LUGGAGE Lady

Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

When Parents Opt Out

Precious times two

“They say that abandonment is a wound that never heals. I say only that an abandoned child never forgets.” ~ Mario Balotelli

💔

Working the last couple flights of a three-day trip, I’m organizing the back galley when two little girls, I’m guessing to be around seven and four, come back to say hello.

“Are you our flight attendant?” the older one asks.

“I am.” I smile, a stack of napkins slipping from my fingers.

They rush over. “It’s okay, sweethearts. Don’t touch the dirty floor.”

Too late. They’ve already scooped them up, proudly dropping them in the trash.

“You look really pretty,” the younger girl says.

“So do you,” I say. “I love your pink shirt. That’s my favorite color.”

She giggles. “Mine too, but this is actually my pajama top.”

“Well, it’s perfect — and it matches your shoes.”

She beams.

“Where are you going?” (I’m thinking Disneyland based upon our destination.)

“California,” the older girl says.

“Southern?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Are you getting off at the first or second stop?”

“The next one.”

“Then you’re going to southern.”

“Okay. ” She shrugs. “That’s beautiful.” She gently taps my bracelet.

“Just like both of you.”

They blush in unison, and I follow them to their seats, eager to compliment the folks responsible for raising such charming children.

“Are these your daughters?” I ask the woman they quietly slide past.

She purses her lips. “Oh, no.  I’m just escorting them to a new home. They’re foster kids, and I’m their case worker.”

My lungs lock. “Well, they’re adorable,” I choke out the words.

Her eyes dart in their direction. “Yes, I suppose so.”

I flee to my galley, tears of disbelief pooling. They should be going to Disneyland — NOT a “new” home!!!! What happened to their parents? Why are these precious dolls floating around the system? And what if things don’t work out this time? Should I call my husband and tell him I’m bringing home two angels to shower with love — and anything else they’ve spent their tender years going without?? I write down my name and number to give the social worker.

But my head interjects, giving my heart a run for its money: This is none of my concern. Who am I to interfere? I probably wouldn’t even qualify as a legal guardian — I’ve never parented anybody!

And so…

I do nothing but serve them drinks and peanuts, all the while marveling at their sweet demeanor and impeccable manners.

An hour later they wave goodbye, sparkly eyed and grinning. They seem so happy so — well-adjusted.

They’ll be fine.

I tell myself

over and over

just fine…

gulp

blink

blink

💔

🌺For many, Mother’s and Father’s Days trigger more feelings of loss than joy. I dedicate this to ALL those who’ve had to grovel (like my husband) for the parental love I’ve taken for granted.🌺

***Luggage Lady is off to the Balkans. I’ll return with more stories soon…😘

(Photo: From our 40-mile hike to Machu Picchu, Peru 2013 💕 Incidentally, this darling boy had two doting parents hovering nearby…I just loved the picture.)

My ‘Just in Case’ Letter

flight-attendant-blogger-just-in-case-letter-luggage-lady

💔Every day someone kisses a loved one goodbye and doesn’t make it home💔

If only I were a perfect wife…I wouldn’t dare part ways with even an ounce of hostility lingering. I’d honor, cherish, and pour my heart out like there was no tomorrow — never, ever taking love for granted. So, when I read Marie Tillman’s heartrending book, The Letter (and finished mopping my tear-soaked face), the little writer in me had an aha moment: What if I penned my own letter and tucked it inside a crisp white envelope, ensuring my husband never doubted for a single second just how much he meant? You know — just in case…

💞

My Dearest MTD,

When we first met, I knew my soul had arrived home at long last. But never in my wildest dreams could I have written the story I had the privilege of living. You loved with such constancy and patience. Even when I struggled to find my greater purpose you endured my frustrations in your upbeat stride. You were always my first choice. Although we both carted our own bit of baggage into the fray, I loved you as I had never loved before.

From renovating homes to flying airplanes, sailing, and your extraordinary culinary talents — I can’t recall much of anything you couldn’t do. Oh, how I adored watching you prepare your magical meals. You’d go to such lengths to procure the precise ingredients, coming home with an armload of your favorite sunflowers and a huge grin because you’d found the ideal wine to pair with dinner. I’d light the candles and queue Linda Ronstadt or James Taylor on your meticulously installed and perfectly tweaked sound system. We’d talk and laugh — and talk some more.

And all those adventures you so tediously planned??

