Family

getting lost and being here

When summer arrives I feel the urge to head out on the road.  To watch the center lines blur and the scenery change to wide open spaces.  I love to feel my hair whipping around my face, arms stretched out of windows.  The wind swirling between my fingers.

My sons groaned.  “Do we really have to go?  You didn’t consult us when you made these vacation plans.”

Instead of getting offended, I mentally checked my automatic Mom response and sighed.  Driving a 2,000 mile road trip with seventeen and fifteen year old teens and a hormotional pubescent twelve-year old tween didn’t sound like an enjoyable experience for two weeks.  They were completely plugged into their devices: personal computers, lap tops and phones with earbuds in.  When I shared that our cabins had no wi-fi service; they bristled.  The lodging literature promoted being outdoors versus Internet access and could only be found in specific, public locations like lobbies.

We were embarking on a road trip the hubs and I have been wanting to take for several years.  Last summer this vacation was summarily canceled when my sons’ summer camp schedules directly conflicted with our dates.   It was on our bucket list of things to do before our kids begin to leave the nest and have schedules of their own but our sons were not enthused in the least.  They weren’t buying it.

In April 2016 the hubs had to pull over on the interstate. I had unsuccessfully tried to make reservations online (via my cell phone) while traveling home from a jazz festival.  Cell reception in the northern Sierras had been sketchy and when the highway patrol officer inquired why my husband was on the side of the road; he explained.  My wife has been trying for three hours, with limited cell reception, to book this online or phone and she just finally got a person on the phone.  The officer smiled, wished us well and encouraged us to make it brief and left us alone.

Our schedules were busy up until we left.  It took me a few days to relax and stop worrying about the things that I had left behind.  So many things to do.  So little time.

Navigation with my hubs is always a stressful affair.  Accustomed to his military days; his version of navigation entails coordinates, utilizing various apps such as Waze for traffic and Gas Buddy for finding the cheapest gas en route, Yelp for food destinations, multiple views (both digital and satellite) using Google maps AND our GPS navigation device since cell reception, again, would be sketchy.  As we left home and had to choose the freeway less impacted by traffic, the fight was on.

This has always  been a particular point of contention whenever we travel.  In Texas, I almost jumped out of our moving car…so angry with my, THEN, fiance.  In Utah we had pulled over to the side of the road, sleeping under the stars, on a cross-country move to Chicago worrying that my car wouldn’t make the trip; constantly overheating.  Using TripTiks, atlas maps and Thomas Guides (remember those?)…I had to be sure we were on the right interstate (which we were).

We found ourselves on this same stretch of highway and the hubs excitedly pointed out the exact place where we had pulled over in my Toyota Tercel twenty-three years before.  Incredulous, I could only laugh.  I could never co-pilot with this man in a plane; but I’ve survived co-piloting our relationship, and family, since 1990.  In the backseat, the kids heard us recount our stories of cross-country travel; curious of our lives before the idea of them ever existed.

We drove through 120 degree high desert valleys, through mesa buttes among hoodoos and deep canyons.  My stress level was indirectly proportional to the miles we were logging in.  As the miles away from home increased, my stress level decreased.

Upon arrival at our first destination the boys had been forewarned of our early wake-up time the next morning.  Lamenting that they were on “summer vacation” and should be sleeping in…they eventually crammed into a queen bed and were rudely awakened by the alarm clock at 6 AM.  This was not their idea of a vacation.  They imagined the white sands of Hawaii and the bright neon lights of Vegas (where we had spent the night the day before).

The arches of Utah were calling.  But after being yelled at for not bringing our best camera (left in our hotel room), I was  consoled by our youngest who cried quietly in empathy.  The eldest sat in the navigation seat, arguing directions with his father.  Our vacation was having a stellar start and after a missed turn, all was silent in our vehicle.

We trekked in 100 degree heat on an incline with no shade at 8:30 AM.    With Camelbaks on our backs and the GoPro on my cap; we took one step at-a-time; the boys patiently waiting for their father to catch up.  When we finally reached our destination, all cameras and phones were out taking the scenic panorama before us.  It dawned on me then that not one single complaint was uttered the entire ninety minute hike.  The hubs was shocked that I had handed my camera to the German tourist who took our family shot beneath this arch from afar.

Thus began our epic adventure.

We had many more missed directions and navigation foibles and the hubs learned to curb his impatience.  Comprehension had finally dawned on him that his idea of navigation was vastly different from other people.  He learned to take the missed roads in stride and the rest of us learned how to navigate more efficiently.  Driving an old SUV was very different from flying a multi-million dollar military aircraft.

We all learned to compromise and exerted endless patience; a reminder that it is not the destination that matters, it’s the journey in getting there.  And the pictures came out just as well with our other cameras versus our better one because the best pictures from our trip are etched indelibly in our own minds.

We found ourselves lost in the middle of Idaho; stumbling upon a quaint town decked out in all-Americana; pre-Fourth of July glory.  We passed bucolic panoramas with hundreds of herds of cattle, snow-capped mountains and blue skies.  When I sang, “Home on the Range” my sons had never heard of the tune and the hubs and I were aghast at their ignorance.

Home, home on the range.  Where the deer and the antelope play.  Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word.  And the skies were not cloudy all day.

Our lack of Internet connectivity made us mandatorily unplug.  As a family we have never been on vacation where we were together ALL of the time.  There were no separate rooms or walls to isolate us.  We always were within one another’s view; unless we were using restrooms.

I had expected fights, and there were a few squabbles; but nothing that wasn’t easily resolved.   My stereotypical, oppositional, middle teenage son took great joy in counting the days until we returned home.  But  he was constantly taking pictures to eventually share with his friends on SnapChat.  He was actually enjoying the trip and wanted to keep it a secret from us, his family.

When it thundered and rained for two of our days in Yellowstone; we were undeterred.  We hiked in rain and traversed mountains and peaks where the temperature registered as low as thirty nine degrees. We marveled at the geothermal features of springs, mud pots, fumaroles and of course, the geysers although the boys felt that after walking through several geyser basins, once you’ve seen one geyser; you’ve seen them all.

