A Traveler’s Terrene

You only live once. What are you going to remember the most?

A Moment in History: The Inauguration of Barack Obama January 20, 2009

I am sitting on my parent’s tan couch, feet up on the ottoman, the sound of trumpets and loud cheering are filling the living room while I watch on television as President Elect Barack Obama walks down a red and blue carpet, his face wavering between smiles and concentrated thought before taking a seat in a blue leather armchair that faces out towards the hundreds of thousands of spectators that are bundled up in hats, gloves and warm coats on the National Mall in front of the capital as they wait with great enthusiasm for the inauguration of the 44th President to commence.

Now, less than an hour later, Barack Obama has been sworn in as the 44th President of the United States and has addressed the nation with the current challenges that face America as well as his optimistic visions in addressing these issues head on.

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time, but know this, America — they will be met,” he said.

I find comfort in these words. They are not inflated with illusions that all of America’s problems will magically vanish now that Obama is President. He does not sugarcoat the gravity of America’s situation nor does he promise instant resolutions. Instead, Obama is honest about the detrimental crises that face our society, and the challenge it will be to restore or improve the nation’s economic, political and social standings.

“The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise healthcare’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”

Obama’s goals for the nation are set high, and some may argue that they are unrealistic given our current situation.  Yet, why would we want a President who’s goals are set low? America does not need a President who is looking for a short fix for our nation in order to save face or to please the public. America does not need someone who wants to sew a patch on our current problems. America needs someone who is willing to rip that hole bigger, to rip out the old threads that are sewn in a zig zag mess or on the verge of breaking and to start new–thread and needle in hand, mending at the root of the problem even though it may take longer, yet, in the end it will be easier to sew a straight line.

A small goal is the same as a large goal, they are both goals and will only be accomplished by one thing…action. It is President Obama’s commitment towards action to address America’s challenges that will propel this nation forward.  President Obama will not coddle America through this recession, but rather challenge the public and the government to strive for high aspirations as we rebuild our society by combining imagination and courage to carve our own path and foundation for the future.

 

Three Reasons I Heart Google January 16, 2009

For Christmas I asked for Microsoft Office for Mac; however, I am finding that although it is a great program, I am not using it for my writing like I imagined I would. Instead, I have become addicted to Google Documents. I still am exploring what Google Documents has to offer, but here are just a few of my top favorite features, which in my opinion are AMAZING!

1. Accessible anywhere–When I was on my around the world trip I didn’t take a computer and instead wrote story ideas, poems, thoughts and reflections all in multiple journals (I was a freak and carried two leather bound, one plastic covered, and two smaller journals.  One of my worst nightmares is to be caught idle without pen and paper!) The fact that I can freehand write, then type it into a Google document for safekeeping while I’m on the go is priceless. And, now that I am back home, I still prefer to type in Google documents because I never have to mess with uploading or downloading files, making sure I pulled the correct versions, or worry about leaving my files on my computer, hard drive or flash stick.

**Note my next big trip I might take my computer, but then  1) I would have to worry about battery life, and most places I stayed on this trip didn’t have electricity 2)I would be “weighted” down with fear of losing or getting my computer stolen 3) I write a lot when I am outdoors…dust…rain…sun…you name it…not so computer friendly…

2. Sharing Option: When I first started planning my trip I created a master spreadsheet of all of the things I needed to do, their current state and next steps. I also created a packing list, an estimated budget and a rough itinerary of some of the places I wanted to go. The majority of my trip, we travelled by the seat of our pants, going places people recommended, using the city’s I-site for information, or pulling information from guide books.  However, before leaving the states I put together a rough itinerary spreadsheet and sent it to my fellow travel companions and we were all able to modify, change, and add information in real time (no kidding, you can see the other person’s cursor moving and typing in the document if you are both working on it at the same time–a little eerie but cool.) Even though my parents never used it, I shared the files with them so they could have a rough idea of where we were (places/dates always ended up changing but at least they knew what country I was in!)

3. Revision History–Everyone writes differently. When I write I continually save throughout my writing (every 10-20 minutes or so) as I have gotten burned before, loosing everything I had written. Devastating, but lesson learned. Now a days it is common to have an autosave feature to back up your work as you type so you don’t have to, this blog for example does it for me.  I never found a feature like this in a normal Word doc (and maybe it existed but I never knew?), and sometimes I would write something, save it and realize that what I had written before was better but have no way of retrieving it because I saved over it! (and, yes, I’m not super techy so I’m sure there probably was a way to retrieve the files…)

With a Google Word Document, all you have to do is: go to your Tools Tab select Revision History and a full page including the date and edit revisions are recorded. You never have to worry about losing that “perfect sentence” again–you can always go back later on and retrieve it! If you kill off that character but wish you hadn’t—oh wait, he can come back to life.  And, the information is presented in a non-effacing way. You click on the dates you want, and can compare the difference in changes.

Genius. Love it.

 

Update: NOT a message by George Carlin January 15, 2009

The amazing thing about the web is that it is a gatekeeper for false information. My friend Patrick informed me that this widely circulated essay known as, “The Paradox of Our Time” is not written by George Carlin, but rather Dr. Bob Moorehead, former pastor of Seattle’s Overlake Christian Church. Thank you Patrick for pointing this out, and “whoo whoo” to Dr. Moorehead for being from Seattle!

Here is the post Patrick sent me discussing this topic: http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/paradox.asp

 

A Message by George Carlin

My friend Jamie sent me the email below, and since it touched me when I read it, I thought I would share it with you as well. George Carlin was a comedian from the 70’s and 80’s, and although I hardly knew who he was (besides the ending quote that I more often remember as just the quote from the movie Hitch), his words are powerful and his message is strong. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…

A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower
viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and  smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We  drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.

