Category: Uncategorized

Poconos 2016

Do you have one of those friends that months, even years might pass and then you see each other and it’s as though no time has gone by at all? Well last year Carlos and I visited my nursing school study partner and her husband in the Poconos. Despite my best intentions I hadn’t texted or emailed since her birthday in January. In May I got a message from my friend, D, inviting us back to the Poconos, this time to join her, her husband, their daughter, son-in-law, 2 grandchildren, and two very close friends of theirs who I have met a number of times. For about a second I almost let work stand in my way, and then I reminded myself of what a great time we had last year. Summer time is here so it was just Carlos and me. Orlando is working steadily now. He was laid off all winter and does not get any paid time off when he works. This is why we do long trips to Mozambique in the winter.

So Carlos and I hit the road to Pennsylvania. I love to travel any way I can, road trips, plane trips, train, you name it! We took our time, stopping whenever we felt like it. I took the longer route toward Albany rather than deal with I84 traffic through Connecticut. We were not pressed for time and it was a beautiful day.

Upon arriving my friend’s daughter showed us to our condo. It was a beautiful two bedroom condo with a screened in porch, open kitchen/living area, nice size bedrooms, and two huge bathrooms.

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Enjoying the cool morning with a cup of coffee on the screened in porch.

While waiting for D and the others I spent time with her daughter Ashley, her husband, their 2 year old son, and 5 month old baby girl. Ashley had just found out she was pregnant right before we saw her in the Poconos last year. I was so happy to finally meet and hold her beautiful daughter.

Soon D and her husband, and their friends arrived and instantly we just fell right back to where we left off almost a year ago. We gabbed and gabbed until we were all too tired to talk anymore.

Each morning Carlos and I would go for walks around Shawnee Village Resort. I didn’t do any running, but I really enjoyed the quality time in the morning with Carlos. I begin marathon training next week so there’s plenty of running to come. We walked and talked, saw deer, turkeys, and bunnies. Then we would pop over to D’s condo where the coffee was always brewing in the morning.

The first day we went on a 10 mile kayak trip down the Delaware River with D’s husband, Ashley, and her husband. It was a gorgeous sunny day perfect for kayaking. The trip took us about 4 hours. I have a sizable blister between my thumb and pointer finger from rowing and sunburned lower legs from the ride, but it was worth it. It was such a spectacular experience. The river was calm and peaceful. We only saw a few people out on the river and two bald eagles. Carlos and I took a double kayak. He jumped out more than a few times to swim. Towards the end our arms were exhausted, but we worked together and made it to the docking area after our friends. Carlos has done a week at a local kayak camp the last two summers. It was really awesome to see his confidence and ability in the kayak and on the river.

The next day we returned to Tree Ventures because D’s friends had not been before and Carlos was dying to climb in the trees. D, her husband, and I decided to offer moral support with our feet firmly planted on the ground. I barely made it through the beginners course last year. Quite honestly I really enjoyed watching all the climbers, mostly my own little daredevil. Because he was on his own he was technically not allowed to go on the more difficult courses. The employee assigned to the yellow course Carlos was on began chatting with me about how well Carlos was moving through the course. I let him know how disappointed Carlos was that he couldn’t tackle the blue or black course. Well it was a quiet day at the place, and the guy arranged for another employee to follow Carlos on the blue course. Carlos was ecstatic! He was patient and thoughtful as he worked he way along the course high in the sky. My legs were wobbly watching him, but he did an incredible job.

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At the end everyone but D’s husband and me zip lined. I had actually been walking around harnessed up with all intentions to zip line, but I left my sneakers in the car. There was a little mix up about who had the keys, and rather than wait for D’s friend to come down from the zip line I offered my zip to Carlos. He was thrilled to get two zips. I zip lined last year and while it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as the tree ropes course there is that moment when you have to jump off the platform that makes my heart sink into my stomach and my legs go all weak. I was just as happy to watch Carlos’ enormous smile as he flew in towards the platform.
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After Tree Ventures we had an afternoon reservation at Escape Poconos. Remember the game Clue? Well this is kind of like a life size version of the game only rather than solving a murder mystery you have to locate the key to get you out of the room by finding a series of clues planted throughout the scenario. We did the Poconos Room which looked like the living room of an old fishing cabin. After the woman gave us all of the instructions we tore up that room in search of clues. We found the key and made it out of the room in 49 minutes. It was such a blast! Teamwork, intelligence, and creativity were all required for success. These Escape rooms are popping up everywhere apparently. I discovered that there is actually one in a nearby town from where I live. I can’t wait to do it again. I highly recommend trying it if there is one nearby.