Daylight began at 5:40 AM and ended close to 10 PM…the hours long in the northern latitude and summer days.  We sat in road jams as bison herds ambled past and were eaten alive by mosquitoes on our first day’s hike to Mystic Falls.  On the days when the boys slept in or napped, hubs included, I explored our inn and sat with my cup of coffee watching Old Faithful in all its geyser glory as the sun rose or set with few people lingering.  The scenery was all my own.

As we hiked among wildflowers and rivers, geysers or travertine terraces sighting bison, elk, a moose, bears, foxes, eagles and everything in-between, I breathed in the crisp mountain air, taking it all in.  Whenever our family hikes, I take the rear; the mother constantly keeping tabs of her sons.  The hubs used to take the lead, but the older teens now scout the trail before us; the hubs with the bear repellent spray not too far behind.

I immersed into Nature; feeling blessed for the opportunity.  Gratitude filled me.  I. am. here.

When the purple mountain majesty of the Grant Tetons loomed into our landscape, several days later,  the boys immediately knew they would like it there.   Early for check-in for our cabin, the hubs spontaneously decided to hike one of the short and easy dog-eared hikes in my travel guide.  I had directed him to the trailhead (not realizing there was an eastern and southern route) and found ourselves on a difficult ascent with spectacular views of my Grand Teton peak looming ever closer to us.

I had chosen an easy-to-moderate trail on this particular route from the southern entrance and quickly realized this was something different.  But the hubs persisted that THIS was the correct place and had commenced on the moderate-to-difficult trail I had chosen to avoid; after the hubs had difficulty with the Delicate Arch trail in Utah.  We were on the eastern trail to Inspiration point along the shores of Jenny Lake.

Five hours later from our “short” hike prompted one of the boys to finally ask, “Who chose this hike anyway?” as we returned to our vehicle and empty trailhead parking lot.

Even on the most strenuous trek, the boys did not complain.  Not once.  They patiently waited as their dad caught his breath and I followed behind in the rear.  The eldest had control of the “best” camera, the youngest composed panoramic shots with our waterproof camera and the middle son’s phone was constantly snapping pictures.  They threw snowballs at one another when we finally reached the “saddle” portion of the mountain and we soon found ourselves at our destination, inspired by the 360 view.

In the remaining days we rafted down the Snake River, hiked trails and the hubs and tween, in sixty degree rainy weather, leapt off a 23 foot rock into the 48 degree deep alpine lake below; while the eldest carried a baby snake.  We constantly were on the lookout for wildlife; encountering a few along our hikes and drives.  Wildflowers sprouted along road ways, trails and riverbanks; infusing their vibrant colors and fragrant aromas in the verdant green alpine forests.  I was tempted to read Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Life’s misdirection took us on paths we’d never thought to take.  At one point, in the car, we didn’t know if we were in Montana or Wyoming.

In getting lost we found each other.

In the two weeks I had let all expectations go; trying hard to NOT create an itinerary for the hubs.  I listened to all of my family members’ thoughts and input to consider what to do.  The middle son enjoyed the hike he chose best; taking the lead.  The youngest felt the accomplishment of doing what he said he’d do by leaping off the 23 foot rock on the trail he chose.  And the eldest had matured, assisting with the long drives and navigation.

The take-aways were things I would have never predicted.  Our road trip had finally brought us back full circle to home.  To here.

My eldest developed a love for manual digital photography and outdoors; expressing the desire to return outdoors before summer ends. The middle son loved hiking and physical activity; wanting to take control and having a choice.   The youngest had vision and loved to compose shots with artistic flair.   We all have a greater appreciation for jazz; the music paired with my bluetooth stereo as we embarked on our endless drives.

Most importantly, we had a greater appreciation for one another; forced to interact and compromise.

Upon our return, the hubs decided he wanted to keep our physical daily activity going, finally getting on the treadmill, swimming and eating well towards better health and well being.   He doesn’t want his family to have to wait or hike without him.  It is one thing for me, or our sons, to want him to be on the path to wellness.  It’s another thing to want to be well and healthy, for himself.

The son who walked away from competitive swim has been swimming in our lap pool.  The middle son chooses to wake early to accompany me on my morning jog.  And the youngest enjoys cooking meals versus always eating out while on the road.  He likes having more choices with his ingredients.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Appreciate life and live in the now.  Be here.  Get a little lost in the great outdoors.  Life takes us in directions unknown but navigate your inner compass and find your true north.  You will always land where you are meant to be.

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Marriage

my happy place

I am with my hubs 24/7.  We work together in the small business we own.   I handle office matters and accounting and he handles everything else.

Admittedly, it is trying being with this man all of the time and when I meet couples who have endured through the years, for much longer than our mere eighteen years, I am compelled to ask this burning question in my mind.

How do you do it?  What’s the secret to a lasting marriage?

Last Saturday I awoke to bright, glaring sunlight as our cat pounced upon my foot above the covers.  Our bedroom, and entire house, looked like a hurricane had blown through it.  Normally this brings me anxiety and frustration.  I am a creature that thrives on order and routine, but I am learning to live through the chaos of my  life; to be present in the moment.

I recently was reminded of this after learning of two people’s passing.  A seventeen year old girl, who had performed with her high school band at Grand Nationals in Indianapolis as a vocalist and flutist, had been instrumental in placing their band in the top ten in finals.  Upon driving home that night, the car she had been in was struck.  She, her father and grandmother were killed.  This band program had experienced both its highest and lowest point,  in the same evening.

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During a district showcase event, featuring our local band programs, we learned of the loss of a staff member’s infant child at full-term.  Upon our flight’s return from Indianapolis our family of five had run into this family at a local restaurant.  They had beamed in happiness as they excitedly looked forward to the addition of this child.  We quietly absorbed the news in the high school stadium, saddened by this loss.

