Category Archives: me

Better (it really does matter)

If you’ve been around here a time or two you may know that I collaborate with Verizon. Most of the time that means testing out new products or services and sharing my honest thoughts here. While I always guarantee readers my unedited opinions, I also accept that not everyone buys the fact that they aren’t influenced, maybe just a little. I get it. Really, I do. I tend to wonder about “sponsored” content too.  I recently had an experience with Verizon Wireless that had nothing to do with my collaboration. It proved to me that their slogan, Better Matters really is a thing.  

The youngest of our Little Nuggets turned ten this summer. Here in the coop the traditional ten-year gift is a cell phone. Right around the same time the teen needed an upgrade (can’t have a smartphone without a functioning camera… oh the humanity!) and our household said goodbye to analog – so long answering machine, you served us well. Off to the Verizon store we went, with no little amount of trepidation.

In the past a visit to the store meant hours sucked out of our weekend. Help that was little to no help at all, and coming home with lighter pockets and befuddled brains. A few years back I even managed to get signed up for two insurance plans on the same phone.

Wait, we thought she was writing about why Verizon Wireless is, um… better.

I hear ya, and I am. I’ve since learned that not all Verizon stores are created equally. In fact, not all Verizon stores are even Verizon stores. What?!! 20160813_132532-01 Here is the deal, there are a lot of stores out there that are Verizon ‘authorized dealers’. Any number of them are great, I’m sure. I just didn’t find those. I found the one that made me dread the cellphone store. Then I found a Verizon store. (cue harp music and unicorn sparkles)

The Verizon store nearest us was a bit of a trek, but totally worth it. From the minute we walked into the store in Glen Burnie, Maryland it was evident things were going to be different. Starting with the warm welcome my phone gave me. Yep, the phone welcomed me to the store… hello, Kubrick!

Team members took our info, what we needed and gave us an actual estimate of how long it would be before we were helped. The doctor’s could take some lessons here! 

Just about everything in the store was hands-on with demos and clear pricing. That pricing thing was the teen’s least favorite feature. When mama knows not everything goes. We played, laughed and got tips from the welcome staff. It didn’t even feel like waiting.

Gerald, our Solutions Specialist (and new BFF) helped the kiddos look through phones, showed them features and put my mind at ease with some cool functions for parental controls. At no point did he push hard for upgrades or add-on items. He’d mention it once. Then accepted my answer like I actually was a human who knew what I did and didn’t want. WOW!

20160813_135510-01While we waiting for data transfers from our old to new phones, Gerald showed us some cool new products. The Nest Cam will be finding its new tree at our house sometime soon. Our current security system came with one camera that doesn’t have the motion-sensing tech an easy install that Nest features.  Plus, I can take my helicopter parenting to a whole new place with it – ha ha. 

Our new puppy doesn’t have a taste for shoes, but he did find my beloved Plantronics Backbeat Fit headphones quite tasty. Gerald introduced me to the Jaybird X2 wireless headphones, which were pretty awesome – not Backbeat awesome but an option for sure. Again, he didn’t try to oversell.

Since that data transfer was taking a bit longer Gerald offered to put the Zagg screen protectors on our new phones. Okay, that was beyond awesome! I’ve never been able to get one on without it looking like bubble wrap on my screen. In fact I usually hate that so much I eventually take the damn thing off and live with the scratches and eventually the cracks.

In the space of less than an hour our family was fully outfitted with sweet new phones (yes, I got me an upgrade too!) some cool and useful accessories and a newfound adore for the Verizon store. Any place can sell you the phone, the ear buds, the cases and shields, but very few places bring the customer service like an actual  Verizon store and the humans that work there. 

20160813_144957-01(This is Gerald. Helpful and adorable too!)

It comes down to people in the end and that’s when better matters.