Carlos and I went out to find an ATM and along the way we couldn’t help but pull over when we saw this rather conspicuous chair on the side of the road overlooking a beautiful view of the area.
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Our last day in PA was a bit grey and overcast. After lounging about all morning, packing, and relaxing, we all decided to head up to Camelback Resort Mountain Adventures for a ride on the mountain coaster. Then we drove up the mountain to watch the crazy adventurous people start their ride on the 4000 ft Soaring Camel Twin Zip Flyers. We all agreed we will definitely maybe do it next year!

 

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View from where the Zip Flyers take off. They end beyond the water park you can see in the distance.

 

We said our goodbyes and hit the road. Since we would be driving through Connecticut during rush hour I opted for lesser traveled back roads. As a result we drove through some really scenic areas including the Barkhamstead Reservoir and the Saville Dam. I swerved right into the parking lot so we could enjoy the beautiful sight. I’m such a sucker for this aspect of road trips. I would rather go slowly home and keep moving along than to sit at a dead stop in traffic on the highway. This was definitely worth the detour!

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Lighten up challenge – Day 6 and 7

Sunday, 6/5/16

Up at 5:30. Paid the bills. Had some coffee and almond milk. Then Carlos and I met friends for the Girls on the Run 5K. I was signed up as a running buddy for my friend’s 13 year old daughter. It was such a fun event. Carlos was going to run with me, but decided to hang with his friend and kick the soccer ball around.
I ate a quarter of an apple before the run. I had a half of a banana and a small piece of a cinnamon raisin bagel after the race.

11:30 grapes

12 smoothie with banana, strawberries, frozen blueberries and spinach

2 birthday party for my friend’s son. I ate tossed salad with Italian dressing, the black bean/corn salad I brought, and berries

5:30 birthday party for my stepfather. I ate more salad, hummus, 3 crackers, 5 tortilla chips, salsa, and fruit salad

8:30 toast with sunbutter

Monday, 6/6/16

Woke up early at 4:30. Went for a run at 5:15 with a friend.

7 coffee with almond milk

Lots of water this morning.

Two home visits from 9 to 10.

10:30 two carrots with hummus and an apple

12 spinach with steamed broccoli, carrots, kidney beans, and lemon juice, a serving of pretzels on the side.

Seltzer with lemon juice so refreshing on this hot day

Dinner – veggie burger, sweet potato, kale salad

Today is the last day of my lighten up challenge. I am not quite sure why this simple experiment made such an impact on my life this week, but it did and I plan to continue. Every time I was tempted to eat something I actually stopped and thought is this going to make me feel good after I eat it. If the answer was no then I really didn’t eat it. I measured out certain foods that I have a tendency to overdo. I had no binge eating episodes at all. I ate fewer snacks and smaller meals.

I am late in posting the last two days of the challenge because with my son’s last day of school on Wednesday the early part of the week was insanely busy. He gets out really early compared to most schools in this area. While I’m sure not the most interesting thing to read this challenge really helped me to find some peace with eating, something that has been incredibly difficult in the last few years. All of the posts were done via talk to text on my phone to make it easy and accessible. I entered food as I ate it so I wouldn’t forget to document it later. For the first time in ages I didn’t track calories or Weight Watcher points, and surprisingly I lost 3 pounds, my clothes feels a little better, my skin seems brighter, and I feel lighter!

 

Lighten up challenge – day 5

6/4/16

I worked another overnight shift last night. At work I had my usual coffee and almond milk. I also ate an apple and a half cup of raisin bran with almond milk.

After a last-minute crisis at work which of course happened right at 7 AM as we were about to walk out the door I met my friend at another local reservoir for a run. Since we were both feeling a little sluggish she made an executive decision to continue around the reservoir and then head up the access road which leads up the mountain behind the reservoir. This is often called the death run and now I know why! I’m not sure exactly how far the road went but we did 30 second run and one minute walk intervals all the way up to the top. It was really foggy and so you just never knew when you were going to reach the top.