Life is short.

This past Saturday morning  was the first, in several months, where none of us needed to be somewhere.  I imagined myself lazily rousing, just as our sixth grader came bounding into the bedroom in search of the cat.  He had returned from a week- long science camp, immediately following our travel from Indianapolis.  The hubs and eldest son had fallen asleep downstairs, watching movies late into the night.  So much for a leisurely awakening.

Within an hour, all of my sons had made their way into our bedroom; strewn across our bed.  The dog and cat hairs clung to their pajama bottoms as the dog excitedly barked and the cat demurely purred.   Suitcases and blankets were pushed aside as my teens offered their own backs to be scratched and the tween found room in-between.

My mind flashed back to these boys as infants longing to be underneath our covers; jockeying for space on our queen sized bed.  It is now I who fights to find room, these sons now taking up most of the space.  When the hubs joined in, we were crammed; all of my boys somehow laying atop one another.

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It goes by in a blink.  I no longer take them for granted.  I cherish each one of them for who they are.

But in all this, it is the hubs that gets lost in the chaos.  Of all my family members, he is the one most taken for granted.  Most of this fall season I have busily coordinated our schedules, accounted for numbers for work and made sure we met our obligations to be where we’ve needed to be.  It is rare that I am being with he; the one who started this all.

I sat in bleachers in another stadium.  Whenever I meet a couple, my other most pressing question is how and when they’ve met; particularly those who have endured the years and have been married longer than ourselves.  This woman shared how she had met her husband of thirty-two years and I pointed out to her my other half, sitting in a far corner in disheveled and unmatched camouflage-wear.  We grinned at one another in understanding.

We appreciate our spouses when we step out of our normal routines and see them as others do.

It’s easy to get distracted and derailed with details and detritus.  The work-a-holic who bends over backwards  to make another customer happy with an unreasonable timeline.  The man who doesn’t bother with clothes or appearance and comes just as he is.  The father who sometimes forgets to check his sailor mouth from his days as a naval aviator, with his kids.  This man of spontaneity and my complete opposite in more ways than one.

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I type this from my happy place.

I had been shocked when the hubs saw the fall savings email and urged me to book an overnight stay at our beloved winery.  Financially we are recovering from our  recent travel, as well as large material purchases for the business.  I was anxious about leaving our sons at home, even overnight.  Our home was a mess and there was plenty to do to prepare for Thanksgiving and the holidays.

I’ve learned that more is not better.  That living with less makes life simpler and more clear.  That all these things to do, can wait.

The hubs and I walked across the road to honor the girlfriend who passed this last May at her preferred winery.  It is one of my favorite memories with her and another dear friend, as we headed to a book signing in San Diego.

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I passed on the extra glass of wine, only choosing quality versus the excess quantity. I watched as people stumbled around me and spoke in too loud voices in the wine tasting room.  I could taste the tannins on my tongue, smell the bouquet of flavors and appreciate the time and patience required to ferment grapes into an award winning wine.   As I sipped, I thought of the various answers I’ve received, over the years…

  • from the couple who sits behind our pew each Sunday… they’ve made it over sixty years because they give one another space.  He reads the paper in one room, she watches novellas in the other.   They appreciate one another’s diverse interests and do their own thing.
  • from my in-laws who just celebrated fifty years this July…who’ve made it because they never go to bed angry and are together 24/7.  They’ve weathered storms, since their teens, together against all odds and spent twenty five years creating the business we have inherited.  Currently they enjoy their years of retirement side-by-side on slot machines.
  • from the woman in the stadium…they’ve made it because they separated home from work and independently pursued what was important to each of them.  We had laughed out loud as she referred to her husband in third person…a separate entity from the one she usually deals with, in the first (person).  In watching him work she remembered the man she had fallen in love with.

And so I watched my own hubs in the third person; trying it on for size.

Instead of grimacing when he changed our schedule to stay late to appease, yet another customer, I saw the man who selflessly gives of his time.  He is the reason why our customers return.

I ignored the mess of our home; pushing aside clothes strewn on couches to sit and watch movies in a spontaneous movie marathon with our boys.  This is my hubs’ favorite pastime as I flit around picking up around them.  I decided to just sit with them instead.

I thought of my book club girlfriends who refer to my husband as, “the good guy” and tried to see the man they see…the one who teaches our boys how to build campfires, creates chef quality meals, assists them with trig/calc/physics/all things technological and being an all around “good guy.”

We stepped out of our normal routines, leaving our three sons  (with grandma nearby) and even taking a day off work, to decompress after this whirlwind of a year.  All things work related, financial and school  remained at home.  We sat among the vineyards, he with an electronic book; myself with my son’s laptop typing words.

Life is short and I would not want it to end without this man knowing the depth of love and gratitude for what we have (the good and the bad).  For years I’ve considered him my parenting partner or my “evil” work boss.

I had forgotten the love that began it all and the ties that bound us together. We are quite different in many ways but in things that matter, our beliefs are the same.  I considered all the answers people have shared over the years, finding my own on how our marriage will endure.

Marriage is like a fine wine requiring lots of attention and endless amounts of patience.

I may not always be in love with my life.  But I’m thankful to be here to live it.  It’s tough to always do what you love and love what you do...but I’ll spend the rest of my time trying, with this guy, ’til death do us part.

My heart is joyful as the holiday season comes upon us.  It isn’t about the material things and gifts.  In my marriage, my presence is the only present I have to give.

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This Thanksgiving be grateful.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

friendships

collecting the pieces

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I recently sat across the table, at my favorite coffee establishment, as my girlfriend shared one of her most vivid memories of me.

I had been speeding on a freeway, late on a Friday night from college, when I realized the flashing lights and siren behind signaled for me to pull over.  I was on the, all-too familiar, drive to my extended family’s home when the death of my father had finally hit me.  Through my blurred vision, I had waited quietly for the highway patrol officer to approach and, after he angrily asked what my problem was, his response had shocked me.   He gruffly asked for the house address I was headed to and commanded that I follow him; this officer escorting me to my family’s home.  I never got the ticket for speeding and driving recklessly.  I had been eighteen.

