Monday, May 09, 2016

Bucket List

Someone from back home made a comment to me a couple weeks ago that she would hate to see my bucket list...that is must be a blank page.

It isn't blank, but not just because there are a few places on the original one (that yes, is actually written down in a place I can access regularly) that I have yet to visit (I'm looking at you Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, and Angkor Wat), but also because the more I travel, the more I want to see. So the list keeps growing.

Before I met my wife, I had left the country exactly once, for my "once in a lifetime" trip to Germany. Of course, I have since been to Germany numerous times and have no doubt I will go back. And I also no longer think of travel as once in a lifetime. I've traveled now to 28 countries outside the U.S., many multiple times and seven new ones and several returns to previously visited ones in just the past nine months.

Our most recent trip was two weeks ago, to Slovenia. You should go there...Lake Bled is amazing!

That was a recent bucket list addition. Dracula's Castle is as well, now that we are close enough to Romania. That will probably be in a couple months.

In case you are curious about some of the other places, they are the usual suspects: the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Neuschwanstein in Germany, the pyramids in Egypt, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Sea of Galilee, Petra in Jordan, the Hagia Sofia in Turkey, the Acropolis in Greece. I've been to Rome and the Pompeii. I've visited Stonehenge. I've snorkeled in the Red Sea. And Estonia wasn't on my original bucket list, but it should have been.

Not bad for a kid who grew up in a Mill Village in South Carolina.

Any one of these and numerous other trips I've been lucky enough to make could have been a "once in a lifetime." Now they are more like, "this is my life" trips.

You miss a lot being in the Foreign Service, and I'd be lying if I didn't long sometimes for the comforts of home. I miss my family, my house, being able to buy cheddar cheese... But I have gained a lot too.

Travel is one of the best ways to combat prejudice and open minds. I am a different person than I was before my first trip overseas. And I am a changed person with each place I visit. you take a little of it home with you. You find that you love your own country a little more while realizing that there is so much the world offers that we do not.

Why am I being so introspective today? Probably because it is May. As I mentioned yesterday, Mother's Day gets me. This year marks 20 years since she passed. It also marked the passing of the date at which I was older than my mother had been when she died. And May is her birthday month, and that of her mother, who became like a mother to me (and me like a daughter to her) after my mom died. I lost her six years ago. May makes me think of what I miss, and therefore what I am missing by being away.

But it also makes me hope she can see me, that she would be proud of the person I have become and the adventure that has become my life. Some of the places on my bucket list are places I would have loved to have shared with her.

I kind of hope I have.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Mother's Day Dogwood

As spring has rolled around here in Kosovo, I have found myself really homesick. Not because I am not happy here. I am. But Spring is my favorite season, and I miss my yard.

When we moved into our house in July of 2014, I set about making it a home even though I knew we would move in exactly one year. Folks wondered why I was investing so much energy, but it was because I knew we would likely return after two years, meaning two years of growth to all the plants and trees I planted.

Two years for the azaleas to remind me of my grandfather's yard, which was full of him (boy do I wish I had inherited his green thumb!). Two years for my butterfly bush to attract all the little flutter-bys.

And two years for my dogwood to grow.

My baby dog and my baby dogwood
I knew that the moment we had a yard, I wanted a dogwood. They are my favorite tree, and I love to see them growing wild in the South. But in Maryland, you have to hunt for a blight resistant one. After some searching, I finally found one and planted it almost exactly a year ago.

Part of why I love dogwoods, I am certain, is how much my mother loved them.

When I was a kid, and my parents bought their first home, my mother was determined to have a dogwood in our front yard. But of course, her only child was a bit of a tom boy, and much to her dismay, she planted it in a perfect spot in our front yard to serve as first base in our kick ball games.

Which also means the little thing never stood a chance, and broke after one too many times of being grabbed by a runner trying to be "safe."

I don't think she ever managed to have a dogwood live there.

So I hope mine lives for her in our yard in Maryland.

You see, this year is my 19th Mother's Day without her. July will make 20 years since she left us, way too soon.

It never gets easier.

And so this Mother's Day, I hope if you still have your mom, you hold her close. I hope you call her often and visit her often. When she is gone, nothing will fill that hole.

And if you see live in my neighborhood and see my dogwood, think happy thoughts that this one makes it.

For my mom.