“Once you have tasted the sky, you will forever look up.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
I’ve written several posts on the subject of being thankful, including the Grace in Small Things series. Today, I thought that I would focus on things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life that have helped to shape me into the person I am.
Having the opportunity to see original masterpieces by Renoir, Monet, Glackens, Bernini, Van Gogh, Klimt, Morisot, Wyeth, Hopper, Sargent, Kadinsky, Pollock, Caravaggio, Tiffany, Manet, Leighton, Rembrant, Tissot, Matisse, Veronese, Rothko, as well as ancient Ethiopian art, tribal masks dating back to the 12th century, real Samurai armor and weapons, and photography by Brady, Stieglitz, Bourke-White, Mann, Strand.
Walking through a tropical rain forest in Africa and seeing shades of green that I never knew existed. Crossing a hanging rope bridge that was situated high in the air above a stream.
Sitting in the dark and listening to live performances by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Seeing Nureyev and Margot Fontaine perform.
Hiding in the trunk of a car to get into a drive-in movie for free and then not watching the movie because it was too scary.
Going snorkeling in the Caribbean
Walking among the ruins of Tulum amid the huge iguanas and then eating fresh guacamole with cold Sol atop a small mountain.
Seeing the volcano in Baguio, Philippines
Riding up a mountain to get to Baguio in a bus very much like the ones you see in the movies, which was filled with villagers, chickens, a pig, old women, and my very American mother.
Reading some of the best literature ever written: all of Shakespeare, Michael Ondaatje, Marlow, and far too many others to mention.
Meeting some of my favorite poets and writers in person at literary festivals, including Chris Buckley, Mary Oliver, Tim O’Brien, Barry Lopez, Caroline Forché, Bruce Weigl, and many others
Working in a newsroom right at the crest of computers. Watching the paper be printed, smelling the ink.
Attending three wonderful universities: The George Washington, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion.
Doing on-camera interviews for the museum, which sometimes meant being at the studio at 5 a.m, but still fun.
Performing for the Queen Mother in London in a Dances of Asia program.
Starring as Rizzo in Grease.
Participating in a drum-making ceremony with a drum master.
Working in a donut shop for a few months during high school and getting to bring home the leftovers.
Dancing on the runway at a go go bar for a story on the Norfolk nightlife.
Hanging out over the water in a trapeze while sailing on a catamaran in the Chesapeake Bay
Going cave tubing and not feeling the least bit claustrophobic
Hiking on the trails at Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
Getting my four-cylinder Pontiac Sunbird up to 80 mph while driving home from Blacksburg one Sunday night
Attending grade school in London
Going to a military tattoo in Scotland and sitting in the outdoor stadium wrapped up in blankets because it was so cold.
Seeing huge statues in the mountains of Spain as we drove through the country.
Seeing live concerts by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Sugarland, Norah Jones, and a bunch of other people I can’t remember.
Playing Chopin and Mozart on a grand piano at a recital in front of 100 people.
These are just a few of the highlights. I deliberately did not include anything personal about my children, husband, family, or friends as that is an entirely different list. But putting these things down in words makes me realize how very many opportunities I have had in my life to travel, to embrace other cultures, to see stunning natural and man-made beauty.
I have done things that I never thought that I would do, and I have seen in person things that I had only dreamt of.
I have not led a life of privilege, but I have been privileged to have had these experiences. There is nothing on this list that is earth-shattering, nor is there anything that changed humanity. But individually and collectively, these moments in time have changed me in ways seen and unseen. They have moved me to tears and made me cry with delight. Trite as it may sound, I have had a wonderful life.
More later. Peace.
Itzhak Perlman performing Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” a song that I performed in recital at Virginia Wesleyan College.
Fifty Things About Me That Are Totally Irrelevant:
My middle name is Gayle. Just think about that for a minute . . . Lolita Gayle. Can you perceive any possible rhyme or reason why those two names might be linked together in any way? Me neither. It has always dumbfounded me as to why my parents chose this for my middle name, and I have always hated having Gayle as my middle name. It’s not the name that I hate, per se. It’s the name in conjunction with my first name. No poetry there. No melody. No logic. But what can you do? My daughter hates her middle name also, and her father and I thought that it went very well with her first name, so I suppose that it’s just one of those parent things.
Whenever I go to a bar, I order three things simultaneously: whatever liquor I’m drinking, for example Kahlua and cream, plus a glass of iced water, and a cup of hot tea. This is one of the reasons that I like to go to places where the wait staff knows me. They don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I place my order. Why do I do this? Why is my middle name Gayle? Exactly. Actually, I like to drink all three things at once. I pace myself by drinking water throughout the night, and I like my hot tea. I’m not a big drinker in the first place, so my combo works very well for me.
I have only had short hair a few times in my life, and the times that I did have it, I hated it. I’m just not a short hair person. I feel like I look like a monkey when I have short hair. Of course when I was a child, my mother used to chop off my hair regularly. She would see a hairstyle that she thought was very chic, and then I would lose hair. I hated it when she would do that.
I have always been a flaming liberal, and females who say that they aren’t feminists don’t really understand the true definition of the word.
I have two crooked toes. They were never broken, but the fourth toe on each foot is curved like a comma. It has never really bothered me unless someone asks me about it.
