Timeless Summer

Isn’t it hard to believe sometimes that we’re already deep in the midst of the Summer season? Whether you consider the unofficial start of summer as Memorial Day, or the actual start on June 20-21st, Summer is in full-swing. When I was younger and in school, I lived for summer. All year, I would anticipate its arrival, eager to spend the days milling around the house, catching up on movies and TV shows, spending endless amount of time outside, taking walks with friends, shopping at the mall, attending concerts, and of course, traveling somewhere new on family vacation.

Summer quote

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be able to often choose or help decide on a locale for the family vacation. Since childhood, I’ve loved traveling and being able to visit somewhere new and unfamiliar. Traveling is often where I gain some of my best inspiration and serves as a catalyst for hopes of the future. Though I don’t presently travel nearly as much as I would like to these days, it’s always a joy to me to be able to reflect back on some of my most memorable vacations and summers:

  • Disney World – It’s not hard to understand why Disney World is often at the top of my list when I think back on favorite vacations. I’ll never forget the first time my family and I visited Disney World. I was young, a newly-minted 4-year-old having turned 4 at the beginning of May. It was July of 1992 and not only was it my first visit to Disney World, but it was also my very first plane ride. Having battled through numerous ear infections as a baby and young child, I had tubes in my ears at the time and as a result, ended up at the urgent care clinic once we landed, for yet another ear infection. However, I didn’t let the infection derail our vacation. Upon arriving at the hotel, we quickly unloaded our belongings and finally made our way to the Magic Kingdom. From first glance at Cinderella Castle, I was in complete awe. I recall standing directly in front of the castle transfixed and unable to move. There it was, right before me. Though, given the young child I was, at the time, I couldn’t understand or make sense as to why I wasn’t able to go inside. So for a brief time, I stood there sobbing to my mom, asking why I wasn’t allowed to go inside and though I can’t recall exactly what she said to me, before I knew it, I was happily running along with my sister, Hope, enjoying the rides and park. The next day, it was the character breakfast at the Grand Floridian Hotel. How incredible it was to enjoy a meal with my favorite characters. From the Mickey Mouse Belgian Waffles to posing for photos with Pluto and friends, it’s one experience I’ll never forget. As I grew older, I visited Disney World with my family several other times, including twice with Hope, for Spring Break. The most recent visit, though not so recent anymore, given it was in May 2009, I rode my first upside-down roller coaster – the Rockin’ Roller Coaster. Though I was fearful, it’s one moment in my life where I faced my fears headfirst and never regretted it.
  • The Bahamas – In the summer after 7th grade, my family and I visited the Bahamas. First, we flew into Florida, then transferred onto the smallest plane I’ve ever seen or flew on, onto the island of the Bahamas. We were greeted by a small airport, humidity and an environment I’d never encountered before. From the soda that tasted strangely different, opposite sides of the road we drove on, and the first dilapidated hotel we were supposed to stay in, I wasn’t at all sure at first if I actually wanted to be there. Though, my impressions quickly shifted as we changed our hotel reservations upon seeing one of the newest hotels on the island – Our Lucaya (the name is now changed, but upon it first opening, it was called this). It was a sprawling and beautiful resort, complete with several restaurants, a dance club and various pools and spas. My family and I were in complete awe at the sight of it. As we made ourselves comfortable, Hope and I were eager to visit both the pool and dance club. Though we were very young at the time, we made our way to the dance club and ended up learning the dance – “The Casper Slide,” prior to it even arriving in the United States! Despite enduring one of the worst sunburns I’ve ever received, our Bahamian vacation was one of the best; from bargaining at the straw markets, to dancing at the night clubs, and lounging by the pool, it was the true epitome of a relaxing escape.
  • Arizona/Las Vegas/New Mexico – What an incredible adventure this trip was! Looking back, perhaps this was one of the last times I truly felt carefree and energetic in my life. When we made this trip, I was roughly 16 at the time. I felt comfortable and secure in my life, eager to explore and discover a new climate and area of the United States. Having sang the song “Route 66” numerous times that year in my choir class, I was excited to finally see it up close on this very trip. When the trip first started, we arrived in Phoenix, Arizona at the height of one of the hottest weeks of the year. The town was desolate given it was the middle of the afternoon and the peak of the heat. We quickly learned to take shelter during this time and emerge only when the heat had decreased. Though it was more of a dry heat versus the humid heat we were used to, it was still barely bearable. The environment, however was beautiful. Vibrant sunshine, turquoise, handmade jewelry adorned many of the stores and the store windows, and a desert-like atmosphere. It was unlike anything I’d ever personally encountered and it was breathtaking. One evening, we quickly learned it was monsoon season and ended up spending a large amount of time in the hotel restaurant, chatting and joking around with the restaurant employees. Days later, we hopped into the rental car and made our way to Las Vegas. Much of the trip to Vegas was a whirlwind since at the time, my sister and I were only teenagers and couldn’t do much and we quickly made our way to New Mexico, for the last leg of our trip. It was there when we finally encountered the infamous Route 66. Seeing the sign for the road was surreal in itself, but the best part was being able to encounter a new climate and destination. Our brief time there included some of the best Mexican cuisine I’ve ever enjoyed and a pleasant feeling of the summer warmth in the evening, free of humidity.