It was a tough workout. Yet there is a slightly demented side to me that enjoys this type of a workout. We are calling today our baseline death run. We are hoping to do it every couple of weeks to see how we are able to improve. Total run 6.35 miles. 

Going up
Clouds at the top of the climb
The reservoir

10  orange, frozen mango and pineapple blend 

11:15 about a quarter cup of brown rice, a couple spoonfuls of leftover sautéed vegetables, sauerkraut, one spoon of hummus

12-2 Carlos’ soccer game in the blazing sun! The coach took the kids for ice cream afterwards. Then we were on our way to run some errands. I looked back at Carlos and he seemed to be really tired. He had slept at a friend’s house the night before and lord knows I was beat so I turned around, went home and we took a much needed nap. 

7 Carlos and I hit the mall feeling refreshed after our 4 hour nap! We ate dinner/lunch at 99 Restaurant and I was pleasantly surprised to find a hummus platter and black bean burger with a side salad. It was nicely portioned and the vegetables all very fresh.

9 Since we were out and about I decided to do a quick grocery shopping. 

10 Small bowl of organic Cheerios, a smal box of raisins and a banana with almond milk. 

Total steps for the day were just over 22,000. 

Lighten up challenge – Day 4

6/3/16

I was up at 3:50 this morning to make sure that I had enough time to get ready for and early morning run with a friend. For some reason no problem getting up that early if I know I’m going to be, but lately I have been struggling to get up before 530 to go for a run on my own. I need to line up running dates every morning of the week! It’s been a productive morning. I made lunch for Carlos, did the dishes Orlando left to “soak” for the night, washed and cut up some strawberries.

4:45 – 2 tablespoons of Chia seeds in water, and a few strawberries and BlackBerries. I wouldn’t normally eat before a short run. We are only doing about 3 1/2 maybe 4 mile. I just felt a little hungry this morning.

It’s already 62° out. It is still so strange to not feel a chill in the air in the morning. I grab the white sweatshirt on my way out but I don’t think I need it.

5:15 run at the reservoir with my friend. We were cruising along at a nice comfortable pace and noticed there were lots of baby ducks around and then we were confronted by some angry duck parents, not once but three times. The closer we got the more they hissed at us. I was once attacked by a dog at the same place so there was no way I was going to try to pass them. Twice we had to turn around and find another route. The third time we were on our way out of the reservoir and all of a sudden two ducks came flying out of the water and proceeded to beat the crap out of each other. I couldn’t get close enough to take a picture but it was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. There were feathers on the ground after the fight. My friend and I waited until we were finally able to sneak by when the ducks crossed to the other side of the path. And then we hauled ass out of the reservoir! 4.34 miles total.

6:55 frozen mango and pineapple blend with the juice of 1 lime. It is so light and refreshing. Carlos gave it two thumbs up even though he’s already eating his breakfast berry “ice cream.”

11:10 I just finished up with my only patient visit for today. I grabbed a seltzer at CVS. I am so into seltzer right now. It’s just so refreshing. Anyone have a soda stream? Are they worth it?

11:30 two carrots and hummus

1 spinach, steamed frozen blend of cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, and corn, steamed peas, avocado dressed in lemon juice; after that I had some cantaloupe. 

2:15 almond milk latte

Met a friend for coffee and then stayed at the cafe to work because Carlos is sleeping at a friend’s tonight. 

8:30 home and hungry. I whipped up dinner for Orlando and I. Rice, sautéed  peppers, broccoli and cauliflower, black beans, tomatoes/onion/lemon juice, and a little bit of avocado. I ate some pretzels while cooking. 

9:30 nap before work

I ate a small box of raisins on my way to work because I was feeling like something sweet. 

11 sitting here waiting for night shift to show up and 3-11 charge nurse to finish taping the shift report. Some things never change!!

It’s only been 4 days, but I am feeling better already. 

Lighten up challenge – Day 3

6/2/16

I slept like a log. I never even heard Orlando come to bed. I tried so hard to get up at 4, but my body wasn’t ready yet so I slept until 5:30 and woke feeling refreshed. 

7:45 Pink lady apple on the way to bring Carlos to school. 

8:30 a small handful of grapes 

9 coffee and almond milk 

All bedding washed and dried already. I am hoping the bedmaking fairy will come over while I’m out to make the beds.