I blocked out memories from that time of my life; this particular one forgotten.  The tears sprang to my eyes, unbidden, and my girlfriend’s arms had goose bumps.  To my utter surprise, she had never known my father died of colon cancer; almost three decades earlier.

With the ending of the school year, in June,  I found myself choosing to engage in silence; a quiet, meditative retreat.  There were no places my sons had to be and with our relaxed schedule, I slowly began to unwind.  But instead of finding things to do, projects to complete or places to go; I chose to remain close to home.  I have journeyed to many places, enjoy traveling and taking the time to learn the details of my destinations; pouring over maps and guide books.  But I have never taken the time to really understand the place where I live; my so-called sanctuary that I call my home.  I live in these four walls with four other occupants, but how much time do I invest in learning about the things within these parameters?  And so I stayed still, this summer, to come full-circle and discover what lies within my four walls.

I used to think the best summers were spent at beaches, camps or exotic vacations with grand stories for my kids to share when they returned to school in the fall.  These were ideal summer pursuits and made me feel like we provided great memories for my kids.

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What I’ve learned is that it’s not always the destination that mattered.  It was the quality time spent with  family, and people, that created the best memories.

For the past few years I have been finding my way back, to remember where I came from.   I found that I had gotten lost, somewhere along the way, and needed to unlock the things that have shaped me into who I am today.   I kept forging new paths with new destinations to conquer.  But I had never fully walked the journey I had originally been on.

My girlfriend and I stared across at one another; tears in our eyes.  We had barely caught up on our present lives when we, abruptly, ended up in the past.  This memory was a gift; as is her friendship.

The song, 7 Years by Lukas Graham, makes me think back and reflect.  It’s one of my faves.  But the song, Mama Said, is what I hope my sons will remember.

I know which place I’m from
I know my home
When I’m in doubt and struggling
That’s where I go
An old friend can give advice
When new friends only know a half story
That’s why I always keep them tight
And why I’m okay
… I said I’m OK
You know what my mama said
You know what she told me

My favorite summer, at age sixteen, had been when my cousin took me along on vacation with his young family.  To this day, whenever my cousins or I hear the song, “Brass Monkey” by the Beastie Boys; our memories fill with winding mountain roads as we traveled the high Sierras to Yosemite, Sequoia and King Canyon.   It was on this trip that my love for the outdoors, truly, was born.

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August 25th was the 100th year celebrating our National Parks.  I hope to someday visit all of them.  I hope my sons, someday, appreciate them as much as the hubs and I do.

These days my sons would rather hold mobile devices, chasing pocket monsters, and roaming the outdoors like walking zombies.  Rarely do my boys choose to hang outdoors with friends; instead choosing to communicate in message chats and Skype.  Our one camping excursion, this summer, has become an annual trip with the girlfriend I’ve known since age four.  Our midpoint, between the two cities that we reside, happens to be at a national park.  Electronic devices are banned once we reach our destination and cell service drops as we ascend the foothills and drive within the redwood trees.

My favorite destination happens to be our car.  It is within the confines of our vehicle that the boys begin to share the tidbits of their lives that, most days, seem trivial.   We listen to various music genres, commenting on what we like and what we don’t.  No earbuds are allowed.  I pondered how to create this same environment in my home.

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Over campfires our sons listened to the tidbits my childhood girlfriend shared of our past.  I am awed by the capacity she has to remember the details.  Her words filled in the blanks from my childhood; the stories priceless.   With both of my parents deceased, it is the memories of my girlfriends that help me piece together who I once was.  She recently lost her own father and we sat silently by the campfire, remembering him.

With knowledge of my past  I can, once again, forge friendships with others as I carry the pieces of me and move forward.   There are always gaps in my puzzle but my new friendships help me fill them in as we continue to journey in the path of life.   I have undergone many transformations from the girl, I once was, some great, some not so much, but those who can look past these things continue to walk alongside.   I do not do a good job of keeping communication lines open but these friends know they are carried with me; a vital piece to my life story.

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My silence has finally been broken.

The memories flood me in dreams at night or in the brightness of day.  I see pieces of my life in my sons as they learn to maneuver their tween and teenage years.  If not for them, I may not have made the effort to remember. 

I know I always have the sturdy shoulders of the hubs; the ones I’ve hugged during the good times, and silently wept and held during the bad.  I want my boys to know that I have their back, and hope that they grow to be decent, respectable men, just like their father.  Their puzzles don’t have to be complete.  It is one of the joys and mysteries of life, to discover the pieces.

It’s for them that I type.  To push through the hype.  To show their mom as an imperfect woman and wife.  And to carry the pieces forward into their life.

 

 

 

 

 

Family

sitting still

It’s hard to sit still.  To let life blur past, spinning on its axis while I remain in one spot; unmoving.  It is normally not my modus operandi (m.o.) to sit still.

But sit still, I do.

As our family schedule transitioned from hectic end-of-school activities to the summer we, traditionally, jumped right into Father’s day, two of my three sons’ birthdays, the 4th of July and various camping excursions and vacations.  We are always on the go and my most favorite pastime is sitting in the passenger seat as the yellow center lines on highways blur.  The camera strap causes neck burn as I twist and turn snapping shots from my wide lens.

I laughed out loud as a line from Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell’s book, It’s Hard to Be Five, came to mind.

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Most summers I leap from one hectic schedule to another, keeping busy with vacation itineraries.  My hubby, the type B personality, is happy to stay put while I schedule various points of interest to sight see.  His constant complaint that there is no rest or relaxation on vacation falls on deaf ears as the boys and I look for the next thing to visit; happily tired at the end of each day.  Our summer months usually are filled with leisurely things to do.  Things that are fun.  But to some, leisurely means staying in one place and taking in the scenery.