Jumping out of airplanes, scuba-diving, sailing around the world, hiking Machu Picchu, kayaking the open seas, zip-lining, bike riding to the top of Delphi — seriously?! Sure, I’d traveled a tad before you, but these activities were spectator sports, things I’d nestle on the couch and read about. You nudged me outside my comfort zone and produced brilliant travel videos so I had proof! Without you, I’d have remained as flat as a paper doll.

‘Without you’ was the one journey I never wanted to embark upon.

I’m not exactly sure where I am, but you know from our countless late-night “what’s-it-all-mean” conversations that I’ll always be with you. Just promise you won’t curl your pillow over your ears and assume for even a solitary moment that the squawking crow interrupting your slumber is me!

For an orphan boy, you certainly had a knack for family and gave so much to mine. My relatives and friends adored you. Your enthusiasm for life’s smallest pleasures was contagious. I’ve never been so delightfully infected by anything in my life. I beg you — don’t ever stop spreading your boundless spirit!

You’ll find love again. And when this happens, don’t look back. View this next phase as you would a new country — different, yes, but an exploration to savor.

You were my best friend. Every moment shared with you was a gift, but if you don’t get out there and keep living to the fullest, I’ll be forced to send in the crows — a murder of them! ;)

Eternally Yours,

Nani Kat

💞

(*photo: Saint-Malo, France)

You Are My Other Self

YouAreMyOtherSelf

“You are my other self” ~ traditional Toltec greeting

💕

What if

Before each encounter

I paused?

Allowing Toltec wisdom to wash away

Insecurity

Negative energy

Fears of being rebuffed or of overwhelming?

Might everyday interactions become valued affairs

Rather than ordeals to endure?

What if

I envisioned hearts sharing the same tender beat?

Might compassion and patience take precedence when going about my daily tasks

Unveiling another’s brightness by honoring them with my best?

💕

Dear Universe,

When self-absorption engulfs

And I fail to acknowledge those around me

Please jar my senses

Guiding me back to what matters most

Initiating connectivity

Generating goodness

Be it a smile, helping hand, or chipper word

Never alienating

Bridging spirits

Thereby enriching my own

Imparting sunshine

Ever cognizant:

You are my other self

💕

Dedicated to my treasured readers.

Thanks for your vitalizing support — my heart is full because of YOU! 😘

(💗Post inspired by M.J. Ryan’s life-enhancing book, 365 Health and Happiness Boosters💗)

*Photo: Temple of Zeus — Athens, Greece

To My Cherished Airline Passengers,

flight-attendant-blogger-swa-luv-luggage-lady

First of all, I want to thank you for making my job so rewarding. Many of you have visited my galley to share tales of love, loss, hope, heroism, military sacrifice, business innovations, health hurdles, medical miracles, travel recommendations, and lifelong dreams. I treasure every inspiring conversation, laugh, and occasional tear we’ve shared. I strive to ensure your journey is enjoyable and stress-free. So, when you leave my airplane smiling, it warms the cockles of my heart.

Aviators tend to be perfectionists, and my husband is no exception. He prides himself on thorough communication, comfortable cabin conditions, and flying finesse. If he can grease his landing for you, it makes his day. He wants you to walk off his aircraft relaxed, knowing your safety and well-being will always be paramount.

We’re a seamless team, looking out for you and each other on every single flight. When emergencies arise, we have each other’s backs more than ever. I may work with different crewmates each week — but the paradigm never changes.

Add to this synergy, the way you selflessly volunteer when we need medical assistance or respond in some other gallant manner — like the time two of you saved me from hitting the ceiling during clear air turbulence — and you can understand why it’s devastating to have the trust between us compromised.

I don’t wish to marginalize the Germanwings tragedy. I just want you to know, as perplexing and appalling as the disaster is, it only reinforces our bond. We’re truly in this together. Which is why, every time my colleagues and I welcome you aboard, we seek to honor that trust by doing everything in our power to take great care of YOU.

Love,

Your flight attendant (aka: Luggage Lady)

* * *

Dedicated to the beautiful souls of flight #9525 — we carry 💗you💗 in our hearts, always…

Travel’s Priceless Souvenir

MachuPicchuWow

“I’ve orchestrated my life around travel because nothing else truncates imaginary woes or realigns perspective so stealthily.” ~ 💗Luggage Lady

✈ ✈  ✈

Two weeks after graduating college, I tucked a second-class Eurail pass into an overloaded backpack and jetted off to Europe. I saw the opportunity as a luxurious postponement of reality, but my ‘delusions of glamour’ shattered the moment that plane skidded to a halt. Far from lavish, the summer of ’88 revamped my sheltered mindset and fortified my coddled heart. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars (and my parents) for this gift.