10-12:15 two home visits with patients 

12:40 a carrot and hummus; spinach salad with a sweet potato, sauerkraut (addicted!) and lemon juice 

Afternoon treat and a break from the absolute insane nonsense that is my job right now. 


3:30 It’s my homemade dole whip. Frozen mango, pineapple and a fresh banana with a squeeze of lime juice. 

Super busy afternoon. Too many unplanned work issues made it difficult to get any of my patient visit paperwork done. Before I knew it, it was time to make the beds (damn fairy never came) and dinner. I managed to make dinner without nibbling on anything. 

8:30 I just finished interviewing babysitter #3. She was lovely. She’s working on her teaching certification and is currently in a special Ed classroom. She’s also a girls high school track coach. 

I am ready for dinner after a successful afternoon of no picking and grazing. I wore a cute new summer dress all day which made me more inspired than ever to stay away from snacks and eat food that makes me feel good. 

Dinner: Broccoli slaw, mushrooms, peas and edamame sautéed and a side of zucchini noodles with tomato sauce. 
Work was ridiculous today. I have a mountain of it awaiting me now, but I haven’t done any exercise so maybe a walk or short run first before getting back to it. We’ll see. 

10:45 What a gorgeous cool night. No run, I walked around the neighborhood near my house while catching up with my mom. I got a few more things done for work while loosely watching an episode of the West Wing.  No PM snacks!! I’m going to bed because I am meeting a friend for a 5:15 run. 

Lighten up challenge – Day 1

During my nearly 21 miles of solo hiking, walking and running in New Hampshire this weekend I had a lot of time to think. I came to the conclusion that I am not so much bothered by the number on the scale as much as how I feel in my body. I feel heavy and weighed down. I know that I have been turning to comfort foods that while they taste amazing they don’t make me feel so great afterwards. They also seem to make me want more like a little is never enough. 

So I conjured up my own challenge with myself to eat light to feel light. I’m not restricting or dieting. I’m not fasting or trying to starve myself. I just want to see if I can commit to thinking about what goes into my mouth and eating foods and portions that result in a feeling of nourishment rather than fullness. 

This isn’t about weight loss although the goal is to feel lighter so I’m assuming that feeling lighter would mean I’ve lost weight. I begin marathon training next month and I want my body to be as ready as my mind is about this endeavor. The Chicago Marathon itself is expensive and there will be the added cost of flights and accommodations for me and my family. I want to go feeling well prepared and I want to run a sub-4:30 marathon again. 

My lighten up challenge begins today. I’m hoping to capture daily snapshots of my food, jot down a bit about my fitness, and maybe a few thoughts about how I’m feeling. 

5/31/16

Around 8:30 – Coffee and almond milk 


10:30 pineapple


Pre-run banana at 11:30 shown with Carlos’ school art work aptly entitled Bananas. 

Ran 4.14 miles with a friend. Then had a nice big unsweetened mango iced tea.

2:20 Bowl of kale with 1 teaspoon hemp oil, a shredded carrot and a half cup of steam peas with fresh lemon juice. No photo, I was too hungry! Actually I completely forgot to take a picture.

I interviewed a babysitter candidate at 4. We hit it off and ended up talking until 5:45 when it was time to take Carlos to soccer. Orlando discovered her friend sitting in the car and sent her inside.  I am using the online site Sitter City and the potential babysitter brought her friend along just in case I was a lunatic axe murderer. Ok she didn’t say that exactly, but her friend and sister encouraged her to bring someone for safety, but she left her friend in the car because she didn’t want to make a bad first impression. I totally get it. It is a crazy world. It worked out just fine and the three of us had a nice time talking. Then they chatted with Carlos while I made his dinner. 

I went for another short 3 mile run while Carlos practiced. Then I tried to get some computer work done. Did you ever have one of those super busy days when you feel like you accomplished absolutely nothing? Me too! Today was one of them. 

7:30 I shared a Granny Smith apple with Carlos while I prepared dinner. 

8 Dinner was half a cup of brown rice and half of this bag steamed:


Busy day calls for quick and easy meal. I put a little balsamic and a spoon of hummus and called it a meal. 

8:45 For dessert I whipped up frozen berries and a few pieces of fresh pineapple into a homemade sorbet. It was delicious. 

