving of french fries now and again, and I readily admit these fast food industries provide jobs and stimulate the economy. But in the larger context they are slowly poisoning people with grotesquely caloric foods. Too many people now rely on a fast food restaurant for one or more of their meals per day. The amount of calories consumed and waste produced boggles the mind. Sometimes I drive past a McDonald’s and there is a line 5-6 cars deep to order at the take out window. No need to even open your door to get a bite to eat. Just speak into a little scratchy-sounding box, hand over your dollars and speed away. The burgers, fries and super-sized sodas are all packed in styrofoam or plastic or paper – so easy to toss out when done…Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe I should also opt to undo plastic cutlery. I guess if we have to have fast food places, then could we not ask to be served on a plate or with washable utensils?

Could those who run these restaurants not do a better job at cutting out the fat, grease and unnecessary calories that are making so many people obese? It’s epidemic. Yes, I know. People are responsible for themselves and have to make choices regarding their diet. But if you grow up in an area with little to no fresh food alternatives, if you’ve never learned about good nutrition, a dollar menu and some nuggets might look like a viable alternative…I think we can do better.

If we could turn back the clock and un-open that first McDonald’s maybe we would have more individual restaurants, not monolithic chains and corporations that dominate and homogenize. Maybe our society would be a tad bit healthier. Maybe we would not generate so much pollution and waste. Maybe so many animals would not be warehoused and inhumanely treated just so a junior cheeseburger can remain 99 cents…Yes, I think undoing fast food chains would be a step in a better direction.

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Daily Prompt: A Plot of Earth

Daily Prompt: A Plot of Earth.

Wow….One of the easiest DPs ever…My imagination can think of many, many things to do with this private plot of earth. And since I have an abundance of financial resources…even better. I would absolutely LOVE to have vast tracks of land; some could be forested, other open pastures. It would be even better if there were lots of walking and hiking paths, scenic look-outs, and a cool, babbling stream running through the property. My husband and I could then build our perfect home..not too big because who wants to clean all the time? We’d have solar panels and try to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible. I’d like a fully outfitted kitchen, a bath with steam shower and soaking tub and lots of windows for natural light.

On this plot of earth, I’d keep it in its natural state as much as possible and would run a rescue where I’d be able to take in and care for dogs, cats and other small critters who need help. I know it’d be alot of work but I can think of nothing more joyous than a house surrounded by lots of trees, land and animals. We’d go for long walks everyday with our happy packs.

Walt and Gelbert on walkies

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Daily Prompt: Nightmares

Daily Prompt: Nightmares.

Today I woke up, made coffee and settled back in to bed to tell my husband about the dream I had last night. We usually compare dreams in the morning but I am much more likely to recall mine than he is. Last night I had a nightmare, so when I saw today’s daily prompt I felt a little chill run through me. I don’t like nightmares but I do like serendipity.

I am what is called a lucid dreamer – I am often in my dream, kind of like a director  – and I am often aware I am dreaming. Sometimes I dream so much and in so much extreme detail – sights, sounds, feelings, tactile imagery – that I wake up exhausted. Seriously. Sometimes it is as if I stayed up all night to watch movies…only the tracks I am watching are running on the screen in my mind and I cannot turn them off. Often the dreams are good and then I love the fact that my subconscious mind is so thorough and infinitely creative. However, when the dreams are bad, I usually feel the effects of them all day.

Last night was a strange one and I am still wrestling with its meaning. I was in my old neighborhood, in the inner city close to Baltimore. I could recognize the streets, some of the brownstones and people – but not all. I was frantic, running up and down the street, banging on doors trying to alert people to the fact that a tornado was coming toward us. I could see on the horizon, very near to the edge of the city, a long, dark funnel cloud churning in the air. It was black and menacing and in high contrast to the bright, silvery light around it. I was urging people to take shelter, to get in their basements and protect their heads. For some reason, I was also encouraging my neighbors to lie down on the street with me and put pillows over our heads. Some people listened and could see the threat of the tornado too, but others ignored me and went about their daily lives. I recall feeling very scared in the moment and very angry toward those who would not listen to my warning.

The next phase of the dream was like seeing a disaster film. While I had a small group of people lying on the street with me, I began to realize the tornado had taken a turn and was not heading toward us. I got up and could see the sinister twister chewing up the city, and it was directly above the Federal Hill neighborhood across the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. Debris was flying, sirens were wailing, buildings were crumbling to the ground. It was pure chaos and all I could do was watch as disaster struck the lives of people, destroying all they had.

In the dream I was debating with people about how to help: I wanted to get a boat (?) and travel across the harbor to the site of the tornado to see if I could help. I clearly remember thinking I could take huge jugs of water to give to those who might be thirsty. Some people agreed we should go and try to help; others thought we should wait til the storm had passed. It was during this debate that’s I awoke…uncertain as to the outcome or whether I was able to assist anyone.

I don’t know what the dream means…Am I frustrated and feel no one is really hearing me? Do I want to be of service to others but don’t know how? Am I fearful of natural disasters? Maybe all of these interpretations are true in some ways. It was a dream full of potent and powerful imagery and those scenes have lingered far into the morning. Being a lucid and vivid dreamer has its pluses but if a dream leaves a firm imprint on me because it was particularly dark or disturbing, that mood of uncertainty or apprehension can be with me all day.

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Daily Prompt: Proud

Daily Prompt: Proud.

Maybe I am dating myself, but when I read this prompt I immediately thought of that old SNL skit: Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley. I loved that character! Stuart Smalley (aka Al Franken) would preen and smile into the mirror saying, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me!”I have found that if an affirmation does not come from the external world (and you think it should), then it is smart and necessary to give one to yourself! Stuart_Smalley

I’m lucky in that my amazing husband gives me loving affirmations almost every day. He sees the miraculous in almost everything I do. If I worked out and rode my bike for 45 minutes, he says I’m an uber athlete…If I paint a picture, he thinks it’s a true work of art, even though I know my perspective is wonky and my colors muddy. Just yesterday he was proud of me for figuring out how to adjust his complicated sound system so it would stream my Pandora tunes (I’m not a total Luddite when it comes to tech :-)). He’s my biggest cheerleader and it’s a real boost to my self-esteem to have his supportive voice running a track in my mind; far better to let my brain’s auto track run on a positive note rather than a negative.

My husband often tells me he’s proud of me, but I think one of the most important times was when I finished my first triathlon – a sport he adores and competes in often. I was very nervous, especially about the swim, but I did it and felt great crossing the finish line. I even completed the course with a smile and a respectable time. So for that accomplishment I was proud of me too 🙂

I think most of us humans are too quick to put ourselves down, to focus on what we did “wrong” rather than what we did “right” or what felt good in the moment. Maybe by remembering the importance of self-love and a healthy dose of daily compassion we can begin to chip away at the foundation that so frequently reverts to focusing on the negative. I, for one, like Stuart Smalley’s daily affirmation and I try now to pat myself on the back if I am brave enough to tackle something challenging.

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