Last year we traveled too often; neglecting things needed to be done at home: the garden, the garage, unplugged family time.  We stayed busy to distract us from the normal, mundane every day but when all was said and done, it still awaited us when we returned.

The epiphany came recently.  My constantly busy personality stems from a very boring and lonely childhood.  Our sole trip, each summer, was a one week trip into the city from our rural town to visit family.  Sometimes I would be asked to join trips with a friend; but most times I remained at home.  As an only child I entertained myself with books, reading of faraway places.  I often dreamed of what life would be like away from this small town and would get absorbed in music to pass the time.  Each day seemed to remain the same.  This was my life for the first seventeen years.

Once I moved away to university my life never stopped.  I ran to catch up with the years I missed to pursue bigger and better things.  I moved further away to pursue post grad studies across various state lines.  On my very first cross country road trip; the boyfriend (soon-to-be fiance and hubs), shared the drive to help me move.  My fond memories of road trips stemmed from our to and fro on Interstates 10, 20, 40 and many more.  He and I have since traveled to many places near and far by plane and by car.

I glanced at Fakebook at the vacation pictures from friends as the hubs glanced over my shoulder.  We both feel the pull to travel, to get on the road and go and as the long 4th of July weekend approached; we began to consider options.  Our summer plans to Yellowstone/Grand Tetons were re-scheduled to next summer due to school related activities for our two teenage sons.  This year, due to work and school related commitments, we have only traveled once.

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I long for redwood trees and tall mountains, large bodies of water and purple clouds strewn across red and orange sunsets.  I enviously glance at other friends’ scenic outdoor pictures and pull up the gallery of my own.  But pictures don’t do the outdoors justice.  I need to be out there too.  I am counting the days until we meet my childhood girlfriend and her family for camping; a trip that is becoming an annual outing for us both.  We come from the same place.

I continue to sit still.

I purposely chose to remain home for the first part of the summer.  Why?  To decompress.  To adjust.  With most social obligations on hiatus, I have chosen to find my inner introvert.  To fill my time and space with nothing but my own breath and thoughts.  The silence is deafening and I struggle to sit with it.  To let it wrap itself around me; like a peaceful, comfortable item of clothing.

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I’m trying this one on for size this summer.  And it is hard.  I am easily distracted and default to complacency.

In my mind I see the outdoor places I long to be.  Sunsets on lava rocks; waves rolling to the shoreline.  Boulders in rivers as my sons and dog swim in the cold flowing waters.  High vistas spanning miles of natural landscape.  I center these things in my mind for brief moments and open my eyes to where I am at the present moment.  And I sit still.  I have always told myself that if only I was: (fill in the blank) that all things would be better.  But really, I need to clear that mental block.

I. am. here.  Enjoy where I am right now.  There are too many if onlys and too little nows.  These past years I’ve lived my life in the rear view instead of the present moment.

I move from one room to another in my home, following the sun with a book in hand.  I sit on warm concrete with a towel, the sun filtering through my hat.  I put away dishes and focus on the scenery of my yard instead of the cracked tile that sits nearby.  I soften my gaze to see the green plants out my kitchen window.  The ones that create my landscape; clearing mental images of outdoor vistas of past trips.  Instead I evoke the feelings of gratitude and appreciation from these memories to the present ones.

This mental work makes all the difference.  I don’t have to travel to other places, rely on external people or things to bring me happiness or to affirm who I am.  Instead of distracting myself with itineraries and busy work I sit still and do my mental work.  I am grateful for right now.

My need to move is based on not dealing with things not dealt with.  I now do the simple tasks to fix these little things in my every day so that each moment isn’t based on distraction, but interaction.  With my hubby.  With my kids.  With my immediate surroundings.  But most importantly, with myself.

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To be true to others, you must take the time to discover your own truths.  Until then, you do not live authentically.

My sons are amazed at my silence this summer.  I work on little things: cleaning closets, organizing paperwork, understanding finances.  I water gardens and clean yards.  I work on my own inner struggles and discontent to communicate them with my spouse as we journey this midlife path together and beyond.  I make time to interact with my ever growing sons who continue to seek their own spaces and discover who they are.

In the silence I am finally listening to the beat within that has always pushed me forward.  We all have our own rhythms and without all the noise, I can finally hear them once again.

I am trusting my body cues to tell me when I’m hungry, when I need activity.  I find myself yearning to be outdoors on predawn jogs and late evening swims.   There is no magic program or elixir to perfect health.   If everything is in balance (portion control vs. activity) it works out on its own.

I surrender control.    My successes, my failures.  My needs and my wants.   I used to think I could control these things and get riled up.  I have no control over these things and can choose to not let them control me.  I am learning to accept things as they are and walk the path that fits who I am.

To dwell on the things not dealt with.  The dramas that unfold in family, social groups and organizations. To laugh, to cry, to shout.  To find my inner introvert and look within; to reflect in solitary silence and figure out how to progress forward or if not, to let it go.

In the silence the words emerge, the inner writer finding solace in them.  I read books, once again, of far away places.   I unexpectedly found a novel that filled my desires to travel while still sitting still.  I escaped to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion and many places in-between and gained insight on the mental work I continually push through.  I don’t need to be on the move searching for answers to my queries.  In fact, I think I know them and finally made the time to actually sit and listen to them.  They have been with me all along and this summer, I don’t need to travel far to appreciate my destination.

take me with you

I am here sitting still.  I have already arrived.

 

 

 

Family, friendships

a place found

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Most times, when a void occupies a place in my life; it sits empty and hollow.  Bad things hover on its edges; thoughts of insecurity, anger and sadness hope to fill the empty space.  My tendency is to venture into the void to dwell; to remain in its shadows.

It is when I let my expectations go that I gain unexpected joys.

This morning I had, unknowingly, jogged past my destination; lost in thought.  When the realization registered I was overcome with happiness.  It is a chore for me to awaken, early in the dark hours of the morning, to get some form of exercise for myself.  Initially the expectation had been to lose weight; to regain the body image of years before birthing three boys.

