September 2010

Remember the  “doody” scene in the movie “Caddyshack” when some kid yells “doodie!!”  Ted Night makes Bill Murray drain the swimming pool?  Why am I asking this, you wonder?

Let me back up a bit.  About 2 years ago, a group of 8 friends started a “Dinner And A Movie” (DAAM) club. Every other month, we all converge at Rick and Jen’s house and bring a dish based on the theme of the movie.  After a couple of hours of good food and fun, we retreat downstairs to watch the movie in the “Mancave“.  We keep the movie light, usually a comedy. Movies we have watched in the past include “City Slickers”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “This is Spinal Tap”.

For this week’s flick, with Caddyshack as the selected film (this year is the 30th anniversary of the movie), my contribution was “Baby Ruth dessert”.  We are free to do whatever we like with the given theme.  So here, with no further ado, is  my dessert.

Doo Doo! YUM!

Is there something special that you do with a group of friends?  I would love to hear about it here.

Hiking in the Lofoten Islands

“Julie, do you remember Beverly Barlow?” My Mom asked when she called to wish me Bon Voyage on my upcoming trip to Norway. It was more of a statement than a question. “Mary George’s niece, from Louisville. Remember her?”

The name was familiar, and I vaguely recollected a freckle-faced red head kid from many years ago.

“Yeah, I remember. She was my age and we used to play at the country club swimming pool when she came to visit.”

“That’s her. Well, guess what?  She lives in Norway!  You should visit her!”

Just that simple. I was leaving on my trip in three days. Not being a traveler herself, Mom obviously didn’t realize how meticulously I had worked on the perfect itinerary.  I discounted the idea initially. Upon continued reflection, though, I admit I was a tad intrigued.

Jeff and I had been planning a 2-week vacation in Norway for several months, and I had perfected our itinerary down to the latest bus schedules. Our plan was to have the “greenest” possible trip, using only public transportation, hostels and small, local lodgings when possible.

Since turning fifty last year, I‘ve had a self-revelation of sorts. There’s something about hitting the half-century mark that has encouraged me to reflect on life and the paths I chose to take. More than ever, I have been thinking about my past and long-lost relationships. My introduction to facebook has offered possibilities to rekindle old friendships as well as make some new ones.

Since Mom knew nothing more than Beverly’s married name and the city she lived in, I “faced” her, just out of curiosity.  Despite the decades, I immediately recognized the bronze-headed beauty that popped onto the screen.  Hmmmm….

Why not? I sent her a message. “Hey, Bev, you probably don’t remember me but…” yadda yadda yadda…

Within minutes, she “friended” me and sent me her response.  “I may not remember to put on matching earrings, or what I ate for breakfast, but I remembered you as soon as I saw your name in my in-box.”

After a few more messages, we figured out that she lived a good six hours from my northern-most stop in the Lofoten Islands, a good bit north of the Arctic Circle. Since my schedule was already set, circumscribed by non-refundable tickets and reservations, (Norway is billed as the most expensive travel destination in the world), we agreed that while it would be fun to hook-up, it may not be feasible logistically. We agreed to confer via email once I arrived in Norway though, and see if either of us could figure something out.

After examining our self-prescribed itinerary, Jeff and I agreed to combine two days of hiking and sightseeing into one, freeing up our last day in the Lofoten Islands.  After several back and forth emails and ample opportunities to opt-out, we agreed to meet up at the halfway point. Jeff and I rented a car and drove three hours north to Harstad, Norway. Bev took a ferry south.

Hiking above Geirangerfjord, Norway

“So, how long has it been since you’ve seen each other,” Jeff asked on the drive.

“Well, I think it’s been about forty years. We were around ten years old is my best guess.”

“Were you good friends?”

“More like ‘amicable acquaintances’, I’d say”

“What are you going to talk about?” Jeff, like a lot of guys, doesn’t see the point in meeting up with someone without an agenda.

“I really don’t know. Whatever comes up, I guess.” Now he’s making me question my motives. Am I crazy? Is this going to be awkward? I sit in silence much of the ride, second-guessing my motives.

As she stepped off the ferry, I immediately spotted her long auburn locks and easy smile. That’s her, no doubt about it. Running up to her, we hugged, then sat at a nearby café table with Jeff and chatted a bit before deciding where to have lunch. She already had a restaurant suggestion that she had researched. Ah! My kind of girl–a pre-planner.

Lingering over lunch at a lovely café just steps away from the water, time flew by. Fluent in Norwegian, she ordered us a beer and helped decipher the menu. We talked nonstop, not about our past (since there aren’t many memories), but of where our lives have taken us.

“I’ve lived in Norway for eight years,” Beverly explained. “My soon-to-be ex husband’s parents were Norwegian, so there are family ties. Even after separating, I’ve decided to stay. I can’t imagine leaving this place.” (I don’t blame her, Norway is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen.)