Speaking of toes, I have Filipino toes, as in, I can pinch with my toes and pick up things with my toes. I know, also very strange, but trust me, this is not an unusual trait among Filipinos.
Cats make me have asthma attacks, which is a shame since cats love me, and if I enter a house in which a cat resides, said cat will make a beeline for my face.
My favorite thing to do when I go out is singing Karaoke. That’s because I’m a ham and a thwarted Broadway star. I had planned to run away to New York after high school, but it never happened.
I’m a classically-trained pianist, but never felt that I was very good at it, even after 14 years of lessons.
I have been a vegetarian a couple of times in my life, and there was no particular reason for it other than I got tired of eating red meat. I’ve never been a vegan and don’t even have the least idea as to how one does that.
I love Beethoven as much as I love the Beatles, Frederic Chopin as much as I love Kenny Chesney, Stravinsky as much as I love Springsteen. My playlists usually cover about four genres of music.
More than just about anything else, reading is my favorite way to pass the time. Reading on a tropical beach is even better. Reading a good mystery on a tropical beach with an umbrella drink is the best.
My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love to decorate the house and to buy the perfect presents for the people in my life. No one else in my family gets as excited about Christmas, and that always makes me a bit melancholy.
I make lots of lists—grocery lists, shopping lists, to do lists—and I lose them almost as soon as I make them, which kind of negates the whole purpose of lists.
I always keep my toenails painted. When I went into labor with Alexis, I took the time to paint my toenails and mop the kitchen floor. One of the things I hated about having back surgery was my inability to paint my toenails for a while.
I have worked as a writer, editor, marketing director, resume writer, newsroom supervisor, grants writer, proposal development specialist, graduate teaching assistant, university English instructor, membership coordinator, publications manager, 6th grade public school teacher, senior education specialist, and research and development assistant. The job that I hated the most was teaching 6th grade for Norfolk Public Schools. The job that I loved the most was teaching at a university. The environment that I enjoyed working in the most was at an arts museum. The environment that I enjoyed working in the least was for a non-profit help group.
I have been to the following countries: England, Scotland, France, Germany, Morocco, the Philippines, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize, and Spain. The places that I have not yet been to that still want to see include Ireland, Wales, Greece, Costa Rica, Australia, China, and New Zealand.
A job that I think I would have been good at? Being a crime analyst (in the lab, not in the field). I love solving mysteries, and it seems that analyzing evidence would be one of those jobs that would continue to evolve.
The major that I seriously considered and actually regret not pursuing is marine biology. I considered pre-med, psychology, and anthropology. I ended up getting two of my degrees in English, but I have always been interested in life under the sea. I did take my LSAT’s because I was going to go to law school when we moved to northern Virginia, but then I got pregnant with Alexis and changed my mind.
I almost bought a 27-foot boat when I was in college that I wanted to live on. Do I regret not doing this one? Absolutely. How often are you that free in your life? No ties, no debts, the ability to make life-changing decisions. I was completely stupid for not following through on this one, and the only thing that held me back was fear.
My best feature? My legs. My worst feature? Everything else.
My favorite flower is lilac.
My favorite scent is Calvin Klein’s Eternity.
My favorite colors are black, red, and purple, in that order.
I love black leather boots, my full-length black leather coat, and squooshy black leather hobo bags. My favorite leather designer is Kenneth Cole, and I don’t believe that you can ever have too many boots or purses.
I love cashmere but cannot wear it because it gives me a rash.
I love silk and wear it as often as possible.
I love the smell of freshly cut roses, but hate the smell of rose-scented candles.
My favorite jeans are Levi’s, and I cannot imagine ever paying $200 for a pair of jeans.
My favorite jewelry, besides my wedding rings, are my crosses. I have a gold Claddagh cross, a gold crucifix, and three rosaries. I am not Catholic.
I would have been a good lawyer because I like to win.
Among the things that I like to collect are watches, especially ones with big faces and leather straps.
My mom pierced my ears with a needle when I was 12.
I have one tattoo on my back. I want to get at least two other tattoos.
I am claustrophobic in crowded places: elevators, coliseums, rallies.
I can curse without moving my lips.
I spent several formidable years of my childhood in London, England. I went to a public school, and I had a very proper British accent. I haven’t been back to England since I was a child, and I would love to go back just to see how much it has changed.
My birthstone is garnet, but my favorite stone is aquamarine.
I am stupidly jealous, and more than once have made an idiot of myself because of it, but it stems from my insecurity.
I believe that if you make a promise, you should keep it even if it’s to a small child. If you know that you aren’t going to keep the promise, don’t make it. Broken promises cause disillusionment.
Keeping information from someone is the same thing as being dishonest. I know. This is probably a woman thing.
I could go my entire life without watching the NFL and never miss it.
I want to live in the mountains and by the sea.
I love good coffee, Belgium chocolate, and angel hair pasta.
I love fresh seafood, but refuse to eat lobster because I think that they should be allowed to live on the bottom of the ocean for as long as they can.
I miss wearing suits and heels.
I always have something on my lips, at least gloss, throughout the day.
I would love to pursue another degree.
Nothing is better for stress than a hot bath, lots of candles, a glass of wine, and someone washing your hair for you.
This is the longest amount of time that I have spent thinking about just myself in forever, and I only did it because I couldn’t think of anything else to post.
More later on a different subject. Promise. Peace.