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Sunday, April 13, 2014


Dear Mom,

It is FINALLY starting to feel like the long winter is over...even though it was 40 and rainy early in the week. I haven't yet retired the boots and tights but am hoping both will soon be on their way back into storage. 

I kicked off the weekend by doing my taxes on Friday night...which is a "geez, I am middle-aged, aren't I?" moment for sure. Although I was annoyed at myself for procrastinating, I'd just felt overwhelmed by other chores most weekends.

Anyway, it was great to get them done, and I celebrated by watching Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Yesterday, I got to meet the McKeowns for coffee, as they were here to celebrate William Hugh's inclusion in the American Watercolor Society show at the Salmagundi Club. They met me at Amy's Bread, where, funny enough, I bumped into a colleague who has inspired me and is someone I hope will be one of my mentors. She and I chatted while we waited in line, and it seemed quite poetic to between two women who have helped me at different life stages -- as you may recall, I'm not sure I would have gotten into Duke if it hadn't been for the huge bump in SAT Math I got from Sara Ruth's pre-calculus class! She was really a phenomenal instructor, and I still think of the problems she had us work to understand the way interest is compounded. 

We popped up to my roof to check out the view... 
Then we went on the High Line...those photos are on their camera, but maybe I will get them once they settle in at home. 

I loved seeing them, and of course you would call William Hugh a "poster child" for self-reinvention during retirement. It's quite remarkable what he's accomplished as an artist in the last decade or so. 

After that little outing, I met Kathleen at Grand Central to take the Metro North line to the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx for the annual orchid show. 

We were both sorta fascinated by this lady...

...which inspired a selfie...


I snapped this because I want to read up a bit on orchids, as I guess they are essentially an androgynous flower? I'm trying to recall if Susan Orlean got into that at all in The Orchid Thief.

This is going backwards because of the way the photos uploaded from my phone, but before the exhibit, we hit Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for lunch -- a/k/a "The REAL Little Italy." This took a bit of wrangling, as cabs were not exactly plentiful. It was probably a doable walk, but we didn't really have a sense of the lay of the land.

It's definitely ripe for a return trip, as we loved strolling around the market and window shopping at the bakeries.

Our pal Julia suggested we hit Dominick's for lunch. It was fun. There's no menu, and the tables are all long and shared. The old couple beside us was very interested in providing suggestions, which irritated the waiter. Kathleen went old-school mobster to protect her white jacket...
We both really enjoyed the food, and though I wouldn't say it was any better than most Italian-American joints, the atmosphere and no menu aspect added a lot, and we can't wait to recruit more friends for our return trip.
Continuing the "backwards theme..." Friday afternoon, 53rd Street was closed for President Obama's motorcade, which I caught as I headed home.  
Monday night was my first session with my new hypnotherapist. I think it's going to be really good for me. It's stirring up a lot of writing-related stuff. The phrase "the story you have to tell" is starting to feel really resonant for me. I snagged these quotes from something Page shared.

 On the book note...I started reading this, which several people have recommended.
Aaaand -- Tulio was in town this week from Brazil! He brought his friend Fred, and I invited them over for dinner on Tuesday night. Just a simple salmon with mustard sauce and herbs, with rice and veggies.
 I used my napkins from Aunt Debbie and Holle's preserves for the appetizer spread.
They arrived on Sunday morning, and we spent Sunday afternoon strolling around, as it was just gorgeous outside. We grabbed a bite at a place on Hudson Street in my old neighborhood. Kurt met us for a few minutes to say hello.
 Naturally, I took them on the High Line...
They wanted to go to B&H Electronics, which I didn't even know about. It's an electronics super store on 34th Street, and it's owned/run by Orthodox Jews. Since they get a lot of foreign customers, they are very accustomed to Brazilians, and the guys were waited on by Portuguese-speaking guys with quintessentially Jewish names like Shlomo, which I found rather hilarious.

 Fred has bad knees, so I tried not to wear them out with too much walking, but you know me...
It was a lovely weekend, as I spent most of Saturday afternoon just strolling around Central Park by myself and enjoying the sunshine...

Okay, that's all for now. There is some other "news" I would tell you if this weren't public. And, truth be told, it made me kinda sad not to be able to call you and tell you when it happened on Thursday. But it's a good thing in the big picture, and I can kinda sense what you would have told me you thought I should do anyway.