Now it’s time for a nap before going into the hospital for what will hopefully be an uneventful  night shift. Please please fingers crossed!!  

Honestly I feel really good right now. Not full or stuffed but satisfied. The fruit blend left me with a light sweetness on the tongue. It was a perfect way to end the day. 

Plattsburgh Half Marathon Relay 2016

My first introduction to Plattsburgh, NY was in August 1996 when I attended The Clifford Ball, a weekend long Phish festival at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base. I went with my cousin and her boyfriend at the time. I remember the lovely drive up route 87. As we neared Plattsburgh we sat stuck in traffic for miles. I don’t think we realized that 70,000 people would be attending the weekend festivities. I didn’t see much of Plattsburgh that weekend because once we made it to the base we never let the concert. If you had told me then that in the future I would become very well acquainted with Plattsburgh on foot I would have thought you were insane. I also probably would have choked on my diet coke after blowing a puff of smoke your way.

The next time I visited Plattsburgh was in September 2010 for the the beautiful wedding of my dear friend and former Peace Corps site mate Amelia and her husband Scott.

I’m going to back up a bit to explain how running figures into this story. For that I have to return to 2008. In the fall of 2008 Amelia and I signed up for a 5K in Binghamton, NY where she was living at the time. I trained for months and was so proud of the fact that I could finally run 3 miles without stopping. Plans changed and Orlando was unable to join me. Carlos came with me, but I had no one to watch him during the race. I was unable to run the race. I was incredibly disappointed and I’m embarrassed to say that I was not a very supportive spectator for my friend that day. Amelia ran the race on a cold, rainy day and did a fantastic job for her first 5K.

I was in the throes of negativity at this time in my life and whenever I got that way it was typically because of how I felt about my body. Yet the negativity was all consuming and spilled into the world around me. Amelia is a very positive person and she very kindly told me that I had to stop being so negative. It stung me at first because no one has ever called me out on my behavior like that, but I knew she was right. She didn’t stop being my friend, but I knew that if I didn’t change something I would lose our friendship and others as well. Her honesty changed the trajectory of my life. I started taking better care of myself, finally ran my first 5K in the fall of 2009 and set a goal to run a half marathon in the fall of 2010, I switched jobs at the hospital, I began to exercise daily, changed my diet, I smiled more, and stopped saying negative things about myself to others.

Back to Plattsburgh…Amelia had moved there prior to getting married. On the day of her wedding I felt as though the fragile bond between us had strengthened. I was so happy for her happiness that day and so grateful that she hadn’t given up on me or our friendship. Between 2010 and 2013 Orlando, Carlos, and I visited Amelia and her family in Plattsburgh. In early 2013 Amelia found out she was pregnant with her second child and at the same time was told that she had stage 3 breast cancer.

Things happened quickly in the spring of 2013, surgery, treatment, prenatal appointments, tests, etc. I felt helpless. The 4 hour distance between us seemed so vast. I wanted to be able to bring dinner to her and her family or scoop up her son for an afternoon so she could rest. I just wanted to see Amelia and be there if she needed anything. I already had plans to run the Plattsburgh Half Marathon in April 2013. I planned another weekend over the course of the summer to be with Amelia. During my time in Plattsburgh I continued with my training schedule for the Montreal Marathon in September 2013. I enjoyed running new routes around Plattsburgh and beyond. There are some really beautiful stretches along Lake Champlain. During my summer visit I completed a 20 mile training run around the town.

In the fall of 2013 Amelia delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl. Over the course of the last few years Amelia’s strength, positivity, faith, and determination has inspired me to push through anything that feels even the slightest bit difficult. She is a survivor!

When she asked me to participate in the Plattsburgh Half Marathon Relay on May 1st, I was immediately on board. Amelia and her husband have caught the running bug in the last year. I have been waiting for an opportunity to finally run an event with Amelia. Although we weren’t going to be running side by side this experience would bring our running story full circle. I insisted that she run the second half of the race because running through the finish line is the most exciting part! Although there was an actual finish line and medals for the relay participants at the halfway mark which I thought was awesome.

I really love this race. The starting line is at the City Recreational Center which provides a warm dry place for runners and spectators throughout the race.  The race benefits Team Fox for Parkinson’s Research. The course is pleasant, no major elevation or challenging areas. For a small race the swag is generous – nice medals, tech tees, and a beer glass.