All of the taboo subjects were on-limits, including politics, religion, and the shared teenage/young adult experiences that go along with coming of age. Our experiences are remarkably similar, our philosophies and beliefs on par with one another’s. We laughed in near amazement, but not surprise, that we have many of the same general mantras and aspirations of writing books. We both agreed that after turning fifty last year, we are becoming more comfortable in our own skin.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the ferry. I regretted having to leave so soon, there was so much more I wanted to learn and share with Bev.

We hugged each other goodbye, but in reality, this was a hello hug. A welcome to my life, friend, hug.

Bev and me with Willy and the Boyz

Last night a couple of friends and I went to the first annual “Meet, Plan, Go” event at REI in Atlanta. These sessions were being held simultaneously in 13 cities around North America.  The intended purpose for MPG is to encourage people (especially Americans, who get notoriously little time off of work), to come together in a way that we can share ideas, experiences and questions on how to plan our own sabbatical. The hope and idea is that this will become a movement for change in the way we view and handle our work lives.

Travel was the focal point of the evening, and while not attempting to “sell” any specific travel destinations to the participants, a panel of several everyday-type folks shared their experiences of their own sabbaticals.  Sabbatical was  loosley defined as either a paid or unpaid strategic time away from the job.  Ranging from several weeks to a year or more, sabbaticals are a way to benefit the employer as much as the employee.  Employees, of course, benefit from time away to clarify goals and broaden their skills while the employer offering the sabbatical benefits from employee loyalty, increased innovation and renewed motivation.

Personally, I can attest that sabbaticals accomplish what they set out to do. When HK and I first moved to Atlanta, he went to work for a company that, after five years of continuous employment, gave him four weeks of paid sabbatical time in addition to his four week paid vacation.  In planning for this time off, we studied travel brochures (this was before the internet was used so widely in travel planning) and set aside money from each paycheck. When the time came, we combined the four weeks with two of his vacation weeks for a six week trip through New Zealand. The trip was a story in itself, but it whet our appetite to continue this lifestyle of renewal and rejuvenation from the daily grind.  (At the time, I was working part-time as a travel consultant, and was able to take that time away from my job).

Each city had different hosts, including  Atlanta’s, to Seattle’s Married with Luggage hosts, San Francisco’s Three Month Visa and Toronto’s Solo Traveler. Even though the host had various focuses, the overall message was the same-taking time off to experience new places will reap huge rewards in your life. As yourSabbatical quotes: Life holds a lot of possibilities. Make sure you’re available for them.

Have you ever taken an extended break from work? If so, what did you do? If not, what would you do? Does your company offer sabbaticals?

Meet Plan Go will be hosting a boot camp in January of 2011. They also plan to make MPG a yearly event to get momentum and enthusiasm for making your own career break. Check out their website for updates.

To quote Mark Twain:  “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in the things that you didn’t do than in thee ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER.”

Airport security in Oslo, Norway has pulled my backpack off the belt and re-scanned it three times now.

Security Woman:  “Ecksluter skala ut?” (Or something along those lines)

Me:  “Huh?”

Security screener makes direct eye contact with me.

Security: “Luftputebåten min er full av ål?”

Oh, they must want to know whose bag this is.

Me:  “Oh, That’s mine.”

A (cute) security man takes me and my bag over to a 2-walled cubicle.  Ohhhhh–maybe he’s gonna frisk me!

Cute Security Man:  “Ett språk er aldri nok.”

Me:  “Scuzi?”  (this is my attempt to impress him with my linguistic skills.)

CSM:  “Metal? Anything metal?”

Me:  “Maybe my hiking boots.”  I have no idea why I blurt this out. I guess I figure the shape of a boot is similar to a large handgun.

He puts on his gloves and looks at me for permission to search my bag.  (Shouldn’t he have to search me, first? Damn!)

As Cute Security Man pulls out my boots and inspects them, I can’t help but notice they still reek of all the sheep-shit we’ve trampled through. Reaching further into the depths of my backpack, his face contorts into a look of “ah-ha”.  Slowly, deliberately, he pulls out—— Willy and the Boys— dressed to the nines in my beige silk panties I had wrapped around him to protect from scratches.  I had totally forgotten about the possibility that Willy, made of metal, could throw a red flag at security.

Intrigued (or embarrassed), he delicately removes my undergarment from Willy’s head and places them back in the pack.

Me: “Willy! Sorry! I forgot!”

CSM laughs. (with me or at me?)  He takes Willy over to the security woman and “dances” Willy in the air in front of her. They both say something unintelligible and have a chuckle. As CSM hands Willy back to me I realize that, once again, my “ambassador of goodwill” has given me another story for my travels.

Willy & the Boyz busted at the airport!