Happy Birthday to “The Southerner and the City”

butterflysquare1I celebrated my birthday on Tuesday in the Caribbean aboard The World.  It was a perfectly fabulous day as far as birthdays go. I woke up without the aid of an alarm, worked out, enjoyed a massage at the spa, had some fabulous lunch and read a book poolside as I sipped on a margarita.  The day was stellar on just about every level.

On the eve of my birthday it came to my attention that I’m a rule follower for the most part.  I always have been for whatever reason.  Probably because my older brother Wally was always NOT following the rules and creating all kinds of problems for everyone when we were growing up in Carlisle.  Even today, I’m usually the one following the rules, listening and doing as I’m told.

Birthday with RayIn what I can only describe as one of the best gifts I have ever received, I gave myself this.  Permission to not be such a stickler for rules any more.  Of course, I’m not talking about the big ones but rather some of the smaller things.  Basically I’ve decided to cut myself some slack and make my own rules and stop living by someone else’s rules.  You following me?

On Monday, I dove right into my new gift of ‘breaking some rules’ as I swam with the sting rays in the North Sound of Grand Cayman.  There isn’t any official rule stating you cannot swim with sting rays that I am aware of.  It is, however, advisable not to do such a stupid thing!  After all, they are wild animals.  I’ve been to Cayman twice before and wouldn’t even entertain the thought of jumping in the water.  This time around, I decided, “What the heck?”  But, only after Mark got in the shallow water and fed the sting rays himself.  I may have decided to break a few rules, but I didn’t say I’d also given up being smart about the timing of breaking them!

I tapped into my yoga breathing, tried to relax and just hang with the rays.  It was a fabulous experience.  Our guide, Paul, rounded up a ray for me and explained how to keep her in my arms. It worked!  I have included the photo to prove it.

These floating creatures are nothing more than graceful moving pieces of cartilage that feel a bit like a Portabello mushroom.  We even found some small babies in the mix as we indulged them with squid.  Which begged the question from the ever curious journalist in my brain, “If these are babies, how can we be sure they are tame enough to play this game with us?”  The answer – we weren’t sure and luckily we enjoyed the experience without ending up in the headlines.  Can’t you see it? New York City Tourist Killed By Ray – What A Dumb A** She Was!

Mission accomplished.  I broke a rule or maybe just decided to freaking live a little and stop being so concerned about all of the details.  I decided to be open minded and not attached to my preconceived ideas about the situation I was in at the moment.  There is a saying … have a mind that is open and attached to nothing.  Sounds easy enough, right?  It is not! Keep this in mind when you argue with your spouse, when you are trying to calm down a child and even attempting to listen to someone with different political views than yours.  My mind is already in a retreat mode just contemplating a discussion with a Sarah Palin!

As I start another year on this planet, I’m going to work on keeping an open mind and a couple of other things:

1.   Cut my self some slack.  Break some rules, discard the ones that no longer serve me, make my own and at times break those, too.

2.   Let go of ideas, things, people and situations that no longer serve me.

3.    Spend more time with my friends both old and new, especially those who allow me to be who I am and love me regardless of what I might say or do.  They know I am only sharing with them what I’d like to receive in return – a simplistic human connection.  Pure and simple.

4.    Be present.  Love more.  It really is the best way to live, isn’t it?

You can keep up with DJ’s adventures in the Big Apple by following her on Twitter @mrsdjduckworth and on Facebook.  Find more atwww.djduckworthyoga.com/blog. DJ is a contributing writer for New York Family.  She lives in New York City with her three boys – Mark, Corbin and Leo – woof, woof!


Southerner and the City – Greetings From Abroad

airplaneviewsmallItalyWhat is your dream vacation? I have too many to list but at the top of the list is Italy. Technically it’s a dream come true because I’m sitting in a bath robe in my hotel in Positano writing this post! Don’t hate me. I am not one of those smug travelers who visit exotic places only to mention it and then tell you nothing about the trip! Has that ever happened to you? “We just returned from a month long African safari. Did you see that story about the congressman from New York and his inappropriate text messages to those girls?”. REALLY! You can’t mention a fantastic trip to me and not plan on me asking you a zillion questions! That’s the journalist in me. I’m going to ask whether you want me to or not!

ItalyTo avoid sounding like that annoying relative who tells you in detail about every excursion and pulls out all of their photos and videos, I’ll keep it short and sweet. We started out in Tuscany at Castolle di Casole. It’s the perfect Tuscan setting. We were about an hour south of Florence. With the rental car, we day tripped around the area. The first stop was in San Gimignano —  one of my favorite Italian villages. If you visit Italy, I highly recommend seeing this walled medieval city high on the hill. We also took in Volterra. All of you Twilight fans should be familiar with this city. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I’m not into the whole vampire genre and probably won’t be anytime soon. There was also trip to Montepulciano to visit a beautiful winery.

Having seen Florence on previous trips, I knew I’d go back again. Florence is just an amazing city full of life, art, and history. It’s a place I never get tired of seeing. From the Uffizi Palace to the Duomo there is an enormous amount of art in this city. Which is probably why there are about 30 different universities represented there. I decided I wanted to see Florence from a local perspective this time. Our tour guide put together a day that was full of artisan shops that included a 4th generation Florentine paper maker, Alberto Cozzi, and an alchemist/jeweler/pharmacist, Allesandro Dari, who makes some of the most amazing jewelry I’ve ever seen. There were many other stops and shops along the way, but again, I don’t want to bore you too much with details.

ItalyOn Saturday, we took off for Capri. One word for Capri – UNREAL. The island is limestone and climbs straight up out of the ocean. As with any island, it’s most enjoyed from the sea. Capri is a geologist’s dream come true. There are so many different rocks, cliffs, formations and grottos to see. The most famous of the grottos is the blue grotto which we went in to see. I’ll explain this excursion in more detail on my blog at www.djduckworthyoga.com/blog We crashed at La Scalinatella and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Capri. After three days in Capri, we headed over to Positano – the vertical city. That’s what I’m calling it anyway because once you get off of the boat, the entire city is laid out or more accurately up from the beach. I’ve never seen anything like it before. We spent today touring along the Amalfi coast and visiting Amalfi and Ravello. Both are ancient and magical places to see. Just when I thought I’d seen the most amazing view, we’d make another hairpin curve and I’d see another one! The hotel San Pietro has one of the best views of the Mediterranean I’ve ever seen. The outdoor bar area rises high above the shore and extends out, well, to infinity and beyond! Our driver pointed out a massive yacht below which he said belonged to Rupert Murdoch.

I’ve enjoyed this trip immensely. It has really been like two vacations in one. The first week was completely different from the second week. Traveling has been a part of my life for the last 10 years and I’ve had some good trips and some fantastic trips. I’m out of adjective to describe Italy 2011. Guess I’ll use the long flight back to New York to come up the perfect word.