Twenty-seven years and 56 countries later, here are a few introspective observations:

🌎 Hunkering in Dachau, Germany’s dank concentration camp gas chamber, death’s stench lingered in my imagination. Sickened by such incomprehensible horror, I focused on those who’d somehow survived the senseless carnage, praying they’d gone on to lead wildly fulfilling, dignified lives — complete with every well-deserved amenity.

(I have never experienced true suffering and have no excuse whatsoever for not adding positivity in my brief time here.) 

🌎 Swaying on unsteady legs in an African AIDS orphanage, jet-lagged and longing for caffeine, the guide announced the arrival of his American friends and the children swarmed. Frail arms clung to my knees, giant eyes gazing upward. I bit my cheek until I tasted blood to keep the pooling tears from falling and knelt down to join them.

(I know nothing of hardship. Overfed, overwatered, and otherwise overindulged — I have absolutely nothing to complain about — ever!)

🌎 When my Guatemalan tour guide asked if he could show me his new house, I agreed but worried what he’d be omitting from our tour as a result. I can barely recall the rain forest, but touring his minuscule cinderblock home, as he proudly pointed to the concrete floor and explained how he’d had dirt flooring his entire life, is something I’ll never forget. Shame prickled in my gut for all the creature comforts I had — and took for granted. Yet, there he stood, with his shy wife and cooing baby at his side, all of them beaming.

(How few material possessions we need! Family, love, friends, and the dreams we build together represent real wealth.)

🌎 I’d already been advised not to wander out of this Turkish port town’s tourist area and shooed from a mosque. Instead of visiting the woman’s designated prayer trailer, I roamed the residential back streets. My heart froze when I heard voices chanting, “American, American.” Before I knew it, a giggling boy and girl were grabbing my hands — just wanting to say hello.

(Political and religious zealots may capture the headlines and fuel fears aplenty, but they rarely represent the spirit of the people.)

🌎 As we prepared to sail away from Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands my husband smacked his empty back pocket and gasped. He’d forgotten his wallet in a massage parlor the previous night. The cynic in me thought we were more likely to be struck by lightning than to ever see the contents of that wallet again. Not only did he get it back, but when he offered a tip of gratitude, the business owner vehemently declined, saying, “You come back and visit me again — that will be my thanks.”

(Most people are good and decent and moral — and cynicism is such an unattractive waste of energy!)

🌎 Beyond the rear gardens of St Petersburg’s Summer Palace, my husband spotted his ideal food venue: a shish kabob cart packed with locals. Turned out, the chef/owner was Armenian and thrilled to have Americans patronizing his establishment. He brought a complimentary sampler platter to our table and sat down. The only problem? His English was extremely limited and, as you can probably guess, we didn’t speak a lick of Armenian. But, boy oh boy, did we ever have a blast communicating about his family and how he ended up in Russia, where we were from and what we did for a living…

(The desire to share one’s story is universal. Cultivate magical connections whenever possible.)

🌎 A darling travel mate was inspiring some Cuban school children to smile for our photographs. She shouted, “Cheese!” Seeing their confusion, she repeated the word in Spanish: “Queso!” Her sweet, albeit — completely lost in translation —  effort sent our group into giggling fits. The vision of middle-aged gringos practically rolling on the ground elicited enormous grins from the kids. Mission accomplished!

(A friendly demeanor and hearty helping of humor can overcome just about any barrier.)

🌎 Whether marveling over the Inca’s artistry at Machu Picchu or rocketing across the sky at roughly 600 mph, I can’t help but stand in awe of mankind’s ingenuity. From architecture to innovation, brilliance abounds! 

(Next time I start flapping my jaw about spotty internet coverage, or shrinking airplane seats, or any other deemed ‘inconvenience’ — may I honor humanity’s achievements by respectfully clamping my teeth over my tongue.)

✈ ✈  ✈

Travel’s Priceless Souvenir??

The empowering realization that we awaken our best selves each time we stretch outside our comfort zones and engage another, whether interacting globally or within one’s community: Greeting, smiling, listening, learning, and appreciating the diverse souls populating our planet, while celebrating how similar we truly are — hearts beating and breaking, just the same.