Remember: spend some time  with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember: say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember: to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember: to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember: to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

George Carlin

 

Stuff…Stuff…and MORE STUFF… January 14, 2009

I’ve spent the last 3 days cleaning out my old high school room at my parent’s house and I cannot believe how much STUFF I have accumulated over the past 10 years…and sadly, I have only scratched the surface as a lot of the boxes have been moved from my room when they painted and redecorated.

Some of the stuff is easy and it goes straight to the trash or give away pile, but other stuff is harder to sort through, like presents given to me from my parents when I was a child. There is this elegant ballerina snow globe my dad gave me when I was a little girl, it’s memorable because HE gave it to me, but it’s nothing I would display in my future house or apartment. Do I keep it or give it away to a little girl who would truly appreciate it?

Or how about high school memorabilia? I have a full box of “Most Inspirational”, “Most Valuable Player” or “Team Captain” plaques from my glory days on the varsity volleyball, basketball and softball teams. Sports were my life growing up and these   awards are great reminders of my hard work and perseverance to push and challenge my mind and body to achieve goals I set for myself, but on the other hand I look at these plaques now and they are only clutter. Really what am I going to do with them? I would never put them on display, but I feel guilty in throwing them away or giving them to a secondhand store.

And what about cards and letters? I haven’t looked at all of them but I probably have a shoebox full of birthday cards and notes from friends and family. On one hand, it is great to look back through a few and read them–it brings me back to a different time in my life. On the other hand, what do I do with them? Right now, I can leave them in a box at my parents because they have a lot of storage, but when they move I’ll need to take them and I like to be mobile not weighted down by things.

Since travelling I have become a minimalist–I don’t need a lot of things, and I don’t want clutter. However, so, far the only ideas I’ve come up with on what to do with my stuff I’m torn about whether saving or getting rid of, is to take pictures of the objects I no longer want but still want to remember, and give them away. As for the letters, pick out only a few that will fit into a manila envelope and purge the rest. This is just what I am thinking now…but any other advice or helpful tips on how to appreciate your things from the past but eliminate clutter in the future, I would love to hear it!

 

WWW…what? January 13, 2009

I love discovering useful websites. Below are some new websites I’ve become addicted to as well as a few oldies that I have been using for awhile but am still surprised people don’t know about–like Pandora, seriously the BEST music device ever! Hope you enjoy…and don’t forget to leave a post with a few of your favorite sites!

Trip Filma: http://www.tripfilms.com/
My brother just introduced me to this. It’s like you tube, but travel specific, and if you submit a video you get the added perk of earning points and rewards the more times people view your videos! Plus, the site promotes cool promotions like free trips or meals. LOVE IT. And, yes…when I buy my camera…you will see a lot of Cindy Swain travel videos!

Pandora: http://pandora.com/
The best music player I’ve found on the web. You pick an artist or song and the player will generate similar music. It’s perfect for dinner parties as you don’t have to create playlists, you learn about new artists and it’s free! What are my top stations I’m listening to right now: Joshua Radin, Louis Armstrong, Snow Patrol, Leona Lewis and Chris Brown

Hulu: http://www.hulu.com/
Free streaming movie and television shows. Endless entertainment at your fingertips.

Coupon Cabin: http://www.couponcabin.com/index.htm?ref=pandora1208_2
I haven’t used this site yet, but it has promise if it does work. Who wants to pay full price for items when you can get a discount?

Skype: http://skype.com/welcomeback/
I used this site all throughout my travels to make cheap phone calls home. The best part, however, is that if both people have Skype then the call is FREE! You heard me. Free. Plus, you can talk on videochat with a click of a button (You’ll need a webcam and mic though. For mac users and new pc’s you probably have this built in.) I’m also signed up for videochat on Gmail as well, which is pretty much the same. Videochat is how I am going to see my nephew grow and talk, have dinner with my parents a thousand miles away (they can just set the laptop on the counter!) and feel connected to the places and people I love.

Photofunia: http://www.photofunia.com
A fun site that let’s you easily get creative with your photos–perfect for those of us who don’t have photoshop!

 

Finding Serenity… January 10, 2009

Hotel Deca

Right now I am sitting on a purple velvet sofa in front of warm fire. A skinny sugar-free Carmel latte’ in hand, I am warm on both the inside and out.  The walls are decorated with large pieces of art–oil on canvas–my favorite. There is a tall dark wooden book shelf to my right lined with colorful glass vases that reflect the dim light given off by the frosted glass lamps lining each of the two columns in the entrance way which are jutting upwards like tulips glistening in the yellow sun, constantly reaching for that warm ray of light. Instrumental music is playing from the speakers overhead, it is a combination of jazz and spa-like melodies enhancing my surrounding like smooth whip cream on top of a steaming hot chocolate–it just wouldn’t be complete with out it.

My leather bound journal is lying open next to me, lusting for attention like a women lying naked on her back in bed.  Black ink covers the page, words for my book are staring back at me as I type them into a Google document. Words I wrote while in the airport coming back from California, on my brother’s couch in Kenmore, during a traffic jam in Bellevue–materializing on paper when I finally get the opportunity to isolate myself and write, which has been infrequent since I have been back in Seattle.

Writing has become a drug: I want to write all the time, and the cravings only intensify when I can’t get my fix. I have become an addict. I’ll be out with friends, watching my nephew, hanging out with my family–all of things I want to do, but with an addiction, you have no control over the feelings affecting your mind and body. My fingers beat the table, yearning for my keyboard–I want to feel the keys under my fingertips, I ache to see the words fill the wall of whiteness in front of me, I lust after the emotions that fill my insides as I write, overwhelming me like a storm in the sea, rising and falling, thrashing ferociously and then suddenly–everything becomes calm.  A feeling of tranquility rushes through me.  I am in my zen. I have found serenity.