 

Ansel Adams Whispered in Her Ear

THUNDERHEADS, ANZA-BORREGO DESERT, CA, c 1965You don’t take a photograph, you make it. ~Ansel Adams

It was a Nikon, of that much I’m reasonably sure. She’d head off into the high desert with it. Hip-length raven hair trailing behind her like the tide. Camera hanging heavy on a strap around her neck. A talisman with shutter and lens. Off to the Joshua Trees where Ansel Adams whispered in her ear.

Hues of deepest black fading into soft greys, flowing in the developing fluid and exploding into cascades of brilliant white. She rarely shot in color. That film was more expensive and there were children to feed. Ansel’s whispers were most audible in black and white.

My mother made beds and dinners. And photographs.

Beautiful stories of the desert. Of cactus flowers, jack rabbits, and abandoned metate worn in the stone. Canteen and camera packed she’d abandon us to our father, her cares to the breeze.   Because, Ansel Adams whispered in her ear.

She made photographs. Made the desert come to life. Gave wordless voice to shifting sand and golden sun.

Then the water rose high. It surged like a tidal wave pulling the earth itself through windows and doors. Washing away what she’d made. The flood carried away the Nikon. Silenced his voice in her ear. 

My mother never made photographs like that again. Life flooded in. Her children grew. They needed more, insisted they needed her less. She gave all that was not asked for and more, never again opening the darkroom door.

Yet I still see them, the photographs she made. Not caked in mud or crumbling to dust, but through my own lens.

I may never make photographs, not like he or she did. But, I will settle for taking pictures because I always see something of her when I bring the camera to my eye. A wisp of ebony hair, a faint spark of crystalline blue like her eyes. My mom made me want to make photographs.

Maybe one day Ansel Adams will whisper to her again and she’ll take to the desert, the hills, the sea, camera in hand to make photographs. Maybe she’ll be content with the silence.

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.  ~Ansel Adams

Lead Image: Thunderheads, Anza-Borrego Desert, CA, c 1965 by Ansel Adams courtesy of Ansel Adams Museum Graphics. Please stop by and see this official collection started by Ansel and his wife, Virginia which is still run by their family.

Requiem The Soundtrack

requiem the soundtrack
photo credit: Julie Cohn of Cork, Fork & Passport

The waning months of 2015 and the beginnings of 2016 were hard on the world of music and arts.  Rare voices and singular talents were lost. Bowie, Frye, Rickman… those were hard losses to take.  Each had a place in the soundtrack of my life, maybe yours too? Requiem The Soundtrack is a bit of a love letter to voices gone but still so much a part of the story.

Did you know Alan Rickman sang?

Okay, so maybe Alan didn’t sing well. He might not even be deserving of inclusion in Requiem The Soundtrack save for the fact that his voice is inextricable from my memories. Truth be told, I could listen to that luxuriously deep voice reciting tax code. You’ll forgive me for subjecting you to Johnny Depp’s screeching in Sweeney Todd… eventually. 

Bowie may have been the biggest loss. It’s a very short list of people that have had such enormous impact on music, art, fashion and culture. Our youngest daughter may have been the biggest Bowie fan I’ve ever met.

In the days following his passing there were lots of tears. Stuck in DC traffic a week after the news, Under Pressure came on the radio. Before I could turn the channel, her brother was misty-eyed. It was his favorite song too. I let them cry it out. For the span of 4:08 minutes they bonded. That was the power of Bowie in our lives.

Before we could recover enough to listen to Space Oddity the news of Glenn Frey’s passing came. This one hit me harder.

Though I’m a kid of the 80’s I’m also the child of a musician. My Dad plays dozens of instruments, shared a stage with Chuck Berry, and knows the girl in Dan Fogelberg’s song Same Old Lang Syne {he and Dan went to school together, my dad played for his dad}.  Music has always been how I connected with him. Songs from The Eagles were the first chords that bonded us, musically.

I can vividly recall sitting outside on cool nights in the California desert town where I grew up, watching him sing to my mom, “I love the way your sparking earrings lay against your skin so brown…”  She was his Witchy Woman, her spell cast from sapphire eyes under dark lashes. Frye’s voice harmonizing  with my dad’s, true magic. 