I lined up at the start with Amelia’s husband who was running the entire half marathon. It was a cool grey day, but the rain wasn’t coming down yet. Ideal for running. Despite running about 7 miles the day before with a friend and literally running head first into a tree, I was feeling great right from the get go. Seriously, my legs were moving and my mind was in the right place. I had no clue what my pace was, but I knew instinctively that I would hit my goal of running the 6.5 miles in under 1:05. I am not known for running particularly hard during races nor am I good at pushing myself during the final miles, but I felt better and better as the miles ticked by. Mile 5 presented the first and only hill for me. I ran it strong and then careened to solid finish.

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I was so energized as I turned over the bracelet to Amelia. I wanted to keep going!! I waited to watch her husband run through the halfway point. He looked great and was still smiling. Then I hopped on the school bus to take me back to the finish. The bus ride was a blast from the past. A few of us in the back recounted old memories of riding the big yellow bus back in the day. It was hysterical. Does anyone remember bus patrol? We had a designated bus patrol who got to wear a bright orange vest on the bus and had to let everyone off seat by seat when we arrived at school. I wanted that job so badly, but it went to Lisa Simpson instead. By the time I reached the finish line the rain was coming down lightly. It was great to watch Amelia’s husband make a strong finish. He is going to run his first full marathon in the fall. I am really excited for him.

The rain was picking up and as soon as I saw Amelia I jumped out onto the course to join her for the last stretch. Amelia is always smiling and she looked amazing despite the cold rainy weather. This was the longest and farthest she had ever run. I felt such pride and joy as I ran by her side over the finish line.

Running has brought such goodness to my life. It has provided me with an outlet during stressful times. It makes me feel great physically and mentally. It has taken me out of my comfort zone and forced me to realize that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined. It has brought me to new places. It has given me and my family an excuse to travel and spend time together. It has introduced me to some truly wonderful people. It has inspired others to join me. Running makes me happy and it is such an honor to share that with others.

Amelia’s running journey has only just begun. I look forward to our next race together – To Be Decided! We did it girl!!

 

 

I won the lottery

Not the powerball. 

Chicago here I come!! 

I woke up to an email announcing I got into the 2016 Chicago Marathon. I have been waiting until today to make any definitive fall marathon plans. I found out last month that I didn’t get into New York and I forgot to submit my entry for the Marine Corps Marathon. I have been thinking a lot about Chicago and out of the three marathons it is my number one choice. I’d love to do them all someday, but I’m so excited to be heading to Chicago in October. 

This is a game changer for me. I will not go into this race feeling anything but amazing. I finally put my foot down about the very obvious fact that I gained back some weight over the last two years. About a month ago I recommitted myself to losing the weight slowly, healthily, and steadily. I am not interested in a quick fix. I am trying to identify habits and food choices that inhibit successful weight loss while maintaining a plant based diet. So far I have lost 8 pounds in 4 weeks. I feel better and I want to continue the momentum. 

I am running with goals in mind. I am building up my endurance again. I’ve developed a daily yoga practice even if only 10-15 minutes a day, but it makes a difference in how my body feels. The daily habits are leading me in the right direction and now with Chicago on the horizon I am even more motivated. 
I visited Chicago once years ago for a weekend. I am really looking forward to returning with my family. I can’t wait to plan our trip!!

Orlando called me a little after 6am. It was snowing. A late April Fool’s by Mother Nature perhaps. I assumed he was calling to tell me he was on his way home. He’s currently working on a building project at Yale University which is about 75-90 minutes from our house depending on the day. Traffic in Connecticut is thick at times and days like today make for an even more unpredictable commute. 

His voice was soft and shaky. Something was wrong. He seemed to be gasping for air and then he said “oh Aim, I just got into a bad accident!” My heart sank into my stomach. His car started sliding and he swerved to avoid sliding into a tractor trailer truck. Instead he kept sliding and slammed head on into the concrete median to the left of the commuter lane. I have no idea how no one hit him as his truck remained undriveable cockeyed in the commuter lane.  He said people kept driving around him. No one stopped. 

