Friday, December 31, 2010

the last day

of the year- finally!  my new year's resolution is not to have anyone I love die this year but I can tell this will be one that I can't keep.  mostly because I can't control it and then because our dear friend Joe entered hospice yesterday.  I cried because I thought he was going to make it for a while longer- like my sister he has lung cancer that has gone to his brain, but unlike my sister, who was gone in a little over three months from being diagnosed Joe has lived two more years. (later note- Joe died 12/31/2010)

tough year and I am ready for it to be over. 

but bringing my focus back to the positive for the year there were some great times and many blessings in no particular order and certainly not an exhaustive list:

I have a really really wonderful loving supportive husband who has been incredibly steadfast during the roughest of years.

my friend Tom and I got to spend a week together just driving and talking and exploring the byways of Tennessee.

we made great new friends in Sheila and Mary and our friends Laure & Arno, who introduced us to them, have been such loving support for me throughout the year.

we had a fabulous trip to Argentina with Chuck & Georgia and a lovely trip in the spring to Paris.

I was honored by my colleagues with several awards in July as I moved into an Of Counsel role at work.

my mother had another year (and a half) after her last brush with death and it was a good one up until the very end. 

we had a really fun long weekend in NYC for our anniversary and saw the kids as well as an amazing magic show by the Millionaire's Magician at the Waldorf Towers.

we had wonderful times with friends Dick & Ali and our wine group folks for Memorial day, the 4th of July and Labor day and probably a few more I forgot to mention.

it was whirlwind year in a lot of ways- last year we were in Tel Aviv for New Year's eve - which of course is not the Jewish new year and so the rag tag group at the Hilton was more like a Fellini movie than our usual new year's group but we had a good time watching the "show"

the last five months of my working full time were also a busy time- preparing for going part time.

going back and forth to Cincinnati an average of once a month kept me busy as well - I thought when I went from full to part time I would have all kinds of extra time- LOL- well I am still hoping for some more of that so that I can catch up on projects I have on my list- but so far my one project (cleaning out the third floor) has stalled for months- I got about 90% done and then couldn't figure out what to do with the left over junk- so that one will have to wait a bit longer.

anyway - I seem to be rambling on this rainy morning of thunder storms (which woke me at 5 AM) and so I will close with a few photos-

one year over Christmas and New Year we went to Singapore and Hong Kong.  I took this photo from our hotel room window in Hong Kong I liked the way the pool at the hotel next door looked and the curving lines of the lights at street level. 

and here is a view of Hong Kong from the water as we were taking the Star Ferry across from Kowloon.

lots to do to get ready for our time away in Florida - along with entertaining our guests from Germany.  so I better get back to cooking - and the sun is rising - well truth be told it is getting lighter but since it is raining I don't yet see the sun.  The thunder storms have passed through though and it is supposed to clear up today.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

we didn't know

when we decided to go to Morocco that things would change.  we had been in Spain for three weeks - actually more Andalusia than all of Spain.  the trip had been wonderful and I had been especially taken by the Moorish architecture and tile work.  my mother had already been to Morocco but wanted to return as her trip had been for just a few days on the way back home from Egypt sometime in the mid 80s.

so we planned in mid 1999 for the trip in the spring of 2000.  in December of 1999 my father called me.  now mind you, I knew something was wrong because my dad never called.  my mom (as in many families) was the one who phoned and kept track of all the kids and grandchildren and who was doing what.  he told me my mom was fine and that the surgery had gone well and she expected to be back from the hospital in two days! 

what surgery?  what hospital? why hadn't he called to let me know she was even having surgery? "she had a lump in her breast" - and he started to cry - "I wanted to call you. she told me I couldn't, that there was nothing any of you could do and that we didn't know anything and not to worry you." 

so in December of 1999 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she started a course of chemo and radiation after a lumpectomy.  (and as you can tell from the dates of my blog she lived more than another decade. and she actually went more than five years cancer free - before her second round of breast cancer and subsequent surgery.)

however, this brought us to our planned April 2000 trip to Morocco.  she insisted I go- actually she didn't cancel until the very last minute fearing I would back out and not take the trip.  I did many of the things she did in her first trip but added to it with time in the Sahara and some additional stops along the way, including  the mountains and several gorges.  these are some photos of Morocco that she enjoyed seeing when I returned from the trip she insisted I take.

the leather tanning in Fez
 roman ruins at Volubilis
tile work on mosque in Casablanca
the blue gate of Fez
cats near the spring at Chellah
 ksar on the way from the desert to Marrakesh
 camel ride in the Sahara

when I went somewhere my mother had not yet been, she went vicariously.  she always wanted a set of the pictures to pour over and ferret out details that I may have not yet given to her of the trip .  she had been a traveler for so long that she really internalized the tales I came back with especially when she could see it in a photograph.  I think over the years of traveling, my mother made me a better photographer because I shot with an eye to really show her what I saw when I was there- not just the standard "photo ops" but something more of the details of life in the places I visited.

and we shared every trip - in one way or another - just as we will continue to do....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

one trip

my mother did not take (yet) was to Japan.  of course she had a layover in Japan on her way to China in 1987 but since she never left the airport hotel that didn't count. (our rules say you can't count landing in an airport and staying on airport grounds as a country visited- I could have Sweden and Finland that way but they will have to wait to be counted until I actually make it there to spend time exploring.)