Machu Picchu -- WOW!

(photo from our Machu Picchu 42-mile hiking adventure 2013)

Everyday Joy

UnbridledJoy

“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.” ~Mencius

💗

Boundless wonder

Spongelike senses

Candid smiles

Blessed innocence

Carefree laughter

Giddy enthusiasm

Enraptured

Awestruck

Cherishing

Marveling

Celebrating

Everyday Joy

♥ ♥ ♥

(Photo from Havana, Cuba, San Francisco de Asis Plaza, United Buddy Bears Exhibition , promoting peace and tolerance between nations. The precious little girl was ecstatic over a photo her gorgeous mommy had snapped of her with the adjacent red bear.)

💗

Here we are — as you can probably guess from her attire — by the United States bear.

UnitedBuddyBears

Yin and Yang — Love’s Intricate Dance

Love'sDance

How strong our relationships would be if we could see and respect that we are all perfectly imperfect for our journey.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

💞

Ideal Partners

struggling lovers

Purposefully Connected

preoccupied

Spurred to Be Your Best

letting yourself go

Compassionate Confidantes

secrets exploited

Fearlessly Vulnerable

skeptically withdrawn

Gracious Compromiser

dying to be right

Respectfully Interacting

insatiable ego

Gallivanting Atop Cloud Nine

ricocheted back to earth

Surprises

ruts

Gratitude

attitude

Appreciation

pettiness

Passion

indifference

Forgiveness

resentment

Fabulously Flawed

second-guessing

                                             Yin…

                                                                               …and yang

💞 💞 💞

May we honor one another with the best of our selves

Sharing our hearts as deeply as we can reach

Demonstrating humility when we stumble

Evoking more laughter than tears

 Sashaying harmoniously closer with each challenge overcome

Choosing serenity over drama

Mindful our journeys around the sun are limited

Celebrating 💘LOVE💘 in all its imperfect glory

(photo: Seville, Spain — May 2014)

Bienvenido a Cuba

CubaColors

Proximity has zero bearing. Less than an hour flight from Miami catapults us backward 50-plus years. On the exterior of the tiny Cienfuegos Airport, a bright blue BIENVENIDO sign beckons.

I possess a Visa solely as part of an approved People to People Program. Daily exchanges to include: mingling with artists, vocalists, musicians (including members from the Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club!!), dancers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, spiritual leaders, historians, teachers, and students.

Being here as a U.S. citizen leaves me both awed by opportunity — yet pondering whether my coming is somehow…unpatriotic.

From a bureaucratic standpoint, our welcome is somewhat subdued. Neither U.S. bank-issued credit nor ATM cards are accepted. We knew this before we came. Cash in hand, we pay a 10% commission to change dollars into CUCs at a rate of 1/1. This is not a bargain shopper’s destination. Cellular service doesn’t exist for those with U.S. carriers, and internet is only available in some 5-star Havana hotels at speeds slower than our modem days.

Our Cuban guide shares that, up until a few years ago, a local would be sentenced up to four years in prison if caught using internet in his or her home. He laughs, referring to our online shopping as folklore. “Cubans can’t imagine paying for something on a screen and having it actually show up on our doorsteps. Forget about returning it and getting a refund!” Satellite TV is also forbidden. Some people have illegal hookups but know they could face hefty fines if the authorities learn of these.

No one in our 22-person group minds. We didn’t come to Cuba to bury our noses in gadgets. We came to experience the contagious verve of the people…

We step onto crumbling cobblestone roads and into another century. Surprisingly well-preserved American made (and Russian overhauled) vintage cars roar all about. Vibrant colors and zippy music tantalize our senses. Even standing in place, the locals sway to a beat I’m convinced is part of their DNA.

From Cienfuegos to Havana, with stops in Trinidad and stunning beaches along the way, I admire close-knit families, communities, and a refreshing enthusiasm from school children to the elderly. The hope sparkling in their eyes touches my soul in a way I struggle to adequately articulate.

I’m just an ordinary girl — with extraordinary freedoms, privileges, and conveniences I need never question. Gratitude and humility flood my heart.