I kept him talking while I planned. I’m incredibly calm in these situations which you might not think if you know me. Orlando had called 911 but nothing. The accident happened around 5:40am and it was nearly 6:20. I called 911. Finally over an hour after the accident a state trooper came. He was given a $130 citation for speeding in poor weather conditions and then the trooper left while Orlando waited for the tow truck to come. Yes cited! Even if Orlando had a lead foot like me sometimes he would not have been using it on a snowy, slick morning like today. Besides that no police officer was at the scene so how could the trooper have made such an assessment?

I had to pick him up about 45 minutes away from our house. By the time I got there he was cold, tired and very shaken up. I took him to the ER. The airbag had deployed thankfully and he appeared uninjured, but you don’t know for sure. He’s doing well. Resting and taking ibuprofen. 

Orlando was remorseful about losing the 2008 Toyota Tacoma he purchased back in February and played the woulda shoulda coulda game a lot today. I should have turned around. I could have stayed home. The truck is mangled and most likely totaled, but the truck saved his life. Had it been his old smaller pickup truck with a gazillion miles and the high probability of no airbags he would have been badly injured or worse.  

   

Instead he is right here next to me. 

We get so darn busy with work and other obligations, mostly work though, and we forget what’s truly important. Orlando and I are such dedicated employees and we are also dedicated to preparing responsibly for our futures so we work hard ensure that one day we might live a comfortable retirement. We lose sight sometimes of how none of it matters if one of us doesn’t make it to retirement. Trucks can be replaced and so can jobs, but people can’t. 

I’m off to enjoy some quiet time with my husband. The rest of the work will get done eventually. 

Holiday in Mozambique – Layover in Istanbul

Our flight from JFK to Istanbul was uneventful. I relaxed and enjoyed three movies and did some reading. We landed on time around 12:20pm and had a smooth transition through immigration and customs. After checking into our hotel we set off like participants on the Amazing Race to see as much of Istanbul’s Old Town as we could in the time we had.

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View from our hotel room

We made our way to the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia originated as a church and has been built three times on the same site. The third construction was completed around 537, but it wasn’t until 1453 when Istanbul was conquered by Sultan Mehmet II that the Sophia was converted into a mosque. It was stunning inside. It’s so difficult to imagine such an immense project being completed at the time it was done. The connection between eastern and western civilizations was strongly present in the murals, design and history of the Sophia as was the interwoven stories of Christianity and Islam.

My photos do not do any part of our trip justice. They are all iPhone photos and I am clearly not a budding photographer.

 

We walked through the courtyard to the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque was built in the early 1600s. Women are not allowed to enter without a head scarf. If you don’t have one you can borrow one. Also you must take your shoes off to enter and carry them in a plastic bag. Inside you are treated to a spectacular show of breathtaking architecture and artwork.

On our way to the Grand Bazaar we were told to check out the Basilica Cistern and it was worth the detour. It was constructed in 532 to serve as water storage for the Great Palace of Byzantine. There was something so mysterious and old about the water filled cavern below ground. The water shimmered under the dark yellow lanterns hanging above. A closer look into the water uncovered large fish swirling around. We walked along the rustic walkway until we came to the famous Medusa columns. Two columns were adorned with carvings of Medusa heads. This drew attention to the interesting blend of mythology in a country rich with religious history.

We emerged to find the air had cooled quite a bit outside and dusk was setting in so we kept moving towards the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul in this area surrounding the bazaar is a blur of movement, cars zipping along narrow cobblestone streets, and a mass of locals and tourists scurrying in every direction. The Grand Bazaar was as I expected, a large center of goods, particularly a beautiful array of colorful scarves and displays of tasty Turkish delights. If we were not traveling to Mozambique with limited space in our luggage I would have been very tempted to shop. Instead I settled on window shopping with plans to return someday.

I was a bit disappointed that in our race around Istanbul I did not succeed in sitting down for a Turkish meal. Another reason to return one day. As we strolled back towards the taxi stand we stopped to take a few photos with the softly lit Blue Mosque behind and some with the Hagia Sophia.

Our taxi ride back to the hotel proved to be the most eventful part of the day. Despite showing the driver the hotel’s address on a business card he decided to take us on a very long adventure through the city to “avoid” traffic although we seemed to get stuck in it at every turn. It was a bit frustrating to watch the time tick by not knowing where we were or how to communicate with our driver. Finally after what seemed to be hours though was probably only about an hour we arrived safely at the hotel. We settled in for the evening, FaceTimed my sister, indulged in WiFi, napped, showered and packed our things again. We left for the airport around 11pm and our flight was scheduled to depart at 1:25am.