Japan is a country very different than many I have visited.  a spectacularly beautiful place, I came home wanting to make my yard into a Japanese garden and even planted bamboo so we could hear the rustling in the breezes we get all summer long.

the people of Japan have a culture of graciousness and so anytime we stopped to look at a map someone would ask us if they could help us. if my mother had made it there I think she would have been very impressed with the order.   she liked things neat and orderly.  when we were little kids (grade school and younger) we always had to pick up all our toys before my dad came home and put them in the toy boxes so the house wouldn't be a mess.

later in life my dad actually became a neat freak while my mom got more relaxed in the amount of mess she could tolerate- LOL...

but here are some photos of Japan that she and I especially liked.

a ritual washing fountain at a shrine

stairs to a temple entrance

building on a temple grounds

offerings of barrels of sake

wishes (like prayers) tied to bushes at temple

Kyoto dining along the river

our breakfast the first day at the fish market in Tokyo

I included this photo because in the last year of my mother's adventurous life she went to eat sushi with us a couple of times.  and while we took it easy on her in introducing things that we knew she would find palatable, she liked it well enough to ask to go back to the restaurant one of the last times we visited her and she was still able to go out to eat.  so soon, after the holidays and our set schedule, maybe we can go out for sushi and remember that even at 80 my mother was completely open to trying new things. 

she loved the eel, even ate one that was supposed to be in Phil's count - LOL

Monday, December 27, 2010

we had been

preparing for a long time to lose my mom.  in 2009 she was so very sick that all my doctor friends told me - based on her blood numbers - that her time was very near.  but as I said in my holiday letter - she was like a cat with nine lives- she always seemed to pull another one out her bag of tricks.

the first time we discussed scattering my mom's ashes we had agreed to the lagoon in Venice.  when my mother and I made our first (just the two of us) trip to Europe we went to Italy.  I vividly remember exiting the train station and finding the vaporetto that would take us to the stop nearest our hotel.  we got on the boat with our luggage and looked at the map of the stops carefully paying attention until our stop arrived - Giglio.  we exited the boat and then crossed the small floating platform that served as the stop and started to look for a way to leave it.  we discussed our options - the only way off the platform other than the Grand Canal was a very very narrow passage between two buildings - barely an air shaft.  clearly however, this was the way to the heart of the city.

as we started down the passage another person entered at the other end.  we backed up- and waited - there would be no crossing paths midway- especially with suitcases, even rolling ones.  then having witnessed the fact that a person actually had come from the other end, we made our way through to the campo (small square) at the other end of the passage.  from there we took the widest lane over several bridges to the small passageway (only slightly larger than the one from the vaporetto stop) to the front door of our hotel.

 our hotel garden
san marco

upon our arrival we met Sergio, who happily checked us in for the eight nights we would be staying.  our small comfortable room was without a view of the Canal but it did have a view of both the lovely courtyard garden of the hotel but also of other courtyards as well.  we immediately left for San Marco. 

I don't know if I could ever describe the excitement we both felt upon entering the fabled Piazza San Marco, a place we had only seen in photos and yet here we were! in Venice!

the city itself a dream - a wrinkle in time- where you hear footsteps, not vespas and traffic.  a place to get lost and lost again, yet always ending up exactly on the way to where you want to go.  a figment of every traveler's imagination.

since that trip, I have been back to Venice a number of times, but the first was special.  after our return from that trip, we found a book of fabulous photographs and quotations about Italy.  and the very last quote is the one I want to include here:

"I can honestly say that if I was told at this moment that I was dying, not my first, not my second, but certainly my third thought would be that I should never see Italy again."
Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett

we agreed that for us - that would be "that I should never see Venice again." and it was at that point that we agreed that my mother's ashes would be scattered in the lagoon so that she would see Venice again no matter how things turned out. 

over the years the plan grew- our travels took us to new and interesting places- both together and separately.  later we hatched the scheme of her going along with me to new places - after she was gone - I would just take some of her ashes to each new country. 

and so  -  Tunisia will be her first destination on her new travels.  and it brings me great joy to be able to still share the adventure with her.

here are some of my favorite Venice pictures:

"over all broods that mysterious stillness, that stealthy quiet, that befits so well this old dreaming Venice." Mark Twain

a funeral boat headed to San Michele cemetery