But in the year or so that I have forced myself outdoors; it was only today that the true benefit was realized.  My early morning  run is my time to sort through my dark and jumbled thoughts; to clear my mind.  The end had arrived too soon and I finally was experiencing the adrenaline of a “runner’s high.”

I no longer jogged for vanity; I jogged for sanity.

I came to work and stared at our office entryway.  The paint brushes and trays remained from our additional accent color on our office wall.  The small Christmas tree sat upon a dusty table.  The banker boxes leaned against the wall.

The hubs found me sifting through files, storing away the years to make room.  I had let my worries about the future go; concentrating on the present.   Somehow my perspective had changed and I racked my brain for answers; wondering How?  When?  Why now?  What had changed?

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I have finally taken ownership of my life circumstances and claim them as my own.

I held onto the Yellowstone National Park reservation; the one I knew I had to let go of due to a scheduling conflict with my sons’ activities.  I had made the reservation a year in advance; securing a coveted area at an enviable savings.  I had been looking forward to this vacation and was shocked when the middle son shared that his favorite memories from our family excursions were our road trips in our car.  The car?  I had realized my favorite memories of trips were always in the journey and spontaneous stops along the way.  To hear the teenager say he enjoyed the car had brought unexpected tears.

As I sadly and regrettably cancelled our reservation with the ranger; she reminded me what great amenities I had given up.  But, as a consolation prize, she then proceeded to instruct me on how to get the better and preferred room for the same price as the one I had given up; for 2017.   The information she passed along was priceless and I profusely thanked her.  I will get to this destination next year with better amenities.

In letting this go; something unexpectedly filled the void.  Our schedule opened up to share the fiftieth anniversary milestone with my in-laws and family.  The hubs who refused to take a cruise finally relented; at his mother’s request.  The years are rapidly flying by and opportunities for our sons to vacation with their grandparents and aunt’s family will soon be few and far between.

Friends have come and friends have gone.  In letting relationships run their course, for lack of reciprocity,  the unspoken words no longer wound me.   I, the only child, have been fortunate to have friends that continue to walk alongside as young as age four; who’ve shared my various milestones, both good and bad.  We camp together, our high school kids are in classes together, we meet in various cities and quickly remember the ties that bind.

I assumed I had no room for others, after recently feeling disappointment, but I had been wrong.  In the void that was left; my capacity to feel connections with others was rekindled and surprising.    We have boated on lakes, sat in bleachers and homes eating cookies and cakes and served in programs that matter.   This was freeing.

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I am coming to terms with my new stage in parenting; the letting go.  I am not the end-all, be-all, person for my children any longer and to be a good mother, I need to pursue things that bring me happiness.   I feel an affinity to cacti and how they sustain harsh climes and weather systems and remain standing tall.  They fill my entryway.

I have rediscovered the joy of growing all things green.  It is not the short-lasting showy blooms that bring beauty to my yard.  It is the variegated leaves, trees and shrubs, that are present all year long, that fill in my canvas; the textures and varying heights that bring interest and pleasing diversity to my outdoor landscape.

It is the friends that remain constant, with diverse backgrounds and varying views, that fill my life’s stages.  I can finally look past what’s popular and expected; to create my own canvas and fill in my open spaces.

The books pile upon my nightstand and I am devouring them.  The fifth grader snuggles nearby with his own blanket; the avid reader reawakened as his stack grows.  My thirst for reading is currently unquenched and with that in mind; I have let go of my expectations of the various social dynamics in our ever-changing bookclub.   I focus on the books; the words that have always brought me comfort and escape.  With or without  these women, I would still be reading them.

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It is how people choose to deal with one another; with authenticity and transparency; that matter the most. 

I am grateful for the people in my life who value these same things, who keep things confidential and will speak their words clear and true.  I repeat this often to remind myself; to not get complacent or get stuck in the void.   I have found meaningful relationships with my husband, my family and friends (old and new).

They sustain me in this space.  They continually give me grace.  In their lives they grant me a place.

There’s a spanner in the works, you know
You gotta step up your game to make it to the top
So go

Gotta little competition now
You’re going to find it hard to cope with living on your own now
Oh oh, oh oh

Let’s make this happen, girl
You gotta show the world that something good can work
And it can work for you
And you know that it will

Let’s get this started girl
We’re moving up, we’re moving up
It’s been a lot to change
But you will always get what you want

Took a little time to make it a little better
It’s only going out, just one thing then another
You know, you know

Took a little time to make it a little better,
It’s only going out, just one thing then another
You know, you know

Let’s make this happen, girl
You gotta show the world that something good can work
And it can work for you
And you know that it will

Let’s get this started girl
We’re moving up, we’re moving up
It’s been a lot to change
But you will always get what you want ~ Two Door Cinema Club, 2009.

Family

check-in-the box (Part II)

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The hubs sits across from me in the office.  He feels bad that we drag our three sons to work with us during the week.  What kind of a summer vacation is that?

I remind him of the observations I have made over the years.  Our sons could easily be in our home plugged into PCs, phones and iPods over the entire summer break.  I could be shuttling them to planned activities, camps, theaters or theme parks to entertain them.  But would I be spending quality time with them?

Down time from the constant to and fro of the school year is welcome.  There are no summer bridge books this year.  Two of my sons choose to read, on their own, because they want to.  The growing teens sleep for ten hours; sprawled across couches and chairs in our conference room and offices.  When needed all of the boys assist with sorting parts in the shop.   In another week our lazy, summer days will be over as the shuttling begins in earnest and the back-to-school month of August begins.

Each month, this summer break, we have had an unplugged activity.  I hadn’t realized I was doing this until the boys brought it to my attention on our trek home from the in-laws’ mining site up north.  Over spring break we had traveled across four state lines and within our own state’s boundaries; we accrued more mileage than the four states combined in one week.   What seemed like a simple excursion to break up our drive unknowingly became an adventure all of its own.

