Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Sister Trip

Time for a little fun.  Rereading the last post, I can see I've been in a difficult spot for the past few months.  You get used to it when it's your daily companion.  But this past week, it was finally time for THE GIRL'S TRIP.  We'd been planning it for the past year, the five of us:  Nancy, Mischell, Pam, Benita and me.  We are all old friends of 35 years or more, we hatched and raised our babies together, we experienced life's joys and sorrows together, and over the past 25 years we have all moved away hither and yon.  I moved the shortest distance - just down to Orange County.  Nancy and Mischell relocated to Utah, Pam to Arizona, and Benita to Washington.  As I said, life was sometimes good, and sometimes cruel.  A couple of these dearies have experienced the very worst sort of tragedy: the loss of a child.  All but one has gone through a painful divorce (is there any other kind?), and all of us have experienced life's downside and losses in varying degrees, as well as wonderful blessings of the best kind.  I have seen this one or that one over the years, but not one of us has been together with everyone in over 25 years.  High time.
A trip was planned that started with a road trip from Utah to Seattle.  I flew to Salt Lake, and was picked up by Nancy and Mischell.  A quick dinner at Ruby's served by Nancy's Andy.  Oh my - when did he grow up and get so handsome?? 

Didn't see the other twin, Tyler, this trip, but he looks just like Andy, so I can imagine he is every bit as handsome and fun.  We spent the night at Nancy's, where I immediately popped an allergy pill to counteract her cats' bad hoodoo effect on me.  Nancy had given herself a hot tub for Valentine's Day, and we enjoyed ourselves that night sitting in the hot water under the stars.  Laughing... so much laughing...  We were off to a good start.

Sunday morning we started off with our compass (GPS) pointed at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  That was to be our stopping point.  One cosmic truth is that it's very hard to eat a largely vegan diet whilst on the road anywhere in Utah, Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming.  I subsisted largely on bacon and hash browns, with the occasional burger or grilled chicken from Wendy's that was lettuce wrapped.  Yum.  But you know what?  It did the trick and kept me going.  I'd also stocked up on a few road trip treats from Trader Joe's so it was all good. 
There was a kind of funny little place in Montana that housed a state prison.  The entire community was based around the prison: Prison Gift Shop, Prison Ice Cream Shop, etc.  The sad fact was that it was the Sabbath and everything was closed, so we contented ourselves with a couple of silly pictures after stretching our legs and before moving on. 

We ran into a spot of trouble right outside of Coeur d'Alene.  There was some kind of massive truck accident that had traffic held up going through a pass for over 2 hours.  Whole soccer teams were stranded with no cell service.  We heard all kinds of wild rumors and stories, we saw at least 4 ambulances race by, but we never did really hear what happened.  When we were finally allowed to pass, there was a semi truck on it's side all over the road, but everything else had been removed.  We were hoping for the best for whoever was involved in that tragedy, and we arrived in Coeur d'Alene for our night's stay.

On Monday morning we hit the road to get to Seattle in time to pick up Pam at the airport and check into our hotel.  The day was a little dampish, but our spirits were not.  Our trip was about to take off!  We got lost on the way to the airport a couple of times (Nancy and directions are not a good mix) but we did finally arrive in time to scoop up Pam and make our way to the hotel - The Camlin - in Seattle.
The party was gearing up, 4 girls now - one more to go!   Our arrival at the Camlin (after circling at least 5 times) was exciting.  They made us feel welcome, helped us in with all of our baggage (I, as usual, had by far the biggest and heaviest bag...) and we admired the beauty of the hotel as we made our way up to our room.  Nancy and Mischell took the Murphy bed, Pam and I had the queen bed in the other bedroom, and Benita (she arrived soon after!!) took the couch as she is five foot nothing.  Oh my, did the party ever start then.  We were loud.  We reminisced, we laughed, we were brought to tears a couple of times.  So many memories, and between us we have raised 18 children!  We swapped the pictures on our phones and devices around, showing off the amazing children we had raised, and the even more amazing grandchildren who had become our new miracles.  We remembered camping trips, beach trips, days at the park, swim days at Nancy's, girl's nights out, absent friends, husbands current or otherwise, and that insane pool slide that Nancy had placed on her patio roof above the pool.  It was a true rite of passage for the kids to slide down that slide into the pool below.  I only did it once, myself.  That was enough.