As we make our way to Havana’s airport the last day, our gregarious guide describes the tedious departure process, adding that clients ask him what the airport is like on the other side of immigration. Are there shops? Restaurants? He shrugs. “Well, maybe one of you will be kind enough to send an email when you get home and tell me because I’ve never been…”

🌎 ♥ 🌎

♥ I dedicate this post to my dear friend & colleague, Maria, who left her beautiful island in the second grade and dreams of returning one day soon… ♥

Be the Difference

BetheDifference

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” — Marcus Aurelius

♥ ♥ ♥

How different my days unfold when I share a kind word, carefree laughter, and positive stories. When I pause to lend a helping hand, listen to another, or support whatever causes I can. When I choose love instead of vying to be right!! With so many uplifting options, why — oh why — do I ever choose behavior that depletes my spirit?

And so…

My New Year’s Aspiration is to be:

Focused on present moment

Shunning negativity Realizing

Whatever I deem the world to be withholding

I already possess

Abundance swelling my heart

Gifting me with endless benevolence

Abandoning ego

Remaining judgement-free

Appreciating earth’s unmitigated beauty

Sincerely listening

Speaking only if my words add value

Observing more

Learning

Growing

Loving

Mindful that a smile means the same thing all around the world

Doing everything in my power to

Be the difference…

♥ ♥ ♥

Luggage Lady is off to Cuba!!!! My husband and I, along with 20 others, are participating in a “people-to-people cultural exchange” as we sail along Cuba’s gorgeous coastline, visiting Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Cayo Largo, Cabo San Antonio, and Havana. I promise to return with photos and stories. In the meantime, I wish you ALL a blissful 2015 filled with untold blessings!! 😘

(*photo from trip to End of the Road Kalapana, Hawaii*)

Somehow… I’m Enough

Wedding fif

Celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary recently, someone asked, “Did you guys ever think you’d make it this far?”

As a flight attendant/pilot couple, we’re well aware our odds of marital success are lower than the dismal average. So we take pride rather than offense when such questions arise. But my lungs deflated when my husband replied, “Personally, I can’t believe she didn’t bail the second I started flapping my jaws about my past.”

I forced a smile. But for someone from a cohesive family, including parents who will celebrate their 52nd anniversary next month, enduring a childhood rooted in abandonment and abuse is anguish I will forever struggle to comprehend.

* * *

Mothers are supposed to hurl themselves in front of speeding trains if it means saving their children — right??? But what if you’re a mistake, whisked from your birth mother to an adoptive mother who subsequently opts for “children of her own,” leaving you in the hands of a broken man when you’re just seven? And what if this sole parent turns to the bottle to satiate his anger and to you with raging fists when liquor fails?

My husband needn’t ponder — this was his childhood. And the hardship didn’t end there.

As is frequently the case, the booze triumphed and rendered him an orphan at twenty-three. He pursued his flying dream relentlessly, but the major airlines required a medical history he lacked. In searching for this, he discovered a clerical error: His birth name had been left visible in the adoption records — a unique one, courtesy of his Czechoslovakian mother.

He was twenty-six when he found her. Living with a man in his early thirties, she was terrified that the sudden appearance of her secret son might result in yet another failed romance. After meeting him, she interacted sporadically before vanishing again. As a parting gift, however, she shared his father’s identity —  and the uncanny addendum: He was also an airline pilot!

Optimism skyrocketing, he couldn’t wait to meet his genetic blueprint. Unfortunately, their relationship was doomed from the git-go. Dad was married to a younger woman who couldn’t stomach my husband’s existence — forget subjecting her pre-teen children to such a scandal.

* * *

I’m ashamed to admit, the first time he told me his (less cheeky) version of the story, I quickly located my nearest exit. Don’t get me wrong, I was smitten from the start. He was (and is) my bona fide flyboy in shining armor — and yet?? Even now, in those unguarded moments when I spy a darkness in his eyes I can’t seem to brighten, inadequacy looms:

What if I make a mess of the love he’s gone a lifetime without

Letting him down like countless others?

What if I inadvertently poke holes in an already battered soul

Because my heart is too small?

What if I’m not worthy of the gem that he is?

💞

Then he pulls me into his resilient embrace

Eclipsing words

Halting time

Heartbeats melding

Thumping a tune of

Perpetual devotion

And I know

Somehow… 

I’m enough

* * *

♥ I dedicate this to every person struggling with family or abandonment issuesparticularly during the Holiday Season. I know how hard it is to open your hearts and let another in, but please know that what you’ve endured doesn’t define you. You prove this time and again with your steadfast attitudes and successes. YOU are precious gifts, inspiring others to overcome obstacles while finding the courage to forgive and trust again. And I, for one, am oh-so-grateful for your presence on this earth! xoxo ♥

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