The hubs and I are native Californians but we never truly appreciated our golden state until he was stationed in various places throughout the country and traveled overseas. Ironically, last weekend, we returned to the central coast; the area I am from.  But growing up in this region is a vastly different experience when you are an adult.  As a teenager I drove my girlfriends to local beaches but never ventured further afield; aside from field trips to museums or Hearst Castle.  Four years ago I had attempted to take this route north but the highway had been closed to rockslides.

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After camping with the in-laws at their gold mining claim we had left late; moving boulders from dirt roads so that when my in-laws left their site in a week’s time their trailer will avoid the bumps in their path.  Their trailer tire had been flattened and we hope the patched rubber will allow them to ascend to the main road to a tire repair shop thirty miles away.   When we finally obtained cell reception the GPS chirped that we would not arrive at our half-way point  until nighttime; defeating the main purpose.  I longed to see the steep cliffs along the Pacific Ocean in daylight.  I sighed.  At least I would finally have facilities and running water; namely a shower.  After four days and copious layers of Repel mosquito repellent; I pined for soap suds and shampoo.  I called our lodging destination to let them know we would be a late arrival at 10 PM.  We enjoyed our dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, surprisingly another first, and after a brief gas stop, we were making good time; merrily on our way.

In the dark, as we traversed rolling hills, the hubs commented that my SUV was acting funny.  And within five minutes our engine cut-off and we found ourselves coasting to the side of the road near the intersection of two highways; in the middle of nowhere.  This section between the two major north-south thoroughfares of our vast state is sparsely populated; at the San Andreas fault line.  There are no lights and as trucks blazed by I saw the worried lines on my middle son’s forehead.  The youngest blissfully unaware, chattered about various topics.  The eldest and hubs went under the hood; in hopes of a quick fix.  It was 10:30 PM.

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An hour and a half later the hubs diagnosed fuel pump failure and the Triple AAA tow truck was on its way.  The last time we called for towing it had been for my cousin; stuck at the entrance of Kings Canyon National Park two years ago as we waited alongside.  It had taken over five hours, of northern and southern regions arguing which was responsible; for her vehicle to finally get towed.  Thankfully, by ten miles we had crossed into the southern region.  In the pitch black of the night the affable driver fit our family of five.  The planets had aligned.  Unable to reach our original lodging destination to let them know we would not be arriving, a hotel cancellation near the repair shop allowed us a room at a 45% discounted rate; dog included.  In the midst of full occupancy  rooms and the Mid-state Fair in full swing; we had been extremely fortunate.   It was 1:30 AM.  The hubs grinned.  Our trip was full of spontaneity.

By 2 PM the next day we were road trippin’ out.  We passed the various wineries of the region; knowing one day I would return here again to explore them.  But for now we headed north on the route closed four years earlier; the route I’ve only been on once before at age sixteen on another family vacation with my late cousin.  My own childhood home lies on this road, further south.

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And as the miles were logged and the windows rolled down, I could finally, once again, breathe.   One of my favorite songs came to mind; one that always makes me think of home.  I stuck my arm out the window in-flight and saw the son directly behind me do the same.

Get your motor running
California Interstate 1
Pacific Coast Party
If you’ve got to work today
Get yourself a new vocation
Pacific Coast Party
You don’t have to mind Father Time, Mother Nature
Get yourself in line take your time
And watch it slip away ~ Smash Mouth (2001) Interscope Records

Time moved in slow motion.  Upon missing the parking lot for Piedras Blancas we made the next left and found ourselves away from the crowds.  We hiked to the elephant seals to enjoy them in solitude.

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We made many stops along the way; unhurried.  When the hubs asked where I wanted to pull over for a picnic, he had already moved off the road to a grassy, flat area.  I rejected this idea and as he huffed about my lack of spontaneity, pulling back on PCH, I spotted the rock jutting out from the shoreline.

Over there is perfect!

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He asked me again if I was sure, dubious on how we would hike there.  But, always the trailblazer, he found a worn, overgrown trail that went over a mud bog and a fence.  And finally, we were climbing the rock; overlooking the depths below as waves crashed at the base.  The sounds of the Pacific Ocean filled our senses; various shades of blue seen for miles in panoramic.

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We noted several cars temporarily parked next to our own; the occupants hoping to find their way towards us.  But the mud bog and fence were a deterrent and we were able to monopolize this particular vista; all to ourselves.  When we decided to finally leave, two hours had passed us by.

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Our gas station stops were scenic and interesting.  At Ragged Point I went in search of expresso and became distracted with the amazing view.  Hours later in Carmel I finally obtained the expresso and as we crossed through Monterey and the scenic coastal valley where a large portion of our agricultural crops are grown, we headed south.

Didn’t we start here?  the middle son asked.

We crossed over the mountains and fault line we had been stuck at the night before.  Yes.  We had just been here twenty four hours before; traveling 143 miles on PCH and 116 miles on the 101.  We still had the long trek home (this was our halfway point from our camping destination up north).   The windows remained down, the radio turned off.  We had a day’s worth of uninterrupted family time; stuck within the confines of my SUV.  Our spontaneous detour was quite memorable.

I will always associate road trips with quality time; learning about the other four inhabitants of my family, our furry canine and even myself.  I was thankful my fuel pump had gone out; extending our family vacation an extra day.

There is a new road, or mishap, that awaits us around every bend.  It’s always our choice to decide how to handle it; as a detour or as an adventure.

I continue to learn spontaneity and I put the check-in-the box for Big Sur.  I choose adventure.  Someday I hope my sons will too.

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Family

check-in-the box (Part I)

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I had a hard time wrapping my head around it.  Camping without running water or facilities?  In a remote location in the mountains without other people for miles?  I am no Cheryl Strayed; who chose to walk the Pacific Crest Trail solo for long stretches of time.

Mandatory camping.

