Day 80 marked our third day here in New York City. We’ve been parked at Liberty Harbor RV Park since Thursday. This park does not have sewer hookups, so surprises can happen if you’re having too much fun to think about your tanks. For instance, my son came out of the shower to inform us that the gray water tank was full as he was standing in water. It sure is a pain to pack everything up for a short trip to the dump station, but that’s how our morning began. The good news is that we followed it up with a visit to the American Museum of Natural History which made today a huge win! I highly recommend visiting museums with smart people. I did this today with my son and his college friend who lives in the city. What a pleasure it is to be around two twenty-somethings who still get such a kick out of science, space, human evolution and especially DINOSAURS! They even caught an error in the exhibit about the Big Bang Theory which made me chuckle.
Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of griping about “the young people of today”. Some say they’re unfocused and entitled. Others say they’re self-indulgent and spoiled. If my experience today is any indication, our future is in very capable hands.
On Day 79 of the Nowhere To Be Project I did something I thought I never would. I have been avoiding this area of NYC for years because of the horrific tragedy of 9/11. I did not want to see it. My husband and son convinced me that we needed to visit the site, memorial and museum, so I decided that perhaps it was time.
My son was just four on the day of the attack. I kept him from the coverage feeling that he was too young to understand. A few days later, I saw him crash one of his toy planes into a tower he had built and knew that he was forever changed. Today as I walked alongside him reading the names of the victims, I realized that my children can’t remember a time when airport pat downs didn’t exist. The word “terrorist” is a regular part of their vernacular which is so very sad. Seeing the horrors of that tragic day wasn’t pleasant, but it was important. We were reminded of the individual stories of sacrifice. We were able to honor the heroes. We were given a chance to pay our respects and I’m thankful for that. We must never forget.
On Day 78 of the Nowhere To Be Project we left Cherry Hill RV Park near DC heading for NYC. As you might imagine, the drive was filled with traffic and tolls. The nice thing about the pricey turnpikes is the smooth blacktop which keeps the pup happy. I was also thrilled about the full service fuel station along the turnpike. I haven’t seen that since the mid-1980s!!!
After nearly five hours, we pulled into Liberty Harbor RV Park in Jersey City. It is situated on a harbor with a view of the Statue of Liberty (hence the name). The park is on the higher end in terms of price ($99-110 per night plus tax), but is certainly no frills in terms of amenities. However, the proximity to public transportation (ferry and train) can’t be beat and the park offers 24 hour security, which is a huge plus. We’re excited to spend three nights here with our son who is flying in from Florida as we speak. I love him so much that I’m giving up my comfy bed cave over the cab😍❤️! Much more to come over this holiday weekend…
Tragically, Day 72 of the Nowhere To Be Project marked another senseless school shooting. High schoolers in Santa Fe, Texas started their day with the horror of gunshots and with that, the world, as they knew it, ceased to exist. I heard a statistic that this was the seventh school shooting in the United States since the start of the year. At times likes this, we all ask “why”.
As a mental health professional, my answer to the “why” question is specific. We must teach mental health in schools. When my kids were little, I focused on mental health awareness with them in ways they could understand. This evolved as they grew and continues even now that they are young adults. As an educator, I taught about mental health care and its importance. I will always treat mental health as a priority and I wish our leaders would too.
Mental health is just as critical as physical health (and is inextricably tied to physical health). Yet, as a society, we don’t address it. We take kids for well visits where we weigh them, measure them and vaccinate them, but we don’t ask them how they are feeling. We test their reading, writing and math ability, but we don’t asses their mood, brain or their mental health. We don’t tell kids that it is normal to feel things like anger, sadness, and jealousy, and we certainly don’t encourage them to talk about these things. We don’t empower kids with the skills necessary for mitigating life’s stressors and over time this erodes mental health. If we did, they might learn how to cope with them in rational ways rather than with unimaginable violence.
My kids used to jokingly say, “you can stop shrinking us now”. I will never stop and neither should you.
