Saturday, September 3, 2011

Epilogue: What we left behind

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, 
but in seeing with new eyes. - Marcel Proust

We arrived in New Zealand a whirlwind of a rather typical suburban American family, having spent the previous many years at multiple nightly practices and games instead of winding down and eating dinner. Countless other obligations, lessons, and activities kept us running from morning till night. Lists, needs, pushed for time, never stopping for a breath. 

Into Auckland we stumbled, jet-lagged, disoriented, and incredulous at our new situation. No choice really but to let the New Zealand rain, wind, and sun wash over us and lull us into a peaceful, satisfied state. Minds and bodies chilled and we no longer felt the need to keep pace with crazy and with frazzled. 

Very quickly, in this new environment of reset and start from scratch, it became clear that our life in America had become so very small. We'd been living a life that wasn't meant for us, one that had never felt right anyway. It had been devised by and copied from countless other parents seeking a way to be sure that they wouldn't fail their children. The rich, joyful experiences that we'd once sought had been pushed aside in favor of a thoughtless, too-busy lifestyle that left no room for the doubt and other scary things that might creep into our minds if we allowed ourselves time to think. 

Here, in this strange new land, with fewer choices available to us, we were freer. We piled into the car with no destination in mind. We walked for miles and embraced whatever we found wherever we ended up, with no frenzied constraints on our explorations. We enjoyed being together and discovering together and we knew very early on that we'd make some major changes upon our return to the states. 

And despite the gorgeous, secret scenery that we gazed at, the whales who swam beside us, the delicious new foods that we fell in love with, and the freedom of being strangers in a strange land for six months, this is what I am most grateful for. We had the privilege of seeing our life from the outside, from far away. We were granted a chance to make changes before it was too late. 

These kids are getting older by the second; only five years are left before the oldest one leaves us forever. While he might make the high school baseball team if we spend our entire lives shuttling him around from nearly year-round training to practices to far-flung games, we'd have to sacrifice this fleeting time together in which we now can enjoy a relaxing dinner at a new restaurant, go out for the day on the boat, visit friends and family for a weekend, or take the kayaks to a lake if we feel like it. Because we have the time to do so. The time to just be, together, has returned. And our downtime is really down. Not just buzzing time slots between activities. It's rejuvenating, relaxed, and fun.

More than any of the other wondrous experiences that we shared in New Zealand -- and there were truly more than anyone even deserves -- I will be forever grateful that we saw how life could be before it was too late. I feel like we were saved from many future regrets, and there is no greater gift that I can imagine.

Thank you for keeping up with our Kiwi adventures with us. It was fun the first time and fun again to relive it all through this blog. I'll start up a new one very soon with various interesting things, travels, the guys that are renovating our house, happenings at The Ginn Academy, portraits I shoot, and on and on and on. Now that I've started, I'm not sure I can stop. Thanks for being here with me! Much love, Cheers, K.

Coming to America

As part of my reintegration plan, we stayed in southern California for a few days once we landed in L.A. Both Dennis and I have some wonderful family members there that we haven't seen in much too long. I have a few friends that managed to make time to meet us, too. It was the perfect way to make our return to the states a big, happy deal and help us to let go of New Zealand.

Our first morning, we found a cute diner (bacon, bacon!!!) for breakfast and our server, no kidding, was from New Zealand. And another server had been saving up for years to go by herself and spend a few months there traveling. Un.Real.

My awesome cousin, Leigh, works as an aesthetician at the luxurious and gorgeous St. Regis Monarch Beach resort so we stayed there and got to have dinners and breakfasts with aunts, uncles, cousins, and even new baby cousins, and dogs, too! The second cousins (once removed?? whatever the hell that means) that I remember as 5-year-olds are now grown-up working people with kids of their own. Geez...that makes me feel so old. It was such a blast! Aunt Lenora, my father's sister, true to her Italian roots, makes a delicious pasta sauce and so now I have a new favorite recipe, too!