So, more to come on that, but for now I am off to church for Palm Sunday. Miss Betty sent a sweet text yesterday to show us that the palms at Centenary today are in your memory from her, Patsy and Karen. Extra special for sure.

Too bad the donkey costume is long gone! Benjamin and William, Owen and Anna would be almost big enough to wear it.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Daddy Dave

Daddy Dave & Mama Barbara

Dear Mom,

When I was in Charlotte with Leigh Ann two weeks ago, I got in a good visit with Mama Barbara and Daddy Dave. Barbara's sister Kay was in town, and I took Dave some of MaMay's cookies that Miss Martha made for us to eat on the road. He loves a sugary treat!

It was a bittersweet visit because they are experiencing what we so recently experienced. I figured they wanted visitors who brought along as many laughs as possible, so I tried to entertain them with tales of my latest adventures. Barbara sent a sweet email to say how tickled they were to see me.

Just like you, Dave has a lot of friends who love him and could go on and on about his unique personality, his wit, and his big, soft heart.

I'm really grateful they got to know you. Christmas of 2010 in Charlotte will always be a happy memory. Leigh Ann and I realized late that week their kids would be out of town, so we said, "Y'all come over for Christmas brunch!" Xanie and Joe came too, and we all had the best time.

Barbara made those fabulous cheese grits. I wish I had some right now!!

Dave's Seminole roots had made him part of our Tallahassee tribe, and Debra and Howard had met Dave years earlier when he gave us the family tour of the Bank of America trading floor.

Leigh Ann's friendship with the Cribbs family goes back longer, but mine started in spring of 2004, right after I moved to Charlotte, when Dave and Marc went on the Costa Rica mission trip, and Virginia was my trusty sidekick. She and I tickled ourselves to death flirting with Marc! Of course, that was long before he met Sarah...and before Virginia had the twins.
Virginia and I called ourselves the "Gatorade Brigade," and we mostly delivered cold drinks to the people doing the real work. But we did make ourselves useful on the saw, thanks to her familiarity with the art of measuring twice and cutting once.
Funny enough, I don't have many photos from that trip, and I don't have any of Dave, other than that big group shot when we all crossed paths in the San Jose airport.
Here's one from a mission trip out west with Dave's favorite project, Red Feather. They build houses for Native Americans.

When you first got sick, Virginia sent a beautiful card that said this:
"I have always admired the wonderful relationship that Lynsley and Leigh Ann have, and that only comes from having a mother like you who values family and embodies the sentiment that family includes community and church as well as blood relatives."

You taught us in Quincy that our church family was a real family, and I know you were proud we continued that in Charlotte.

Dave has been such a leader in outreach at our church. I really can't imagine Myers Park United Methodist Church without him. Here's what is on my heart to tell him this morning:

Daddy Dave,

I am so glad God brought me into your church family. You have shown me so much about what it means to love and to serve. You are funny and clever and wise and kind. The partnership you and Barbara have has been such a perfect example for me of what it means to live a godly marriage. You guys are always smiling and laughing together. Your life is centered around church and family, and you really are best friends. 

Both of you took Leigh Ann and me under your wings and treated us like we were your own. We were already special friends, and then we found out what your family had gone through, and we became even closer. 

I can hear your voice and your laugh so clearly! Leigh Ann and I sure are going to miss you when we have a wacky dating tale to tell. Nobody loved our silly stories more than you. The false teeth, the homeless man, the wet car seat, the "big boys." Oh, what fun it was to head over and tell you the latest eye-rolling adventure from life on the single circuit. And no one else will ever, ever love eating that caramel pound cake as much as you did! 

It's been a blessing having so much in common with you guys, but we sure wouldn't have picked cancer as another common bond. You've been so strong, so brave, such a fighter. I hope you can feel at the depth of your soul that you are deeply and truly loved. Your spirit has brought love, grace and strength to this world. And best of all, laughter. So much laughter. 

You've been going through this longer than Mom did, and I know you are tired. But it must be so hard to leave those sweet grandbabies, your many friends, and of course your very best friend. But know this: you are dearly loved and will be deeply missed. 

And as I told you when I said goodbye, now it's time for you and Mom to put your heads together upstairs and get busy finding those elusive sons-in-law. Jennifer, Leigh Ann and I will be on the lookout. I hope y'all send them to us in a funny way that makes one of those good stories you would have loved. Maybe we can give Bobby B. your proxy, and he'll grill them hard for the both of you. You have taught us what to look for. We will make you proud. 