Day 67 of the Nowhere To Be Project marked Mother’s Day. I spent it with one of my children, my husband, my brother-in-law along with his daughter, and my 87 year old mother-in-law. We enjoyed a lovely lunch and hours of conversation focused on days gone by. My mother-in-law has lived an amazing life filled with love, travel, adventure and loss. We love hearing the stories of her life and learn something new about her each time we visit. As we were leaving, she teared up as she thanked us for her best Mother’s Day yet. Her joy was not the result of a gift. It didn’t come from the meal either. It blossomed from the rare time of togetherness that we shared as a family. As a mother myself, I knew exactly what she was feeling. I always tell my kids that I do not need or want presents from them. I just want to be with them. I love nothing more than to see their perfect faces, hear their stories and hug them with the fierceness that only other mothers seem to find normal. I know that I could never possibly get my fill of them and certainly won’t stop trying. Happy Mother’s Day!
Day 65 of the Nowhere To Be Project was spent wholly on Disney grounds. I was born and raised in Central Florida, so Walt Disney World has been a staple for my entire existence. I was born the very year the Magic Kingdom opened and cannot even begin to count my visits over the years. As a child, I loved the wonder of a Disney day. As a parent though, Disney truly came alive. It was so magical to watch my kids light up at the sight of their favorite characters. I liked Lady and the Tramp as a kid. I even had a Lady stuffed pooch that accompanied me to bed most nights. It was different with my children though because the influence of Disney became so pervasive for kids of the 90s (much more that the Sunday evening Wonderful World of Walt Disney programming we had in the 1970s). My daughter had a full wardrobe of Disney princess gowns, tiara and slippers that encompassed her daily wardrobe. My son’s toys were 70% Disney-centric (think Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Aladar, Mighty Jo Young, Simba and on and on). It was ALL Disney ALL THE TIME.
Today, my husband and I visited Epcot. As we monorailed over to the park, I caught a glimpse of the face of a little boy who was sitting on his mother’s lap. His wide eyes were fixed on the window beside their seat, filled with views of the vast and rolling landscape of Disney. He was listening intently to the conductor who briskly announced the upcoming stops, making sure not to miss a thing. He was adorned with Disney gear…hat, shirt, action figure, sneakers. He was obviously over the moon to be in this place. As I watched him, I secretly hoped that his experience would far exceed the expectations he had amassed for it. More than that though, I hoped that his mother’s heart would forever warm at the memory of her delighted baby in the “happiest place on Earth”. I know mine does.
On Day 63 of the Nowhere To Be Project I enjoyed the profound luxury of lunching with my son. We were running errands prior to his birthday celebration tomorrow and he agreed to accompany me to one of my favorite spots in Orlando, Ethos Vegan Kitchen. The all vegan restaurant is located on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park, Florida. Winter Park is a popular suburb of Orlando, known for its oak-shaded brick streets filled with countless shopping and dining options. Ethos Vegan Kitchen is adjacent to the quaint campus of Rollins College (where I was a student for two years:) and Park Avenue, a swanky historic street teeming with activity.
The restaurant is popular with diners of all types because the food is simply delicious. The menu is vast, offering many homemade appetizers, salads, soups, pastas, entrees and desserts. Ethos also serves a wide selection of unique beers and wines. The favorites include popular foods like tacos (the special today), calzones and hamburgers that are usually reserved for traditional restaurants. I think this adds to the restaurant’s popularity.
I have dined at Ethos three times and have never been disappointed. Today, we started with the bruschetta. It was delicious with fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.
My son (a nonvegan) went with the lasagna. It was served piping hot from the oven. He cut into it before I could get a great photograph, haha. It had great flavor and texture. The garlic bread served on the side was also very tasty.
I ordered the Sheep’s Pie, my favorite dish at Ethos. It is satisfying comfort food at its finest with piped whipped potatoes forming a crust over the luscious vegetable stew. Fresh broccoli, carrots and peas abound in the dish and the rich vegan gravy provides a burst of flavor.
We were both so stuffed that we decided to take dessert to go. Ethos has amazing desserts and I’ve had the pleasure of trying many of them in the past. Today we selected an assortment of cookies including chocolate chip, gingersnap and snickerdoodle.
I wish there were more restaurants like Ethos with a focus on serving real food that appeals to vegans and non-vegans alike. Many people incorrectly believe that vegans eat freaky and obscure foods that taste like sawdust. Ethos Vegan Kitchen debunks this myth in spades!