Though this is only a sampling of the summer trips/vacations I’ve enjoyed, they are often the ones that stick out most to me. There is a whole world out there I’d love to someday see, but until then, it’s always fun to reflect on pleasant pastimes, especially in the midst of Summer. Wherever you happen to be this Summer season, I hope you’re enjoying yourself and taking in each moment.

Traveling quote

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Bark Around the World

Good morning! I hope your week has been a pleasant one and that your weekend will be filled with fun, sunshine and relaxation! Originally, I had intended to compose this very post yesterday, after first reading the to-be mentioned article, but honestly felt too overwhelmed with emotion to do so. I figured this morning would be best, after I gave myself a chance to digest all I read.

If you’re a social media follower (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc) of news organizations/TV stations, such as ABC News, or a follower of various magazines, such as Health or others, then it’s very likely you’ve already seen, read, or heard about the heart wrenching story of New York City resident, Thomas Neil Rodriguez and the trip around the world he recently took with his terminally-ill, 15-year-old mixed-breed dog, Poh and his fiance.

Poh 2

Together since Rodriguez adopted him in December 1999, Rodriguez described Poh in an interview with ABC News (via http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/york-man-takes-dying-dog-bucket-list-adventure/story?id=31338158) as, ”

“My life is kind of hectic,” Rodriguez said. “I’m always traveling, but Poh is my home, my child. I think this resonated with a lot of dog owners. They wish they could do stuff like this with their dog and spend these moments, but sometimes life gets in the way.”

“I am super blessed that I have actually gotten to do this,” he added. “People think I take care of Poh, but Poh takes care of me.”

Back in March, the 12,000 mile journey throughout the United States commenced and was documented on an Instagram account he created to show others of their experiences. Several of the photos were shared on the aforementioned ABC News article and one in particular brought tears to my eyes. Though the story in general left me in tears for a good portion of the day, the photo of Poh in a wagon, with the San Francisco Golden Gate bridge as backdrop, touched a part of me that hasn’t been that moved since my own dog, Oliver had a recent host of health issues. What I felt when looking at the photo and simply reading through the article is something that is truly difficult and near impossible to place into words.

Poh

In thinking about it, I suppose what really got to me, is the notion of me being a dog owner since a couple days before my 14th birthday. As a child, I begged and begged my parents for a dog, always finding comfort and solace in them. Beginning from when I was 9 years old, I was enthralled with dogs. Towards the end of May, as a 9-year-old, my sister and I took comfort and comradeship with the dog belonging to the family who lived behind us. Our grandmother had recently passed away after an intense, 6-month battle with Leukemia and being able to play with Darby, the friendly Golden Retriever in our backyard, was the best therapy that could have ever been offered to me. He stayed by my side, licking my hand, taking delight in my playful nature. He offered a distraction from the sadness and loneliness I felt.

From that moment on, I desperately longed for a dog and for my 14th birthday, my wishes were finally answered. Seeing an ad for Bichon Frise puppies in the newspaper, my mom took my sister and I one Sunday afternoon to choose the puppy we wanted and having tied a blue bandana around him, Oliver was chosen. It’s hard for me to remember what life was like without Oliver. Of course, it’s not to say life has been easy with him, because it hasn’t. It has been a challenge, both physically and emotionally. Throughout the years, we’ve watched him battle through infections, surgeries, surgical errors, and a host of other issues, but his resilience has always shone through. Throughout all of it, no matter the obstacles thrown his way, he’s always risen above, maintaining his strength, sometimes sobbing, but still making it through, his tail wagging each day, greeting me when I walk through the door.

Oliver tongue

Though sometimes I can become frustrated with him, he is my family. It’s hard for me to imagine my house empty, without him. So perhaps this is why reading about Rodriguez’s journey with Poh hit home. Reading about their adventures together, seeing the passion and joy they experienced, is something I long for with Oliver. Looking back on old pictures of Oliver, it’s hard for me to remember when he used to move about easily, sitting perched on top of the sofa, eagerly running up and down the steps. Being 13-years-old now, it is challenging for him to move around, as the arthritis often reduces his mobility. My life with him consists of patience and understanding. It’s all I can do to repay him for his patience with me, seeing me cry as I experienced the many disappointments in life. Though I am often distracted by my own personal struggles, Oliver always seems to look at me with a certain sense of pride and understanding and he is forgiving.

Oliver in his shirt

If nothing else, Oliver teaches me what it means to be resilient, forgiving and understanding. He offers me companionship and like Rodriguez and Poh, for the past 13-years, he’s been my consistent home.