Monday, July 25, 2011

Whirlwind Weekend~Part 2

After not having flown in forty years, I was so excited to fly again. I was anxious about the whole security process though, not wanting to do anything wrong that would slow us down in any way. I think my family thought my anxiety was comical. I was relieved to get through with no problem.

Sculpture in lobby of The Omni at Los Angeles
Beautifully decorated hotel lobby
After arrival in Los Angeles, we took a shuttle to our beautiful hotel. The lobby was lovely with its' unique architecture, decorating and artwork, including sculpture and the impressive live flower arrangements and abundance of brass and marble. I had to touch the roses to confirm that they were indeed real! When we entered our luxuriously appointed rooms we were greeted with a welcome basket from Coca Cola, full of snacks, Coke products and bottled water. I had never been surrounded by such accommodations.
The amazing live flower arrangement in the lobby, comprised of roses and orchids.
After we unpacked and got settled, we set out on foot to find a restaurant and get acquainted with our new surroundings. For the most part, we were delighted with our cuisine and I found it interesting that two of the places we visited had exposed kitchens that operated like clockwork and sparkled with glass surrounds, ornate woodwork and cabinetry and shiny stainless steel. However, one fine dining restaurant had much to learn about angel food cake, as there was no similarity to what we were familiar with and was very disappointing for Justin and Bob. Sarah and I loved our chocolate molten! Without a doubt, my favorite food served all weekend was an outstanding fried portabella mushroom appetizer served with avocado ranch dipping sauce. Our waiter knew what he was talking about, when he highly recommended it!

We didn't rent a car, but thanks to Bob's excellent navigation skills, we got around easily as we used many of the available means of public transportation. Our subway experiences turned out to be interesting as we encountered several very vocal, unique personalities in our excursions to and from Hollywood. We were all glad when these "characters" would make their way off the subway car. We all learned that we preferred peaceful, uneventful travels.

On our first visit to Hollywood, we visited the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater, where we saw the hand and footprints of many famous entertainers. There were many street people dressed in costumes, like Batman, Darth Vader and Snow White to name a few, who would pose for phtographs with tourists and added an interesting element to the Hollywood atmosphere. We visited at night, so we didn't get to see the famous Hollywood sign, as it was not lit after dark as we anticipated.

Justin found the perfect hat to compliment his mom's.

Trying on hats at Santa Monica Pier.
 On Sunday, we visited the Santa Monica Pier, boardwalk and beach. We had a fun photo opportunity, as we all tried on hats. We enjoyed walking on the beach, and a brief time of sticking our toes in the very chilly Pacific Ocean. There was an impressive solar operated Ferris Wheel and we watched a sculptor, who made three dimensional likenesses of his customers from a soft clay. We also saw a sobering display of a great number of crosses on the beach that represented our troops that sacrificed their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sarah and Bob, our awesome navigator!

Justin and the gold guy have a stare-down. Justin won!
The silver and gold street entertainers
 A favorite memory from that day was a performance by two interesting street entertainers. It was a warm day, but these two gentlemen were dressed in long sleeved shirts and long pants. One was a very large man and his outfit and skin were painted silver. His partner was all dressed in gold. They had a little routine they did to music, that was comical and fun to watch. The large man's contribution to the act was robot-like movements and he made his big belly jump up and down at will.  His partner moved about with jerky motions and he could move his jaw sideways to the beat of the music. At one point, the gold guy and Justin had a stare down that was amusing to all the crowd that had gathered. After they finished their performance, I had to ask the gold guy if his jaw hurt from the way he contorted his face. He assured me, "Not at all, my jaw is double-jointed and I've been doing this for thirty years!" Sarah interacted with the big silver dude to let him know she enjoyed their show. He responded by trying to steal a kiss, but Sarah was quick to offer him her cheek instead. She sported a small set of silver lips on her cheek as a souvenir. The time went quickly and soon it was time to return to the hotel to get dressed for our evening at the BET Awards. More details about our L.A. weekend in a future post. Thanks for dropping by and I hope you are having a pleasant summer!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Whirlwind Weekend~Part 1

The Coca Cola Corp. provided a memory-packed weekend that my family and I will long remember!

 It's not everyday that you get a once in a lifetime opportunity like I enjoyed several weeks ago. I was with my daughter, Sarah, when she got the call from her sister-in-law, offering her an all expenses paid trip for four to Los Angeles for the last weekend in June. This sweepstakes prize was sponsored by Coca Cola and included airfare and accommodations at a luxury hotel. Originally, this was going to be a surprise for my 15 year old grandson, Justin, and his best friend, Joey. That same day, Sarah was thinking out loud and asked my son-in-law, Bob, if they would still go if Joey couldn't go for some reason. I timidly raised my hand to indicate that I would like to be that fourth recipient if Joey didn't get permission to join them. Sarah was shocked that I would want to go, knowing full well what a country girl homebody I am! Also, the weekend revolved around attendance at the BET (Black Entertainment TV) Awards and it never occurred to her that I would have any interest. Since I almost never watch television, I didn't even know what the BET was. I just knew it sounded like it would be a great get-away!

