Regaining the magic

I have vague recollections of the flights I took as a youngster. The oldest memories are fuzzy fragments – seeing blue lights illuminating the runway at night, receiving a pair of wings just like the pilot’s, wishing I had a jar to catch some clouds…. Somewhere between the bumpy rides on puddle jumpers and adulthood, what was once magic became routine.

Fast forward to 2008 and my cousin’s wedding. We decided to fly to Kansas City as a family. This included my grandparents and aunt who had never flown before. If you asked me then, I might have described the trip as a “production” instead of an adventure. I love my family but that’s a lot of moving parts.

My grandfather was a tall man so we arranged for his seat to be in the aisle but he was far more interested in the view than legroom. We shuffled him into a window seat. I’m not sure Pop talked to us at all during that flight. He was not a quiet man so this is notable. Throughout the flight his gaze rarely left the window. This was clearly someone who was capable of wonder and understood that safely speeding through the air is nothing short of miraculous.  

I have to admit that I remarked on it but it really didn’t change me very much. Flights were to primarily to be endured, not savored. When we flew back to Kansas City for another cousin’s wedding, I remember Pop’s perplexed, and perhaps mildly disgusted, expression as we put on headphones, pulled out magazines, and started all sorts of tasks that took us out of the experience. We could have it our way but he was opting for fascination and exploration.

Somewhere along the way, and it might have been the first flight I took after he passed, that I realized that I was wasting a perfectly good opportunity to experience awe and joy, two emotions that far too many adults are lacking in their lives. Now, I savor the glorious moment when the plane leaves the ground and begins to climb toward the heavens. I find myself peering out the window and counting my blessings. I don’t have a perfect life but it’s full of wonderful people and amazing opportunities. There’s something about lifting off the ground that puts everything into perspective.

These photos were taken on a recent flights between Portland and Seattle. I think he would approve.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

         


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Memories over material goods

I received 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People for my birthday. It’s a great book with lots of fantastic information about our thought patterns and behaviors and there are many tips for using this to your advantage when trying to sell a product, tell a story, or just create good design. The author, Susan Weinschenk, has a great site that also tackles this subject.

A recent post deals with a study that shows that we’re happier with experiences than possessions. It’s a great post that talks about the importance of finding ways to sell your product as an experience and talk about what your company does, not just what it makes.

I was really intrigued by the research and wanted to read more about the findings. I ran across a bit more on the study here. I was particularly interested in the fact that we become less satisfied with our stuff when comparing it with others, but comparing experiences doesn’t create the same response. So if the Jones’ have a bigger TV, you’re depressed about the one you have but if they had a great vacation, even if it was better than yours, the effect isn’t the same. This means you don’t have to have the penthouse suite to enjoy yourself and create lasting memories that will continue to bring you joy.

In all honesty, I’m not particularly surprised by these findings. When I was packing up our in house in preparation for the move to South Carolina, I couldn’t believe how much junk we accumulated over the years. I was faced with boxes of lovely things, some that I had saved for and others that were purchased on a whim, but all were things that I *had* to own. The joy I felt from possessing these objects was fleeting. When faced with the prospect of paying to have these forgotten items moved to the new house, I sent most of them to Goodwill.

It wasn’t hard to get rid of these things. For several years I have felt myself moving away from buying things and toward buying experiences – travel, events, attractions, dining…. I began to realize that our zoo or conservatory membership brought me more happiness than a piece of glassware or new gizmo.

Now, I can’t tell you that I still don’t love buying shoes or that I don’t want a new camera. Of course if you think about it, even these items are more related to experiences (dressing up for a night out, enjoying my photo walks) than to simply possessing something. I’m just interested, and a bit encouraged, by the fact that we’re starting to realize that things can’t make us happy.

Smoky Mountain Christmas, no not the movie

Smoky Mountain ChristmasWith posts about Christmas in Asheville and the Upstate, I suppose we can consider this the third of my merry trifecta.

Earlier this month, my parents invited me to go along with them for a little getaway in the Smoky Mountains. Our little trip turned out to be a great time filled with old favorites and some fun new experiences.

We rolled into Sevierville/Pigeon Forge around lunch on Saturday and headed to The Partridge and The Pear Tree for lunch. This restaurant is part of The Incredible Christmas Place complex. Mom and I selected this place after viewing the menu online. We had high hopes but given the holiday theme, I was just a little afraid the food might suffer to bend to the kitschy theme.  Thankfully, I was wrong about that. The restaurant didn’t seem tacky at all. The decorators seemed to understand that you would have diners in December and July and they showed appropriate restraint. The food was tasty. The meal starts with a loaf of hot cranberry orange bread. YUMMM!! Mom had the blacked catfish. It was spicy and didn’t taste of fish – yeah, I wrote it but you don’t like fishy-fish either so quit snickering at me. Dad had a large salad with lots of veggies and the boxing day sandwich which is basically a leftover sandwich – turkey, cornbread dressing, and cranberry mayo. He enjoyed it but said that he might order something else the next time. I had the Cuban with ” ‘Tis the Season” fries. My sandwich was very flavorful and filling. I only ate half because I was in love with the fries. These are crispy white-and-sweet potato fries are seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper.  I hate sweet potato fries but these were awesome. We were very tempted by the cakes, including a five-layer sampler where each layer is a different flavor but we were good. I doubt the same restraint would be shown on a repeat visit.

Later that evening we walked off some of our dinner during a visit to The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge. We enjoyed window shopping, a cup of coffee from the ice cream parlor (no ice cream, we were angels that day really) and sampling in the Farm House Kitchen shop.

The next day we made the drive over to Gatlinburg for strolling around and the Trolley Ride of Lights. At my urging, we made a stop at Karmelkorn soon after arriving. Not only does Karmelkorn make wonderful popcorn, it also brings back lots of happy memories. Honestly, if someone could find a way to get me one of their popcorn “suckers” made from colored, sticky popcorn with sugar eyes and a red licorice smile, I might explode from happiness.

In an effort to keep me from inhaling my entire box of popcorn, we walked down to the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen. This is the spot to get taffy in Gatlinburg, even the local bears prefer it. I have spent hours watching taffy production in Gatlinburg during my lifetime and I doubt I’ll ever grow tired of it. In addition to the husband’s taffy (cherry, vanilla, grape), we also picked up some yummy handmade sugar-free chocolates.

Our wondering landed us at All Sauced Up, a newer shop specializing in all kinds of sauces, jams, and gadgets. They have lots of samples. It’s definitely worth visiting.

We made a few other stops and then it was time to board our trolley to see the Christmas lights. The fare is $5 and seems well worth it for the amount of fun we had. We all sang carols and learned little tidbits about the festivities and the area. For instance, Gatlinburg switched to LED lights a few years ago and while the initial investment was steep, the city is saving a lot of money on electricity. The lighting features in Gatlinburg were designed by locals and are all trademarked so you won’t see them anywhere else. If you want to see the lights, make reservations for the trolley using the site above. Pigeon Forge also has lights but they do not run light tours on the weekends.

It was a great little trip and I’m thankful for the opportunity to go. I enjoyed being in a place with so many happy memories with the two people who are responsible for a lot of them.