Here she is with Uncle Bob and Dennis. Below that one is Laurel with cousin Brian's girlfriend, Lisa, who works at Disneyland! Then me with Celina and her babies. Then all of us with Leigh and her husband, Ken.

We met up with some of Dennis's mom's side of the family at a restaurant in Anaheim. Uncle Danny (Dennis's mom's brother) and his wife, Aunt Sharon, and D's mom's mom, Grandma Nancy with her husband, Bob. Always fun to see these guys. One of the highlights was when Trey bested Uncle Danny at Grabbing The Check. Not often done.

The first day we were there, we'd arrived at LAX after barely sleeping at all and then spent the whole day eating American foods and buying lip gloss and Advil. We somehow stayed up till around 8pm and then slept till 10am the next morning. It was wonnnnnderful!!! After that things were pretty good, jet-lag-wise. Made it up to L.A. and saw two lovely, dear friends.

Joan and I went to high school together back in the dark ages of the big-hair 80s and she now lives with her family outside of Los Angeles, where her artist husband, Joe, works for Disney. They were so very gracious to meet us and take us on a tour of the Disney studios in Burbank, where we saw the coolest things in the archives. Trey enjoyed seeing the wardrobe from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Laurel loved seeing the dress that was worn in The Prince of Persia.

They even had something from Spin and Marty, my mom's favorite bit of the Mickey Mouse Club. Neat :o) And the studios are so big that there are random bicycles everywhere which employees can ride around the campus. I liked this one with the New South Wales plates :o)

This was where Pluto used to wee, Joan explained. :o)

After the Disney fun, we all had In 'n Out burgers (I'd heard great things and had to try!!) and Jen, a Cleveland modeling days friend who moved out there 14 years ago, drove over and met us. It was really cool that these girls could take the time to do this and it made our time there mean a lot more, and that was the whole danged purpose of it all! Thank you.

I'd also forgotten how pretty California is. That rugged Pacific beauty. Not totally dissimilar from New Zealand, actually. I wouldn't mind spending another week or so there soon!

Drove through Beverly Hills and walked around some of the shops (Laurel and me). Saw lots of amazing cars (Trey).

It sure was nice out there for January. Or February? I have no idea what days we were there, but it was cold in Cleveland and I can see why 9 zillion people want to live in southern California. Thanks for welcoming us back to our country so beautifully, Golden State!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

To the east through the west

Because of some flight logistics, we had a couple of days to spend in Sydney after we left Auckland, which was rather nice actually because first of all it's a gorgeous, sparkling city and also, we needed some time in between our life as New Zealand explorers and dark, cold winter we were about to return to in Cleveland. None of us were particularly thrilled to leave, so I thought that a stop or two to transition back to regular life might be helpful. Our first stop was Sydney, and then we added a few days in the Los Angeles area, too, to see some of both sides of our families and some dear friends, as well.

Let me just suggest here that if you ever have the opportunity to get out of whatever wintery place you live (if that applies) and head to Australia in January, don't even think, just say yes, please!

These white birds (cockatoos? or something?) travel in big flocks, molesting tourists. I think some are pickpockets.

This cool model of the city is on display in the lobby of the Customs House downtown by Circular Quay.

Boats, water, anyone? How cool would it be to have this as your driveway!!?

That last shot is a ship from the Australian navy. I thought it was rather humorous that the military puts those very sinister kangaroos on everything. The first time that I took the kids to Sydney, there were New Zealand ships there, too, and they have Kiwi birds on them.

Took a ferry over to Manly Beach. Quite crowded on a Sunday, but we walked all around and saw the beautiful beaches and had a nice meal somewhere.

The kids each put together a small piece of a big Lego mural that was being installed at the Sydney Aquarium.

And other miscellaneous pretty stuff...

And just after this walk, where Laurel found her future car marked just for her, we left for the airport and a long journey back to the U.S.

Cheers, mates!