So many disappeared voices make their way onto my playlist of memory.  The Optimistic Blues of Allen Toussaint. Nobody but Townes Van Zandt should ever sing Poncho and Lefty. Down in the Boondocks they’re missing the dulcet voice of Billy Joe Royal.

As vividly as though it happened yesterday, I can remember driving down a single-lane road headed from Boston to The Cape and hearing that Amy Winehouse had died. We were in two cars and my oldest son called to be sure I didn’t need to pull over and cry. They all know how much music means to me, because it’s the same with them.

Then there are the bands that won’t ever quite be same without members that made the music; Pete de Freitas from Echo & The Bunnymen, the Chilis without Hillel and The Stooges without Dave. There is no INXS without Michael Hutchence – no matter how many reality shows they dream up.

I can think of a song for almost any milestone in my life. When I look back there seem to be a whole lot of holes where amazing talent once lived. Perhaps that’s the inevitability of aging. The beauty in that though is that those songs don’t go away. Technology these days lets us dive into the pool of memory anytime we want.

Not a day goes by where I’m not on Spotify, or offline with my collection of tunes. Music is as much a part of my everyday as it is my memories. We have a playlist for road trips, work days, house cleaning, there is even one a bunch of us put together in morbid homage to my bestie’s thyroid cancer. {for the record, she kicked cancer’s ass}

Any time I need to hear the voices of those gone, I just turn my smartphone and wireless headphones on and they live again. 

 

 

This post was inspired by weekly #VZWbuzz chats that often feature ways that technology impacts our daily lives. As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events.   All opinions – and playlists – are entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 

White House Travel Bloggers Summit: A Year Later

White House Travel Blogger Summit A cold rain gently fell streaking the windows with of threads of color. I stood in the State Dinning room and looked above the mantel.  As I gazed at the portrait of Lincoln, I’d never felt smaller. How did this kid from a one-tumbleweed town end up as an invited guest, standing in the same State Dinning Room where world leaders have gathered?

White House Travel Bloggers Summit: A Year Later

Travel brought me to that moment of awe one year ago today. Attending the White House Travel Bloggers Summit was one of those surreal moments in life. I felt both humbled and emboldened.

We came from all walks of life; television personalities, editors of respected publications, thought leaders, government officials, entrepreneurs, creators, storytellers, each with stories as different as the pages of our dogeared travel journals. Yet here we were one. Each of us bonded by a shared passion for helping others understand the true power of travel as a force for change in the world.

The State Department hosted this event as a thunderclap announcement for the opening of the U.S. Study Abroad Office and to pose the question to the world… Study Abroad Because?

“…we want to ensure America’s future leaders have opportunities to experience the world beyond their border…” ~Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

In the year since the summit my family has chosen to take up the mantle of spreading the word on how travel can better the world. Be that study or volunteering abroad, connecting with the history and traditions of new places {far and near}, or welcoming others into our lives to share who we are.

My teen and I attended a virtual study abroad campus fair where we connected with educators and students from Australia to Georgia {the country not the state}, Italy to Russia. For her it was great to hear college students talk about their personal experiences, I felt bolstered by learning that these programs weren’t just about seeing the sights.

white house travel blogger summit As a family we visited the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, busting a few myths about Canada.  Immersed ourselves Georgian, Latvian, Turkish, and Jamaican cultural experiences … and food. Oh the food.

I even talked myself into being okay with the teen headed to Korea or Russia this summer to study language in an immersion program. Okay, if we’re being honest a small part of me still hopes she doesn’t get in… my baby alone in a foreign land?! Practicing what you preach is tough, yo!  

