Summer, summer, summer! Yay!

Hiking season is here again…finally!  I may not get excited about it the way other people do because even though I like hiking, I love helping hikers more.  Hiking for me is a process that has involved a lot of mental challenges.  For example, I do not like to hike with other people; I am self-conscious about my abilities (or lack thereof) and have no desire to impede the progress of others.  I am working on that.  However, I do love doing Trail Magic.  For those that are unfamiliar with the term, it can be any form of help that you provide for a hiker; be it a ride, a hot shower, a meal, a place to stay or even something as simple as water to refill their bottle that they don’t have to filter.  Anything that makes their journey a little easier.  My personal favorite is to provide water, soda, fruit and other snacks.  I enjoy socializing and hearing the stories of people.  Trails are great equalizers and that is one of the best things about hiking.  You don’t know anyone’s story until they tell it.

I recently went to Vermont for the weekend to visit my old stomping grounds from when I had an assignment there.  I missed the feel of the place and missed the Appalachian Trail.  On my way into town, I stopped at the trail crossing, not expecting to find anyone there in need of assistance.  I hadn’t been there more than 2 minutes and I found someone who needed a ride.  I was more than happy to provide it.  I know, giving strangers a ride?  Hikers are different; the trail is a place that can restore your faith in humanity if you let it in.   I gave her a ride and showed her around town and she was tickled pink.  She asked me a couple of times if she could pay me, which I would never accept.  I just asked her to pay it forward.

It truly makes me happy to help other people.  I’m sure that’s one of the reasons I went into healthcare.  Kindness is something that makes me feel good.  It fills my heart and I think makes me a better person.  I am fortunate that I am able to do this and there was a point in my life when I could just barely afford to take care of myself.  I think that is a driving force in my need to help people.  I have felt that and don’t wish it on others.  My reasons are simple and there are many people who are surprised or want to complicate it.  But, plain and simple, it brings me joy to help people, so why would I stop?

Baseball’s return!

Spring is here again.  Thank Mother Nature!  Maine had a long, cold winter and any inkling of spring is very welcome.  It was time to make the annual trip to Fenway with Dad for the game on Jackie Robinson Day.  This year marked the 70th anniversary of that historic game.  Dad and I had another perfect day for baseball; game time temperature of 68, sun and some of the best seats I have ever had at Fenway Park.  Although, truth be told, I’d never be unhappy if I was at Fenway.  We were just off center of home plate 7 rows back from the field.  Not much of a chance for foul balls, but a fabulous way to see the game.  The opponent was the Tampa Bay Rays and the Red Sox pulled of a nail biter of a win.  I really couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.  The rain for the day even graciously held off until about an hour after the end of the game.  I’m looking forward to the coming season very much and hope to soon be back at Fenway!

Heading south again…

Maine winters are hard.  I don’t like them at all and this year has been no exception.  I put up with them because the rest of the year is so great; my favorite being summer.  So when a friend from high school invited me to visit her for a long weekend in Savannah, I  jumped all over it.   I was ready for sun and warm weather-which I got!

I got off work that morning and went home for a quick nap-since I was sure I wouldn’t be getting much sleep that day.  As it turns out, I didn’t.  I went straight to the airport and off I went.  Once there, it was great to see my friend!  The fun thing about her and I is that we’ve visited each other in multiple states and at least 2 countries.  We went out to dinner at a great brewery called Moon River.  We then went to a music festival called the A-town Get Down and saw a band named Cracker.  It was a VERY late night for me and I was exhausted-not that it meant I went to bed early!

The next day involved a trip to Bonaventure Cemetery.  It is beautiful and very popular for tours.  It was used in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”  The statue of the girl from the book/movie is no longer there, but plenty of beautiful and oddly creepy things are there to see.  Savannah is soaked in lore, ghost stories and history.  There is no way to see it all in one weekend.

We then went to try some of Savannah’s famous pizza and check out “Lady and Sons” restaurant, that Paula Deen owns.  We drove around looking at the beautiful houses and we topped the evening off with a hearse ghost tour.  It was pretty interesting, but I think next time I will opt for a walking ghost tour.