As I've said before, we relived memories good and bad, along with their associated angels and demons.  Most of the stories I'd heard before, but here and there a new one cropped up, adding to the treasure trove.  You need to understand that these girls are the sisters I never had.  The sistahs from another mistah.  No judging, no lectures.  Just love and understanding and more love.  It was going to be an amazing week.

On Tuesday morning we got up and walked to the Monorail that took us to the Space Needle and, sitting in it's shadow, the Chihuly Glass Exhibit.  Now, the Space Needle was ok - but it was a drizzly day, and so the view wasn't everything it could have been.  But they do force you to take a picture before you head up to the top, and that picture of all of us (in front of a panoramic backdrop that includes - what else - the Space Needle - made it all worth it. 

Next stop, the Chihuly exhibit.  If you've ever been to the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and seen the gorgeous display of blown glass flowers everywhere - that is Chihuly.  And this Seattle exhibit did not disappoint.  We were completely blown away by the fragile beauty of the glass, both indoors and out in the gardens.  So amazing.

There was a little Peruvian band playing outside the exhibit, and Benita and Mischell began to dance.  It was infectious.

After getting our fill of gorgeous colors and unusual landscaping, we decided to walk down to Pike's Market.  And so we set off.  Sadly, my feet were feeling it at this point, and I could feel my blood sugar dropping.  Mama needed to eat something.  We found what we thought would be a good place to eat - and it would have been if they hadn't taken half a year to seat us, and serve us.  Very disappointing, and by the time we'd finished the market was packing up for the day.  The one bright spot is that on the walk back to the hotel, we/I discovered a wonderful little bakery that had not only the usual array of treats but *holy of holies* they also had a wide variety of VEGAN treats.  Yes, my friends, you CAN bake a delicious cookie or scone without eggs, butter OR gluten.  And that night I had a wonderful Oatmeal Raisin cookie - a HUGE one, I might add - to enjoy.  And did I mention we stopped at a hat store and 3 of us bought hats?  I still haven't worn mine, but I will.  Hats are fun.

Now sadly, all during that afternoon I could feel a flareup coming on in my left shoulder and by the time we reached the hotel I could hardly move my left arm.  No bueno.  Benita kindly let me try one of her painkillers, but my shoulder wasn't having it.  Nothing more to do except take a bunch of Prednisone and go to bed.  We had a big day the next day taking the ferry to Victoria.

What a relief! - I woke up Wednesday morning relatively pain-free.  We were able to get up, get going, and get ourselves to the ferry with no fuss or trouble. 

It is almost a 3 hour trip to Victoria, so we had plenty of time to visit and have fun on the way over. Or get a little shuteye.

Upon arrival we were told to take the path along the water to our hotel.  Advice: do NOT do this.  It is twice the distance at least, dragging luggage and everything else with you.  However, it IS pretty.  We finally arrived, dumped our stuff at the hotel, changed shoes, and we were off to explore Victoria.

But first things first.  We were hungry.  One definite drawback to traveling in a group is that it's difficult to make decisions.  So we wandered a bit, unsure of where the best place to eat would be.  Finally Benita and I gave each other *that* look that said quite clearly "I'm done here" and we forced a decision, which turned out to be an Irish Pub.  Delicious, delectable food.  Unless you're gluten free and vegan.  Everything either had butter or wheat in it.  So while everyone else had Shepherd's Pie, or a luscious curry, or Banger's and Mash, I had the most bland fish and chips ever.  EVER.  But the service was great, the atmosphere was fun, and I got over it.  Our waitress pointed us in the direction of a bakery that had vegan treats and we set off in search.  Two hours later we still hadn't found it, and hadn't found anyone who had ever heard of it.  I called off the search as my dogs were killing me at that point, and cookies were losing their allure.  A quick stop off at a neighborhood market for some supplies that cost way more than they should have and then back to the hotel for an hour of hot tubbing it before turning in for the night.  So good...

Thursday took us to Victoria's Chinatown.  What fun!  Trinkets to take home, fun pictures to take, and I was also able to find a gorgeous tablecloth for myself.  I know - that doesn't sound very exciting, but it really is so pretty.  We stopped for a good lunch of various Chinese dishes, (including chicken lettuce wraps with plum sauce!) where we drove the waiter nuts with our separate checks.  On our way back to the water taxi we discovered a gorgeous home decor store just beyond Chinatown and we spent an hour in there.  Nancy bought herself a bracelet that is so "her", Pam also got some earrings, and I took a million pictures to take home to show L - ideas for a patio slab and also for a patio dining table he could make us, rather than spend a million dollars buying one just like it.  A morning an afternoon well spent, and we were happy girls riding the water taxi back to the hotel. 