The best part of the last year though has been getting to know my fellow summit attendees and following along as they make the world a smaller place.

white house travel blogger summitCome join the journey…

Why Taking My Daughter to Haiti Was an Investment in Her Future as a Global Citizen – Leticia Barr

White House Travel Blogger Summit Miniseries – from Nathaniel Boyle’s Daily Travel Podcast

Finding the Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship at the Center of Dalí’s Universe – Brad Bernard

Life Coming Full Circle at the White House Travel Blogger Summit – Colleen Lanin

My Turkish Love Affair – Elena Sonnino

The Moment That Cuba Opened Its Secret To Me – Lillie Marshal

15 Lessons I Learned from Traveling Around the World – Angie Orth

Emotional Travel: Revisiting Places of Personal Importance in 2015 – Matt Long

New Year, New Life: You’re Never Too Old to Study Abroad – Jackie Laulainen (for Yahoo Travel)
Study Abroad Because… There are experiences out there that will totally change your life for the better – A Wandering Educators Student Interview
Why Your Teen High School Student Should Go Abroad (The Parent’s Guide) – Dr. Jessie Voights
 

“Travel can change you. It should change you.” ~ Brad Bernard MyWanderList

It’s Scary

But it's scary
photo credit: tyler s miller

 

When you’re a kid people ask you what you want to be. As we get older that simple question expands into more specific things. Where do you want to go to college?  What will you major in? How the hell are we going to pay for that?! Once adulthood hits though, it isn’t so much a question to be answered as a quest we’re on.

It wasn’t until I hit my forties {gulp} that I really felt compelled in any way to set off on that quest. For the most part what I was, was on autopilot. Wife, mother, maker of dinners, keeper of calendars, planner of trips, czarina of mismatched socks. It all just sort of happened in the way that we take in and let out a breath. You just do it.

This isn’t to say that I hadn’t accomplished anything, or was a nobody. There were things along the way that I was proud of having done, which had nothing to do with parenting or marriage. The thing is, even those things weren’t really what I would have said I wanted to be.

In all fairness I’ve wanted to be several things in my four-plus decades {again, gulp} on this rock hurling through the void. Not the least of which was a forensic pathologist.  I was a huge fan of Quincy back in the day. I went to cooking school, opened a catering business, worked in criminal investigations and higher education, learned how to paint, sold some of the photos I’ve taken, picked up a few rudimentary language skills, and traveled the world.  None of that was wholly, me.

It may be rather romantic to say that all those things were simply steps in a journey. Each getting me closer to the quest’s end. Sorry to break it to ya, but the truth is rarely ever romantic. Whether I chose to face it or not, the fact was I’d known what I wanted to be from the age of nine and that scared me.

It’s scary to want something. Truly terrifying, in fact.

What if wanting it isn’t enough? It never is.

Beyond having to work to get this thing you long for, there is the fear of never getting there no matter how hard you work. I love to sing in the car – much to the chagrin of anyone unfortunate enough to be a passenger. I know that even if I longed to be a singer, I still couldn’t carry a tune if you gave me a Birkin bag to put it in.

I can live with never singing a solo, but could I say the same if that thing I’d wanted to be since I was nine never happened? Fear is the ghost that haunts our every decision. For years I’d let it paralyze me to the point that not only would I ignore what I wanted to be, but I couldn’t even bring myself to speak the words to another living soul.

I want to be a writer.

Even typing that was scary. I know I’ll never be a Susan Jane Gilman {one of my very favorite authors}, write the great American novel, or any novel. I own the fact that my grammar and spelling are – to put it mildly– wretched.  I think though that I can tell a story, I love telling stories. Words are my narcotic, my high. Even if I can’t spell most of them.

Yesterday I took a seriously scary hairpin turn in my quest to be what I’ve always wanted. My first piece was turned in to the editor at the Washington Post who asked if I’d like to write for her a year ago this month.

It isn’t a full story, more snippets on a topic. But I did the research, made the calls, and wrote the words. My name will be on an actual check from their publishing department. Of course I also got a good friend to help me edit it before I sent it in – grammar and spelling support, a must.

Hitting send was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. The most liberating, fulfilling, kick-ass keyboard stroke of my life. I may never be a known name, or even a marginally successful freelancer, but for the moment I am who I always wanted to be… a writer.

Yeah, it’s still scary.

UPDATE: You can read my first Washington Post piece here. Already working on my next assignment. And yes, it’s scary… still!