Sadly, my time there was pretty short, but I do hope to return soon.

 

Forgotten beauty close by

I recently took a trip to New Hampshire; visiting the same resort as last year at this time to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  We have decided that this needs to be our tradition-for good reason.  The hotel is beautiful and we never run out of things to do.  The service is great and we have met some wonderful people there.  If I had my way, I’d be there once every couple of months, but that won’t be in the budget unless I win the Powerball.  So, once again, we had a great time, including some time in their Tower Spa tub on the 5th floor with 360 degree views of the White Mountains.  It was breath taking-not only the view but to climb all those stairs.  The Mountain View Grand may have the oldest elevator in NH, but it is not convenient to use, nor does it go up to the spa.  It was well worth it though.  After we checked out for the weekend, it was still a great trip.  We decided to take a longer way home and I had forgotten how beautiful NH is.  The raw landscape and how it can still surprise me despite how many times I have been there.  We stopped by a couple of waterfalls, drove by a closed area for hiker-which made me miss hiking season that much more.  I finally saw the Mount Washington Omni as well-that was quite impressive.  And the backdrop was more beautiful than I can find the words for.   I urge people to not discount the things in their backyard.  It can certainly be well worth it!

 

Let’s go tropical!

I have been on one cruise in my travels.  I was never much of a fan of the idea, instead preferring resorts.  But, truth be told, if I’m traveling, the vehicle I use is not to most important thing.  On this cruise, that my travel buddy Joann talked me into, I was going to give it a try.  We were taking the Turner Classics Movie cruise.  They have one every year and Joann had been on one the previous year.  The trip was to leave Miami, stop in Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico.  We met up in Miami and spent the night at this lovely hotel.  We spent several hours by the pool, marveling at how nice it was to sit outside at the end of January.  Once on-board, we had this fantastic room, with butler service!  A first for me.  The room had floor to ceiling windows, that I appreciated right from the start.  We opened our bottle of champagne and reveled in our good fortune to be sitting on the Celebrity Constellation.  We then went up to the top deck where there was a welcome/kick off party.  Some of the memorable guests aboard were Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds and Alex Trebek.  I was later able to shake hands with Mr. Trebek and speak with him briefly.  I am enough of a nerd to think that was a really cool thing!  For the days at sea during the trip, we soaked up the sun, swam, visited the spa and explored the ship. There also were plenty of old movies on the big screen.  For example, I was able to see “Singin’ in the Rain.”  one night there was even a Roaring Twenties party that I dressed as a Flapper girl and got finger waves in my hair for.  That was a lot of fun!  Once we got to Grand Cayman, Joann and I took a tour to Stingray City, where we swam with stingrays and even took pictures of us petting one.  Later that day, we swam and played with dolphins, which had been a lifelong dream for me.  Our dolphin was named Copernicus.  We also tried conch fritters for the first time.  Once back on board, we headed to Cozumel, where we took a ferry to Playa del Carmen and then on a bus to see the Mayan ruins at Tulum.  That was amazing to see.  Then, we were back on board and headed back to Miami.

 

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Another stamp in the passport

Maine…I love it here.  I do.  However, I hate winter and the only reason I put up with it is for the wonderful spring, summer and fall in Maine.  I often wonder how even though I travel for work, I have not yet got the timing down for me to be a snowbird.   I continue to try.  Until then, I am forced to make my own “summer” in the dead of winter.  This year, it took the form of a trip to the Dominican Republic.  I love to see new places and I would be lying if it didn’t cross my mind to see the home of one of my beloved Red Sox players, David Ortiz.  dscn0015 img_1491

I had been dreaming about this vacation for months and I was so ready when the time finally came.  Most of my vacations involve going at mach 3 to see everything possible, but this time, I really needed time to sit on the beach or by the pool and just soak up the sun.  I got just what I wanted.  My friend and I stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana.  Our vacation immediately started on a high note when we were upgraded to the Presidential Suite.  The above view is from our lovely patio.  The weather was warm, food was abundant and the drinks flowed freely as relaxation started to take over my body.