Next, after taking our treasures back to the room, we walked the short distance to the closest Fisherman's Wharf.  We bought ice cream (sorbet for me) and walked around.  There were the most clever little houseboats I've ever seen docked there, and we could imagine what fun it could be living in one of those colorful cuties. 

As we sat on the dock admiring them, and also a curious seal who was swimming nearby, a woman passed us and said "Well, you all look like you're having a great time!"  We agreed that yes, we were, and talked about how cute the house boats were.  She replied that she lived in one of them, and would we like to come have a look around?  She didn't need to ask us twice.  Once there, we discovered a cute and compact space, decorated in a very cozy and comfy way, with four cats laying about here and there.  The downstairs consisted of a living room and kitchen, very small but not cramped.  You could get out to the deck via the front door, or through the kitchen door.  As we walked upstairs we discovered a wonderful little bedroom with built in closets and cupboards.  The bathroom was very small, but contained a clawfoot tub and a skylight.  'Nuff said.  How delightful would a hot bath be in that small space??  It was all I could do to keep from asking if I could come back later for a bubble bath.  So nice of her to ask us in.  She had recently moved there from Ontario to be near her sister, and I can't imagine a more fun place to live.
We wandered back to the hotel to change for dinner.  We were going to have a nice dinner that night at the restaurant next door - The Blue Crab I think it was called.  Almost all of us had the steak and lobster tail.  Oh.... YUM....  I went to bed very happy that night.

Friday: back on the ferry bound for Seattle.  Another almost 3 hours, but this time the trip didn't seem as long.  We were able to get our luggage and sail through customs effortlessly.  It seems that five 50+ year old ladies don't look very dangerous.  (Little do they know.)  We hailed a cab to take us back to our hotel and sadly - he was the crabbiest cabby I've ever seen, and we were thrilled when that 15 minute ride was over.  He got a little mad because we didn't know that way back to the hotel - but isn't that HIS job??  Whatever... he charged each one of us $10 for a very short ride.  Don't see that he had a thing to complain about.
Back at the ranch, we checked in again, dropped our stuff, and decided to go back to Pike's Market, since we hadn't really gotten to explore it before.  So off we went and we did have fun.  I was able to find a gift for L, as well as something for Katie's bunch and Rex's group.  And I hit up the vegan bakery again for another Oatmeal Raisin cookie and a lemon scone.  One of the vendors, who was selling quite likely the ugliest silver jewelry I'd every seen, told Benita to keep her "greasy monkey paws" off the jewelry.  REALLY?!?  It really hurt her feelings so we took turns walking up to the booth and giving the jewelry and the vendor stinkeye.  No reason to act like that - especially if you want to sell something!  Nancy said she heard her tell someone that she'd taken some medication that made her head feel like "it had bees in it."  Maybe that was it.

We tried to decide where to eat on the long walk back to the hotel and finally settled on The Dragonfly.  We had a good waiter who was very accommodating to my special needs, and the food was so good! 

 Discussing what items could be made vegan with our most excellent waiter

Our last night.  We were starting to feel sad as things were drawing to a close.  One thing I forgot to mention was that Nancy had brought some sort of herbal concoction that helps you sleep, and every night before bed she would make the rounds squirting a dropperful of it into our mouths - like baby birds.  But we slept SO WELL.  Pam and I ended up ordering some for ourselves, and I can't wait until it arrives!

Saturday morning.  Departure day, but first: breakfast.  My other "sister friend," Marion, came into Seattle to join us for breakfast. 

So good to see her and have her meet these other great ladies, and they, her.  Benita didn't join us.  Her daughter in law was coming to pick her up and she didn't want to cry.  She was already crying when we left for breakfast and was trying to give us all presents.  I will miss her little Energizer Bunny self.  She is a small package, but a mighty one.  She has more courage and caring and love in her heart than most people will ever realize exists.  Such a dynamo, always coming to everyone's rescue.  It was fun to reconnect with her exuberant spirit.