I love you always,


Saturday, April 5, 2014

It's All About Timing

Dear Mom,

Is there anything lovelier than a day when you have absolutely nowhere you have to be? I'm enjoying one of those, and it's just glorious! I do have a few things I really need to do...namely cleaning, doing my taxes, and finishing my thank you notes. (Leigh Ann might feel relieved that her share of your estate-related chores are all wrapped up, since she did all the financial stuff. But I can't be sending out sloppy thank you notes when we talked in your eulogy about how well you trained us in that department!)

Anyway, I had a nice long talk with Miss Frances and told her all of this, as I thought she'd be one of the few people who wouldn't mind listening! Now it's your turn...

The bottom line is I'm going here:

But it's the story about how I'm getting there that I want to tell you.

Monday ended up being 24 of the most synchronous hours I've ever lived. I was calling them serendipitous until Frances said she likes to call those moments (life's little coincidences) synchronicities. "Hmm...I thought...what's the difference?"

Using the knowledge of Latin roots you loved to teach us, I realized synchronicity must be related to time... I looked up both words:

Serendipity: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for

Synchronicity: the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality —used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung. 

Seriously? Jung shows up in the definition? Holy cow, there's another one! More to come on that. But okay, synchronicity is definitely the bucket we want. Moving on... 

Aaaaanyway, you may recall I've been obsessed with the idea of going to Mozambique since 2006, when Leigh Ann and I went to Africa with Lisa, Hilary, Rebecca and Laura. Let's do a quick flash back to that trip, for those who weren't along for the ride back then.

We started in Cape Town...

Visited Table Mountain...
Toured the Cape Peninsula...

Drove ourselves into the wine country on the "wrong side" of the road, with yours truly behind the wheel of this stick-shift VW van...

Toured vineyards, tasted wine, and sampled delicious gourmet South African cuisine...

Made my very first visit to one of the world's top restaurants, Le Quartier Frances in Franschoek, where I experienced my first-ever tasting menu... 

That was the night Hilary complimented my tiny, perfectly packed "magical suitcase" that kept producing cute outfits! 
Next, we did a safari at a private game reserve... 


We went to Zimbabwe to visit Victoria Falls...
 Cruised on the Zambezi River at sunset...

Zimbabwe was not at all what we expected, and I could write a looooong post on why, but I'm so glad we went there for a number of reasons...the silliest of which is that Hilary snapped this hilarious photo of Leigh Ann and me when the other girls got stuck at immigration.
Have books, will travel! Looks like something from the Gadsden County Nursing Home, not a border crossing in Africa. Moving on... 

During the safari portion, we spent hours doing early morning and late afternoon game drives with our ranger, Van, and our tracker, Musa. And while we were cruising to capture moments like these...

 There was also A LOT of drive time. HOURS of it. Poor Van. Trapped in a Jeep with six talkative females.
Musa was lucky. He was watching the road for fresh animal tracks, so he missed a lot of our jabbering.
Van found creative ways to pass the hours between animal sightings. One day, he challenged us to an impala dung-spitting contest, which he of course won by a mile. 

Eventually, though, we wore him down and won him over with our stories. They included Lisa's hilarious and disgusting medical tales ("So they finally diagnosed her. You know what the doctors said she had, Van? Tater twat!"), and our dating sagas, including the patented tales "My Date with a Homeless Man" and "That Time I Almost Called You to Interpret the Secret Spanish Letter I Found from That Liar's Ex-Girlfriend." 

Honestly, I wish I had a picture of Van's face, his chin cradled in his hand, in rapt attention, as Hilary finished one of her longer fireside tales. "That was an amazing story. Indeed. I enjoyed that one very much," he laughed.

When we left, Van wrote down a few wise words for us in my trusty trip notebook. He told us to stop being so picky. Our biological clocks were ticking! 

Well, it's been six years, and I'm clearly not following Van's advice. But I am following the other "helpful hint" he gave me. After learning I spoke Portuguese, he told me about this place, Benguerra Lodge, on the coast of Mozambique. At the time, it was owned by the same people who owned Jackalberry Lodge, which employed Van in South Africa. 

Since 2006, I've occasionally googled it and been absolutely obsessed with visiting Mozambique. And I've tried my best to find someone else who wanted to go with me. No dice. 