This is where things took a turn for the unexpected. We passed through security in two areas with no problem. We already had our boarding passes so we went directly to our gate. It was full, but we managed to find a few seats. I noticed on our boarding passes that our seats were not together. Orlando took the boarding passes to see if that could be changed before boarding. He came back and asked for Carlos’ birth certificate. I dug through my well organized multi-pocket folder, but it wasn’t there. How was that possible? I began to panic. After all the research we had done prior to our trip due to changes in South African immigration laws which were difficult to decipher, I at least knew I needed to bring a copy of Carlos’ birth certificate. It wasn’t there no matter how many times we checked. Orlando went back to tell the ticket agent. We were summoned to the desk and told to wait patiently.

Carlos was sobbing, fearful that we would somehow have to stay in Turkey forever. I held him tight and assured him everything would be ok. However, inside I wasn’t sure how this could be resolved in time to get on our flight. My stomach sank into a pit. Orlando was frustrated and although it wasn’t necessarily my fault I felt as though the blame was all mine. I encouraged Orlando to get on the flight and I would figure things out even if it meant returning to the US with Carlos. He shouldn’t miss the opportunity to spend the holidays with his family, but of course he refused.

The airline agent insisted that in order to enter South Africa we needed to get ahold of at least a copy of the birth certificate. Turkish Airlines offered to put us up in a hotel for the night, provide transportation to and from the airport, pay for three meals, and allow us to take the same flight to Johannesburg the following night. We accepted. Upon arrival to the hotel I connected to WiFi and FaceTimed my amazing friend Kate. She lives nearby and drove immediately to our house. She found the original birth certificate in my filing cabinet and texted me a photo of it. I will never forget what she did for us. Without her help we would not have made it to Mozambique.

The hotel front desk allowed me to email the photo to the hotel and they printed it for me. We went to bed around 3 in the morning and did our best to sleep despite feeling very unnerved by the situation. I called the US consulate at 8am only to find it wasn’t open yet. Orlando got information from the South African embassy in Ankara that we needed to get the copy of the birth certificate notarized at the US Consulate. We still couldn’t reach anyone at the US Consulate so I emailed the consulate using their online form requesting an immediate appointment if possible. Rather than wait for a response we took a taxi to the consulate office.

Once there, our taxi driver discovered the road was closed due to what we could only gather had been a bomb threat earlier in the day. We were allowed to walk to the gate of the embassy and present our issue. A kind security guard went inside to presumably plead our case and we were told to return at 1:30. Since I had no access to wifi I was unaware that the consulate had replied to my online plea and offered to see us at 1:30. We sat patiently and nervously at a cafe directly across the street for an hour and a half until we were summoned back by another guard who knew we were waiting.

Inside the consulate we were treated kindly and respectfully. Unable to notarize the copy without the original birth certificate present they offered to notarize an affidavit indicating we were the parents of Carlos. Fifty dollars and 30 minutes later we were in a taxi back to the hotel. Feeling more relieved at this point the ride seemed shorter and we were all in better spirits. We returned to the hotel with plenty of time to relax before our flight. Carlos and I passed the time working out in the gym. Well I worked out while he tested the equipment and played with the balance balls. After showers we went to the lobby to play a game. We ate dinner and rested a bit before catching the 9pm shuttle back to the airport.

We obtained our boarding passes and made it through security without a problem. We knew the last hurdle would be at the gate which wasn’t assigned yet so Orlando hung out at Starbucks and Carlos and I did laps around the terminal. We were feeling much better about our prospects of boarding the plane as planned. Finally they announced our gate, but it still took a while before confirming that we would be allowed on the plane. As soon as we were cleared to go we all took a collective sigh of relief before boarding the bus that drove us to the plane.

This time our seats were all together and we settled down for the nearly 10 hour flight ahead. I have never been more happy to be on a plane.

Despite the drama I wouldn’t change anything that happened. Carlos was incredible through it all. He was quiet and patient. We were so proud of him. He didn’t complain or whine. He watched, listened, and hopefully learned a little bit about problem solving and teamwork.

Next stop – South Africa.