Day 61 of the Nowhere To Be Project took place happily on the road. We traveled from Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama and finally landed in Fort Walton Beach, Florida for the night. It is a lovely little beach town on the panhandle of the gulf coast. Throughout our drive this week we have been discussing our vision for the rest of our lives. I used to teach human development to college students and the “life review” was essential material. The life review is a progressive practice of assessing one’s progress and satisfaction with life up to the current moment. It usually begins sporadically around midlife. In other words, people look at their lives and figure that they have used up at least half of their time. With that, most ask themselves if they’ve done what they set out to do and if they feel satisfied with what they’ve experienced and accomplished. If so, they’ll probably use their remaining years to satisfy personal needs or goals. If not, they may begin a crisis of sorts where they renegotiate what a life well lived looks and feels like for them (the midlife crisis). Thankfully, we both feel happy with what we’ve done to this point. We’ve worked hard, raised good people and believe that we’ve contributed to the world in lasting and positive ways. This allows us to mentally move into a selfish and almost gluttonous head space.
To that end, our goals are to wander and roam for as long as we are able. This, of course, is what the Nowhere To Be Project is all about. I started it just two months ago as a way to keep a tangible record of my life post-retirement. If you’re anything like me, you’ve kept souvenirs from your travels, but no real journals or records. With this project, I hope to leave something heartfelt, meaningful and tangible for my kids and their future families. Memories are something that we always expect to have until we don’t. I have so few photographs, letters or videos of my parents that I sometimes forget the sounds of their voices. When I lost my parents and suddenly realized that I had so little left of who they were and what they had accomplished, I decided to document everything ad nauseam for my kids. They definitely don’t realize it now, but they will treasure these words someday.
These philosophical road trip discussions somehow led to an official logo for the Nowhere To Be Project. I’m not sure why, but it just makes it feel real and that keeps me committed to writing something each and every day. My husband and I both love kites and agreed that they were the perfect symbol for what we’re doing with the Nowhere To Be Project…floating and gliding through the world! We shared our ideas over the phone with our friend in Orlando, Dave Collins at Collins Media. He is an absolute genius with all things media and produced the logo for us within minutes. We will christen our RV with it this week and simply cannot wait!
Day 49 of the Nowhere To Be Project was all about preparing. It wasn’t the fun type of preparing, like preparing for a trip, preparing to get a puppy or preparing to eat. The last one stings a lot because the preparing I’ve been doing is for my biannual colonoscopy and endoscopy tomorrow. I have a genetic condition called Lynch syndrome that requires more frequent cancer screenings, so this is old hat for me. The prep for these tests means that I’m limited to clear liquids for today and half of tomorrow. The intense hunger I’m feeling reminds me of a much younger, much sadder, version of myself.
From the ages of 19 through 23, I struggled with anorexia. My life (and family) had been very out of control for as long as I could remember and eating (or a lack thereof) was pretty much the only thing I could control. I was obsessed with perfection in life and for me, that correlated with my number on the scale. I exercised to excess and filled myself with water and one to two cups of dry air-popped popcorn to stave off embarrassingly loud hunger pangs. That life was a living hell and the only thing that cured me was an unexpected pregnancy that made me realize that my body was no longer my own to abuse.
The hunger that I’m experiencing right now feels especially raw because it me reminds me of what I put my younger self through with all those years of senseless starvation. There was no end to the hunger and the sad reality was that self-deprivation did not mend the issues that led me to that horrendous place. I ended up studying and researching eating disorders in graduate school. I later educated others about them as a professor of psychology. I have always been forthcoming about my issues in an effort to help and support others. If you are struggling with food and body image issues, seek help now. Not tomorrow. Not next week or month. Right now. The National Eating Disorders Association is a wonderful place to start: NationalEatingDisorders.org
Day 44 of the Nowhere To Be Project was all about the 90’s. My daughter has been relying on public transportation for the better part of two years. She recently got a job that was out of the bounds of the county bus. Mommy to the rescue! I told her that I’d buy her a very used car for the work commute. I’ve been looking here and there for a month and finally found the one for her, a very well-loved and cared for 1997 Toyota 4Runner. The car is a mere two years younger than she is, but she absolutely adores it!
After going with her to the DMV to obtain the title and license plates, we went to have extra keys made. As we were walking in to the hardware store I asked her what she’d like to name her new ride. She thought for a moment about the car’s age before exclaiming, “It’s Britney!” I loved seeing her sense of humor and genuine delight with the well-worn wheels. We placed the finishing touches on the car with four golden unicorn stickers on back window to further personalize the new-to-her 4×4. There’s really nothing quite like your first car, no matter how used it happens to be. Britney it shall be.