We said our goodbyes to Marion - another lady I can never get enough of.  She was off after breakfast for a trip to Macy's, and we hugged and promised another reunion soon.  Very soon.  Pam was next.  She had come on our trip almost straight from a diving trip in Roatan.  A week with us, and then home for a day or two before getting in the car to drive her prickly mother to a family reunion.  She referred to it as Driving Miss Daisy.  I have thought about her often this week, and am hoping she is having a better time than she thought she would.  Sometimes things have a way a turning out well in unexpected ways.  I'm hoping to see her in Arizona one day soon.  She owns a ceramics studio and I would love to play in the clay with her.  She also lives right on the Colorado River, and has invited us all to come and play in the water.  We need to make that happen.

And finally it was just Mischell, Nancy, and me in the car headed for home.  A little bit through Oregon, where we found this most fascinating sign in the bathroom, instructing us how to dispose of... I don't know... toilet paper?  I wouldn't have known how if they hadn't shown me, apparently, because we are hillbillies. 

We took a more direct route home than we took coming here and we had planned to stop around Boise.  Karma had other plans, however.  Between Nancy's map skills, our inattention, and driving in the dark, we somehow missed Boise and found ourselves hurtling towards someplace called Mountain Home.  By that time, I'd gotten out my own phone and GPS so we wouldn't pass that up as well.  As luck would have it, there was some gigantic convention there with "everyone coming up from Jerome" so all of the hotels were full. We finally secured the last King room at the Hampton Inn that also boasted a second King bed. Never seen that before, but okay...  Turns out the 2nd King bed was a double sofa bed that slanted down like a slip n' slide.  Yay.... but we were so tired (and desperate) that we took it.  Hungry, we set out to forage for food at 11pm at night.  In Mountain Home.  Jack in the Box was the only thing nearby that was open.  But only their driveup was open.  The manager WOULD NOT allow us to order at the dining room window.  So... sandwiched between a Toyota with two girls in it, and a big pickup truck with two cowboys in it, we stood at the driveup window and ordered our chicken vegetable bowls.  And then stood outside the open dining room door waiting for the delivery of our food.  So ridiculous.  But funny too.  Walked back to our room in the dark, realizing that Nancy had left the key in the room.  That night just kept getting better and better.  I think I inhaled that chicken bowl in two minutes flat.  And then spent the rest of the night trying not to slide out of that stupid sofa bed.  Hampton Inn should be ashamed to call that a bed.  I'd write a letter if I weren't too lazy to do it.  I remember looking at the space between  Nancy and Mischell on the king bed and thinking I could probably fit there if I crawled up very quietly. 

The drive home was about 3 1/2 hours long.  Most of it was through Idaho.  I never realized what a beautiful state Idaho is.  Such pretty little farms.  My mind is forever changed about Idaho.  Soon enough we were in Northern Utah, and then - at last - back at Nancy's house. 

Poor Nancy's bug-encrusted Lexus will take some scrubbing.  Her dog and cats were so happy to see her.  We rested there for a while, then took Mischell home before dropping me at the airport.  I was able to see Mischell's two youngest girls and THEIR babies.  I hadn't seen them since they were little, and they are lovely.  I had to remind myself to stop hugging them.  Sadly, Mischell's oldest daughter was killed in a horrible car accident 11 years ago, but we all remember Shannie fondly.  And we will all meet again.  I could see her in the faces of these two youngest, especially in their smiles.  Sweet memories.

At last it was just Nancy and me at the airport.  So hard to say goodbye.  It had been a week of weeks.  One of those trips where it isn't about what we did, so much as it was about who we did it with.  We could have sat in McDonald's and had just as hilarious a time.  Reminding each other of every funny thing we'd ever done, every crazy person we'd ever known, and catching up on each other's lives.  Has everything turned out as planned back when we were 20 and 30-somethings?

 Nancy and me - 1980-something - so young... the start of something very very good

 Definitely not.  There have been some real curve balls thrown.  Children have a way of surprising us in the most unexpected ways.  Sometimes good, sometimes not that good.  There have been deaths (Benita also lost a beloved daughter AND a husband), and fortune reversals.  But through it all, we are sisters, giving love and support to each other as we bump along life's road trying to do the best we can.  Cheering each other on, and encouraging each other to find that place of unconditional love and patience for ourselves and for those in our lives.  To realize that we're pretty good, after all is said and done.  We're not perfect by any means, but we're doing the best we can with what we have.  And somehow, during this week, heaven seemed a little closer and more attainable.  And it turns out that is the blessing of having these sisters in my life.

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