Sadly (for Joey), although his parents gave permission for him to go, the prize people said he would have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian in order to go along. So Nana was going to L.A. with the family! At first, I wasn't planning on going to the BET Awards, thinking that it wouldn't be something I would enjoy. But that changed when I went to lunch with my Bible study girlfriends and they all encouraged me to go just for the experience. I was very excited about this trip, as I hadn't flown in a jet in forty years and I had never been any farther west than Ohio! I went having no expectations; just a desire to spend the weekend with my family, going somewhere none of us had ever been and doing something I most likely will never have the opportunity to do again.

I assumed that we would need to get very dressed up to attend the Awards, and was planning on wearing my mother of the bride dress, or another long dressy outfit I had in my closet. I thought I was set. Bob kept asking the prize counselors about appropriate attire, but it wasn't until the last minute that we learned that the expected attire was not formal, but rather something called cocktail chic. I had to look it up online because I had no idea what that meant. So I spent the day before our trip in a frantic search for something to wear. Thankfully, Sarah and the boys had something in their wardrobes that would work. I was blessed to find my little black dress at the eleventh hour!

I loved every minute of our little adventure! We had such a good time; the most fun I have had since my sweetheart was called home over two years ago. The flight to L.A. was emotion-filled for me though, as I couldn't help but think of Buck, when I saw the mountains, especially when the pilot pointed out the Grand Canyon. This was hard for me because it was a powerful reminder of the trip we had looked forward to for so long. As soon as we got settled into our new home, we were going to make a month long cross-country driving journey exploring the west. I wasn't able to hide my tears. Having fun always makes me think of my man, because Buck was such a fun-loving person and he made sure that we carved out time to make memories during our camping trips and summer and autumn getaways. He brought so much fun and joy into my life and I am so thankful for all the wonderful memories that I now cherish! I don't miss him any less, but much healing has taken place and I'm coping with my new reality a lot better.  I so appreciate my family's willingness to share their prize package with me, giving us the opportunity to build new and wonderful memories!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Putting The Lord In The Driver's Seat

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I have struggled with fear issues for all my life, but thanks to my personal relationship with the Lord, I am able to say that I have overcome a few of my fears with some of those anxiety-filled situations. Much of my angst has centered around driving in some form. Perhaps it has something to do with being a very late bloomer and not learning how to drive until I was in my mid-thirties. I still avoid freeway driving at all costs, and stick to rural main and back roads as much as possible. My world is relatively small and I have always been okay with that. Whenever I am with family or friends, I am almost always a passenger.

My anxiety was greatly increased, when about eight years ago, I had a sudden attack of some kind, while Buck and I sat in church one January Sunday morning. Out of the blue, the banners in the front of the sanctuary startled whirling like a Ferris wheel and I knew I needed to get out of there immediately because I was overwhelmed with nausea. I told Buck I felt sick and when I tried to stand to walk out, my legs wouldn't work. Buck and my friend Harry had to almost carry me out. I will spare you the remaining embarrassing details. I didn't understand what was happening to me and it was frightening! I had never experienced vertigo before and it lasted for a day and a half. Stillness and keeping my eyes closed were my only saving grace.

The events of that day set Buck and I on a lengthy, dead-end journey in pursuit of an explanation of what might have happened to me. It was disturbing because it left me with extreme fatigue and some vision and balance issues. It appeared that there was some residual damage that affected my vision perceptually and caused me to feel loopy, as I call it, somewhat like being mildly intoxicated. I'm certain that it often appeared that I walked like I was drunken (still happens when I'm tired). The vision and balance issues never went away and all the doctor's visits and tests were never able to come up with anything conclusive. These symptoms made me feel very vulnerable and fearful and I didn't drive again for fourteen months. It was horrible and I hated being so dependent, but, just the thought of driving filled me with terror!

Thankfully, I had a very wise husband, who knew I was going to need a push to get me back behind the wheel again. One day, Buck was going to take me grocery shopping and went out to the car before me. When I got outside, Buck was in the passenger seat and told me I was driving. I flat out refused, since we lived on a very narrow, windy, country road. I promised when we got to the main road with a wide berm, I would get in the driver's seat. I was nervous after not having driven for so long, but I knew I had to try. I'm so glad that Buck had the confidence in me that I didn't have in myself.

Crossing the Conowingo Dam has always been a little scary for me and uncomfortable for many of us, if we're honest. If you have traveled on it, you are familiar with the narrow part, where you often have to share the road with a tractor trailer. With a towering wall on one side and a guard rail lining the other lane, it is easy for a timid driver to feel claustrophobic! After the onset of my mysterious illness, my brain told me that there was not room enough for two cars, let alone a car and a large truck in that narrow passage. I have prayed my way through that spot many times, as I braced myself for the sound of screeching metal. Crossing the dam the first time after I started driving again was a huge step of faith for me! "Lord, You know how fearful I am right now, but I'm counting on You to do this for me, because I can't do this in my own strength!" Trusting God was the only way I could have the confidence I needed to overcome my fear. Even now, an involuntary, audible groan will escape my lips (similar to a sound I might make if someone punched me in my stomach) if I encounter a large vehicle on that stretch of roadway. I am always thankful and relieved when that part of my trip is behind me.

I still have many areas of fear in my life that I need to learn to trust God with, but He has been so faithful when I ask for His help to overcome those places of vulnerability. I am learning that it is okay to trust God and still feel afraid. I like to think He is happy that I am a late bloomer instead of never blossoming at all! I find great peace in knowing He is always with me and I never travel alone; a true Tandem Journey, by every definition!