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The staff was incredibly friendly, the beach lovely, 13 pools to choose from (including one for adults only) and 9 restaurants.  Not to mention, the wonderful spa they have.  This was hands down one of my best vacations.

Kindness…

It’s that time of year as they say.  The time for kindness and giving.  Time to forget old wrongs, look forward to the dawning of a new year, time to rekindle relationships that may need nurturing.  It has always interested me how people only do those acts during the holidays.  As fragile and short as life is, I say we embrace all these things and practice them year round.  As a healthcare worker, death is constantly around me.  In fact, as I write this, I just found out a patient that I had several interactions with last week passed away today.  To be honest, some affect me more than others.  It’s not fair that I say that because each life I touch matters to me, but it’s the truth.  However, back to my original point.  I think it’s important to remember that kindness should be practiced on a constant basis.  It’s wonderful for people to donate time and money to charities during the holidays-please don’t stop!  But please remember that people are still hungry in April, animals still need food at the shelter where they live in May.  The person behind you in line at the store may be using their last $10 on their groceries.  I try very hard to be mindful of this.  I know that people (including myself) can and do get wrapped up in their own lives and certainly everyone has stress, but I just feel like kindness is so much easier and better to give.  I was told this week that I was a generous person and my response was that I have more than some people do and I should do what I can to help others.  It doesn’t have to translate to money related things-give someone a genuine smile, ask how they are and truly listen to them, make someone feel special-it might have surprising results.

One of my early and most fun assignments was in 2011 when I worked at the Cleveland HeartLab.  I get strange looks all the time when I tell people that I really enjoyed my time in Cleveland.  I had several reasons to like it there; baseball, food and museums.  I also met some wonderful people during my time there.  But, what did I do to pass my free time?  Quite a bit.  One of the first things I did was go to the Great Lakes Science Center, which is located right on the banks of Lake Erie, next to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.  (called simply the Rock Hall by the natives)  The Science Center was a fantastic place for me to let my inner nerd run free, then to wander over to the Rock Hall and see that.  It was pretty spectacular.  I saw so many things including the red jacket that Michael Jackson wore in the Thriller video, outfits that Stevie Nicks had worn, things written by Jimi Hendrix and the list could just go on and on.  It is a place that really needs to be seen over the course of several visits.  I also visited the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Museum of Art, both wonderful and full of an amazing variety of exhibits.

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For food, you can find anything you want in that city.  Case in point, I spent St. Patrick’s Day celebrating at the House of Blues and then went to eat Vietnamese food.  I had Indian, Italian, downhome cooking all while I was there.  I met Chef Michael Symon at the opening of one his restaurants, B Spot, which turned into one of my favorite places.  I also visited his Lola and Lolita restaurants.  One other place that I thought was incredible was Melt Bar and Grilled.  If you ever find yourself in Cleveland, please don’t leave without trying that and B Spot.  You will thank yourself for that favor!  During my time there, I also made a side trip to Pittsburgh and had Primanti Brothers and to be more-sox-005 more-sox-030honest, they didn’t have much on the Cleveland food scene.  But, I was able to try and it and see a new ballpark while on that trip!

As I have said on many occasions, baseball calls to me.  So, naturally, when the Red Sox came to town, I went to a couple of the games at Progressive Field.  The most incredible thing for me was getting an autograph from Jason Varitek-my all-time favorite Red Sox player.  I was beside myself with glee.  This was back in the days of him, Ortiz, Pedroia,  Youkilis, Ellsbury, Lester…those were the days!  I did also see a game when the Tigers came to town later into my time there.

I could easily spend more time in Cleveland because there was plenty that I ran out of time to see.  So, I just want to say to give Cleveland a chance and go if the opportunity arises.

The Cubbies!

