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.
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.
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.
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.
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 honest, 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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,
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.
My latest adventure has been one with the U.S. government-a VA hospital to be exact. This is a whole different kind of work environment and there is a lot of get used too but I am very much enjoying taking care of some of our Veterans. This year is the 150th birthday of the hospital I am part of and there seem to be quite a few plans in the works for the celebration. However, the most interesting thing that I have come across is that a Civil War soldier will be honored by being buried at the closed cemetery on the property. His remains were found on the west coast and they have made their way back to Maine in order to be part of this event. He fought for the 20th Maine in the war and now he will be placed back at home. I often think of the brave men and women who have the courage to be part of our military. I honor and respect them. I am glad to be giving back to them in my home state. And above all, want to thank them.
I experience simple moments and simple pleasures. In my opinion, life is about finding them, whatever they happen to be. I have always said that I am not one to buy shoes or purses, but choose to spend my time and money on adventure in whichever form I enjoy. The simple truths in life that I adhere to are: 1. being near or on the water brings me a kind of peace that is good for me 2. Travel is a nourishment to my soul. There are very few things that can give me the joy that I feel when I experience a new place. 3. Kindness and positivity are far better ways to exert my energy than a bad attitude ever could be. I have had many people tell me that my smile is what they remember about me. It takes more effort to be negative or mean and I just don’t think that is productive. People tend to respond to kindness. I have found that the quickest way to disarm someone is by giving them a genuine smile and making them feel that they are very important to you in the moment you are with them. I think it’s amazing that a simple smile can sometimes turn a whole day around for someone.
I have been working in a small community at the very tip of Maine. It’s in what us southern Mainers call “the county” and I have discovered that people here call where I’m from in Maine, “downstate.” I find it amusing that we as Mainers have all these funny little terms for things and I don’t tend to notice them until I am trying to explain to someone from out of state. I hear all kinds of jokes and assumptions from people that are not from here; and even though there may be a grain of truth in them, most of the time I just brush it off. Some of us say “ayuh” as yes. Most of us use wicked good; and I can assure you that I have been using that expression since I was little. Mainers are a hard bunch to impress and I can assure you that unless you were born in this state, no matter how long you have lived here, you will always be “from away.” We are proud, hard working, down to earth people for the most part that cherish our natural landscape and resources. I personally love being a coastal girl; growing up on sailboats and ferry boats. I am finding that as I get older, I can appreciate the part of Maine that has the mountains and vast wilderness. And now that I have had a lot of time to live in other places, I can truly appreciate my home for what it is. I get excited when people want to talk about Maine and tell me how much they love it here or would like to visit. This current assignment is my first time ever spending more than a day in northern Maine. It’s not all that different to me….small town with community pride. I can get on board with that.
I recently took a trip to Quebec City to finally say I had been there. I have wanted to go for quite some time and any excuse to bust out my very rusty high school French is good with me. I went up for one day and stayed at a beautiful place in the old part of the city called Hotel Manoir Victoria. I felt almost instantly like I was in Europe; even while I was driving into the city. All the signs are in French, which I am usually not too bad with, but when you’re driving 60 miles an hour, looking out for all the crazy lane changers and listening to your GPS, translating a sign becomes infinitely harder. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hand my car keys over to the valet as soon as I got to the hotel. It’s a beautiful, historic building just inside the fortification. I didn’t realize until a couple of weeks before my trip that Quebec City is the oldest walled city in North America. French is also still the first language to most people there and it’s about 70% residential.
Once at the hotel, I went to my charming, 5th floor room with a beautiful view of the city. I had decided to book one the city tours and am so glad that I booked a bus tour as it was off and on snowing/raining and just all around dreary. I wouldn’t have been too happy to be walking around in that mess. The tour included some of the most famous and old hotels. churches, French architecture and history galore. We saw Place Royale, Plains of Abraham, the outside of the Citadel and all kinds of cute shops and houses. I was sorry to say that I only had one day in that city and look forward to a return trip.