Last Monday, as I started to plan my sabbatical, Leigh Ann forwarded me an email from a group Lisa has traveled with, Adventures for Singles. 

At first, I was leery of joining a big trip. But then I saw where they were going: Mozambique and Zululand. There was ONE SPOT LEFT for a female. 

The itinerary sounds pretty amazing. We're not going to Benguerra Lodge -- I'll keep saving that one for my honeymoon! But I did notice the tour company appears to have lifted one of Benguerra's photos off the internet. That shot of the tent on the beach in the Mozambique collage is from the AFS trip materials. I'll consider that a "sign." 

And as Leigh Ann noted -- it's proof that you have to share your dreams if you want them to come true. If I hadn't been so vocal about my itch to go to Mozambique, she never would have passed along the email. 

Within 24 hours, I'd pulled the trigger and signed up for the trip. It's going to be incredible. They've rented an entire resort on the Indian Ocean for us to stay a few days...we'll also do a safari in Zululand and stay in a tree house! 

The group trip is just a week. After all this buildup, that didn't seem like enough time. So, I emailed my friend Carey, who's been working in Maputo. Now...Carey is herself another little "synchronicity story," as she went on the first group trip I led to Rio in 2006, and was inspired to study Portuguese at Wake Forest, hence her work in Africa. 

It never ceases to amaze me that if I hadn't moved to Dothan, Alabama, in 1998 and gone on that very first mission trip, then all of that Rio stuff never would have happened! 

Anyway, I got to be a link in Carey's life chain, and now she's going to be a link in mine, as she's giving me ideas of other spots I can go in Mozambique, and inspiring me with her current work for an NGO in Uganda.   

Life is beautiful, isn't it, Mom? 

The other thing about my sabbatical planning that you would just love is I'm going to try and visit Arthur and Freya in Switzerland. 
I love this photo of you guys laughing and having fun at Blucher's house when Arthur was in town to visit his mother. He wrote the loveliest response to my random email and said they'd love to see me this summer. It was too cool. 

And there's our Jungian connection! I can't wait to learn more about Arthur's studies of Jung. (On that note, I'm seeing a hypnotherapist on Monday. I'd been looking for one, and Rosanne Cash mentioned one in her memoir. Lucky for me, he's taking new clients!)

This may sound really hokey or whackadoodle to some people, but another link in the synchronicity chain was watching the How I Met Your Mother finale on Monday night. I can't spoil it, as Hilary and Jeff are behind on their viewing, as he's been working mad hours. 

BUT -- the bottom line is that show -- which has always felt really relevant to me, as the characters are basically my age -- seemed like another sign from the universe: Hang in there. Enjoy the ride. There's a happy ending in store, and it might not be the one you expected, but when you get there, it will all make sense. So, enjoy the journey. 'Cause you're on a great one.  

The finale reminded me a lot of one of my favorite exchanges from the show:
Timing's a bitch ~robin scherbatsky
I shared all of this with a dear friend and fellow seeker, and she sent the perfect response: 
I'm a firm believer that the universe sends us messages and points us in the right direction; we just have to be open to receiving those clues. 
A recurring theme I've encountered in yoga is that of resistance versus surrender and accepting that the place where you are is exactly where you need to be.  In other [inartful] words, when you're trying so hard to MAKE something happen, but keep running up against such incredible obstacles in pushing the ball forward or getting to the next step or whatever it may be, it might not be that which should be happening or should be seeking.  But when doors open and you feel like you're moving with the current, that's when it's important to acknowledge the ease with which your actions move you forward and see where it takes you.
Those days like you had on Monday when everything falls in place are so very rare but so very special.
It's terribly bittersweet to be so excited about this summer of travel knowing how much you would have loved to be part of it. But my love of new places and sense of adventure comes from you. And while I recognize I've already been incredibly fortunate to take many "trips of a lifetime," I feel like this summer is going to be an amazing one on all sorts of levels. You always said you lived vicariously through me and Leigh Ann, and I still sense that dynamic at work.
And yes -- there will be some destinations that YOU had on YOUR bucket list -- which I know would NOT have included Mozambique! Stay tuned for more of the itinerary, most of which won't entail quite this much of an explanation.
Then again...who am I kidding! It always takes me a while to tell a good story. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it?    
Love you and miss you. 

P.S. If other readers are intrigued by this trip, I'll happily put them in touch with my friend Dianne Titlestad, in Charlotte our incredible travel agent and a South African native.