I am sitting here enjoying an Americano and reading. Cafe Lalo is a cozy cafe on the Upper Westside. Known for their desserts and coffee. “The cafe Europeans would love to have in Europe!” You’ve seen it in “You’ve Got Mail.” It is a local favorite and a tourist favorite. Great coffee, delicious desserts and inviting vibe. West 83rd
Waiting for a car. On their way to a rainy Monday wedding in Central Park. They are bringing the sunshine.
The colorful people you see.
1st April 2016
(I am posting this today without any edits or changes at all. This was my voice at the time I wrote it down with a pen and paper. I then typed it from my journal. It may be juvenile writing, but it was what I wanted to share today from my thoughts. Thank your for reading)
I am so grateful. I am hyperventilating from gratitude. I am sitting here in the sun, by the Hudson River in the Upper West Side of New York City. My apartment is a Brownstone in the 80’s. That refers to the area of streets. It is almost embarrassing to say that I am living my dream, but I am. I am sure my friends from the city could find amusement in my childlike dreams as a woman in my 50’s. So many people have gone before me. Many people come to New York with the dream of becoming an actor, a dancer, a writer, an artist or a financial wiz. I am here to live, grow, work my program of sobriety, experience life here and then write about it. Those are my dreams. Not to become anything, but just be here.
A few years ago I had the great fortune to paddle the Tennessee River from Chattanooga to Iuka, Mississippi 260 miles, 10 hours per day for nine days. 30 miles a day for eight days and 20 miles on our last day (I think this is the correct math). Three of us made that trip. Two of us in a canoe and the other on a paddle board. The trip was a fundraiser for the Tennessee Riverkeeper. I was a board member, and my only assets to the board were fundraising on social media, my strength and determination and my adaptability to my surroundings. But, I had no gratitude for my situation. I actually felt as if I was doing something great for the organization. At the beginning of our trip, we camped out in Stevenson, Alabama. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a camper. The park service sent over a park ranger to meet us to ensure we had our camping spot and to welcome us. The ranger was a down to earth guy about my age. We all talked about what our organization was doing and our fundraising paddle. The ranger said something that stopped me in my tracks. I will never forget it. He said, “All my life I have wanted to canoe this river.” I still get emotional when I think of this. I was struck. I was living someone else’s dream, and I had no gratitude. From that moment, my entire attitude about what I was doing changed and it shaped my experience. With miles and miles of green trees, I began to see them individually. Every time I saw a species of wildlife I squealed with excitement. I saw a beaver swimming across the river, and I just wanted to thank God and the universe for such an experience.
You see when you are living someone else’s dream you must be grateful.
I sit here sobbing now because I got it. I am so glad I got it. I became grateful that day. I am now sitting here steps from my apartment writing and experiencing. Today, here in the park I met a new friend who has a beautiful dog and we have a lot in common. She is a real writer. The kind who gets paid for her work. I am living my dream, just being. If it’s not your dream and you are living it, then become grateful because your dreams will come true.
A few weeks ago I wrote a story about meeting a Buddhist Monk on the Highline. He was exactly what I needed that day. I had prayed to God to bring me something to make me feel love that day. When I met this young man he said, “I love you because you are beautiful.” I believe God can speak to us through many vehicles. That day I do believe I got what I needed and I give my higher power the credit. When I was discussing this with a friend, a New Yorker, she said, “Oh no, Cookie, that is a scam. I read about it recently. They give you blessings and take your money.” I explained to her that I did not give him any money, but I did give him my phone number because we had to use the translator on our phones to communicate. There was only so much, “I love you because you are beautiful” I could take. I was trying to discuss God’s love with him and how I thought he was displaying it. Our conversations were benign and I felt no fear. Anyone can find my number online, but I do not disclose where I live to strangers or Buddhist monks. Another friend of ours said not to worry he did not get money from me and it was harmless. As the days passed I received the same messages from him. I responded with well wishes. He then sent me a picture of himself in civilian clothes which I didn’t think was appropriate if he is a monk, but who am I to judge. I would see calls from him and I would not answer because I don’t speak his language. Recently, I received a text from him that said, “Where are you? I want to kiss you.” I decided this was the devil talking and so I blocked him. I got a blessing and got to keep my money. I think I scammed him.
Tomorrow I move to a new place on the UWS. That’s the Upper West Side. I’m getting this city lingo correct. I have committed to stay in New York City for the month of April. While I am excited, it is still hard to be away from my husband, my children, my animals, and my friends. I am so grateful for this opportunity and as we keep saying in our family, “make it count!” I intend to continue growing, writing, doing work and service in my program of sobriety, meeting my obligations, and staying grateful for this season in my life. I feel like an exchange student. Each day I am so excited about my adventures and my surroundings, but there are moments I think I want to pack up and fly back into my comfort. I know that growing is painful despite one’s surroundings. Staying in gratitude. Making it count.
Anyone who knows me knows I love The American Red Cross. When I graduated from college I was hired as a Donor Resources Representative with The American Red Cross in Birmingham, Alabama. My first boss, John Burleson, was like a big brother to me and our group was my family. It was 1984 and we were living the life. Everywhere we went, we were the Red Cross gang. I studied the history of the big red mother, as we called it; I wanted to know everything I could about it. I even went to the national headquarters in Washington D.C. with my mother, daddy and sister in August of 1985 on a family vacation. To this day, I am loyal to The American Red Cross. Tonight the Empire State Building is shining with red and white lights in honor of The American Red Cross month, March. I love looking up and seeing the lights each night and finding out what the colors represent. Tonight I was excited to see two of my favorite things together so beautifully. The Empire State Building and The American Red Cross. Two American icons. Grateful for them both.