In light of the current World Series, I thought it would be appropriate to speak of my time in Chicago.  I was working in Michigan at the time and took the train over to Chicago.  I have always loved traveling by train and in the midwest, it’s a fairly easy way to travel.  I am the kind of person that packs in as much as I can in a trip to see as much as possible.  Sometimes that doesn’t work in my favor because I just try to do too much, but I figure it will all work out.  I had bought the City Pass (which I have in a couple of other cities-VERY worth the money.) to maximize my trip.  I started out my day at the Shedd Aquarium.  I do love to see the penguins, dolphins and otters especially.

 

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My next stop was at the WIllis (Sears) Tower and I had to go see the room where you can stand on a glass floor and look down about 1200 feet to the ground below.  I didn’t have any issues with, but I am sure there were plenty of people that did!

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I then decided to go back to my hotel and get ready for my fancy steak dinner at Don Shula’s steakhouse.  I wasn’t at all expecting to have 3 waiters and once and I have never paid so much for a steak; but it was SO worth it.  My after dinner treat was to go to the top of the Hancock building to see the lights of Chicago at night.  It was quite beautiful.

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The next morning, of course, I had to fit in a tour of a ballpark-Wrigley Field!  It was my first time there and I was very excited to see it.  I was with a fairly large tour group and it ended with a marriage proposal to one of the people in the group.

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To finish up my tour of Chicago, I went to Adler Planetarium,  which I was over the moon for!  Haha.  Then over to the Field Museum.  I saw Sue, the famous T-Rex.  I also learned the the Field museum has been used in many movies.  Chicago has so much to offer and I have returned a couple of times, but look forward to my next visit,

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The magic of New England

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One of my favorite things about this job is my ability to go see new things.  I always encourage people to not forget about the wonderful places to visit that are in their back yard.  I know that most people who think about vacation want to plan it somewhere different than where they live and while that is a great thing to do, I find that people (myself included) miss so much close by.  Many people have said to me, “I’ve lived here my whole life and you have seen more than me.”  I find that to be true everywhere.  My response has always been that I have a finite amount of time at each assignment and I really want to  make the most of it.  The small places I visit are generally not what vacation plans are made of.  For example, someone might plan a vacation to Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower, but maybe not the Battle Site of Little Bighorn.  I was lucky to see both.  My point is that I have recently been thinking about all the places in New England that I have never been despite growing up here.  I have never been to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, really explored the Freedom Trail in Boston, Salem and until recently, Mt. Washington.  These are places I have taken for granted that I will always have time for because they will always be there.  However, just like anything else, unless I make the effort and build time in, I won’t ever see them.  So, just like diving into the ocean, I took the starting plunge of exploring the parts of New England that I haven’t seen starting the with the big girl….Mt. Washington.  My perfect excuse for this trip was the see a friend of mine who is thru hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I told her I had never been, had always wanted to and thought it would be really cool to see it with her.  As planned, I drove there and somehow made it up the slightly scary auto road with my poor car chugging along sounding like the engine would explode at any minutes and at the summit, I was treated to gorgeous views of….a thick swirling fog.  It wasn’t cold, but I was cursing myself for wearing my glasses and not my contacts as I kept having to wipe thick mist off them in order to see where I was walking.  However, it was wonderful to see my friend and meet some of her hiking friends.  Also, to send some postcards from the summit post office!  On the way back down, now loaded down with 4 hikers and their packs in my little Ford Focus, the skies decided to take pity on us and give us the amazing views I had so hoped to see.  It turned out to be such a beautiful day and I was so happy to be in the company of thru hikers again.  We went into Gorham, NH and got them checked into their motel while also seeing another 4 hikers in town.  Of course I knew they were headed to the Chinese buffet- the best thing for hiker hunger is a buffet!  I was quite amazed and startled at the amount of food that was consumed, but it was such a wonderful gathering of great people.  Thru hiking season is winding down and I am faced with a sadness that I won’t be seeing many of them until next year.  But hey, having Red Sox baseball and hiking season to look forward to is always a nice thing to think about.