I dragged my feet hoping it would go away.  Normally I enjoy travel and sightseeing; especially long road trips.  As Memorial Day nears, each year,  I itch to see the center lines blur on worn highways; headed to places near and far.  I am thankful my family of five endure my excursions, my need to explore.  Most people assume our trips are my husband’s idea.  But it is usually I that chooses the location and works out the logistics.  July 2016 is already booked.

This time it was out-of-my hands.

My father-in-law (FIL) has always had the prospector mentality within, since his early twenties.  When my husband and his sister were young, their family of four went on month long vacations into the wilderness with a trailer purchased in 1974 to pan for gold.  The years flew by as work and life took precedence.  But it has always been my FIL’s desire to live “off grid” and mine for gold.  In retirement he chose to demolish and upgrade their trailer from years past.  Late last fall he arrived at our family business with a deed in-hand.  He was the official owner of a mining claim.

We knew it was coming, the hubs and his sister, as winter turned to spring.  It was my FIL’s desire to camp in the wilderness for a family vacation.  It is back-breaking work and manual labor; to mine for gold. Our nephew took his turn in aiding his grandparents in late spring.   This time it was ours.  We met at our rendezvous point ten hours away from our homes.  And then we followed the trailer as it slowly ascended into the mountains.  The rear tire of the trailer was punctured as the FIL navigated his way down towards the creek.  The guys pushed boulders out of the dirt road’s path and used chainsaws to clear tree branches.  How are they going to get out of here?

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Upon arrival the hubs carried away the portable toilet.  My in-laws graciously allowed me access to their trailer bathroom but the boys enjoyed being in the great outdoors; particularly the hubs.  It was a beautiful setting and very remote.   What better place to commune with our natural environment?  I shuddered as I snapped the shot.  The Repel spray with 40% DEET was a prized commodity and the parfum of choice to ward away the mosquitoes.

The idea was to get away.  To unplug.  To do.  N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

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It all sounds good, the idea of disappearing into the wilderness and letting nature have its way.   Our sons tried not to look bored and I quickly realized that most of our camping excursions are in national or state parks with many scenic hiking trails and famous landmarks.  Our site consisted of a small creek with lots of trees.  It took five minutes, each way, for our sons to explore the creek banks.   They truly had nothing to do.  The teenagers disappeared into tents, instead; to sleep in the middle of the day.   The FIL and hubs worked  on repairing the punctured tire.  They chopped wood for our fire with chainsaws and axes.  They carried equipment down to the creek bed: winches, chains, shovels, buckets, the Keene dredge, sluice box, motor and various filters.   When Grandma suggested the boys explore the culvert (large drainage pipe) I sent them off with my camera.  They quickly returned and told me to come with them.  With hand-held CBs, off we went to explore the larger pool beyond.

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It was as I stood on a rock in the pond beyond the culvert, with a shivering dog, that my mind finally accepted where I was.  The teens explored along the banks and I gazed at the trees overhead.  I could continue to be an observer of my surroundings or I could consciously choose to be a participant in the untamed natural beauty around me.  I watched the clear water turn cloudy with ochre dust; the sounds of mining from upstream mixing gravel and silt.  I needed to embrace it.

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My mind cleared as the water clouded; just as it did when I recently participated in a mud run.  I laughed out loud and the boys looked at me questioningly.  Has Mom finally lost her mind?  My bodily-kinesthetic/ADD tendencies make it hard for me to do nothing.  Shivering in the cold water I knew what I was going to do.

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I, too, would learn to mine for gold and burn calories during the process.

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Eventually all the boys joined their Dad and Grandfather over the next few days.  They shoveled, they dumped and sorted rocks.  They carried buckets and placed shovels full of gravel and sand into the dredge.  It was a lot of physical work and, surprisingly, we weren’t bothered by it.  At the end of our four days I was sad to leave my in-laws; who remain for another week.  We departed from their gold mining site on their 49th wedding anniversary.  The punctured tire was fixed and on the trailer with enough patches to get them back to a town, thirty miles away.

The manual labor in the cold water actually brought warmth to my core.  But most importantly, it brought warmth to a more vital place: the heart.  It was a gift, for the only child with deceased parents, to see the ties that bind continue to strengthen amongst three generations of males.  Would any of my boys or hubs choose to do this on their own?  No. Probably not.

It was a labor of love; the most important lesson of life.  More priceless than the elusive gold.

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I place a check-in-the-box.

Family

objects in mirror are closer than they appear

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It’s an oxymoron to think that vacations are relaxing.  I posed the question to my husband at 11:56 PM as we drove through our state border; heading home.  Has there ever been such a thing as a perfect vacation?

The hubs is slow to respond; the deep breathing and soft snores heard from our back seat.  Outside our car windows it is pitch black; the reflective signs occasionally in our headlights’ view.  There are few cars on this portion of the highway and I wondered if he had heard my question.  I considered posing it again when he finally responded.  San Francisco. 

I reflect on this as the miles blur by.

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The moon waxed full on the beginning of our trek and the boys and I, lulled by the lights of Sin City, had decided we could make the short trek up and down the Strip.  But the boulevard is deceptively long and that first night we were exhausted.  Objects appear closer than they really are.  We already had round one of my infamous navigation skills and even with our GPS and Google maps app somehow we still could not reach our very obvious destination.  How can you miss the Vegas strip, I mean really?  Between two differing digital voices speaking almost simultaneously the hubs still did not agree with our route.  It is at times like these that I am grateful I have never had to be his co-pilot.  The poor crew who flew military missions with him for sixteen years probably got an earful.  Or maybe, it’s just me.

I hadn’t realized I said this aloud but a disembodied voice from the back answers me.  Mom.  It’s you.  I normally would bristle at this but the middle son is a great navigator.  Out of the mouths of babes.

I planned an ambitious spring break vacation at the very last minute.  Originally our destination had been to the City by the Bay.  Instead I chose to travel over 1,200 miles by car with three sons, the hubs and my grumpy self.  I had not realized it was a full moon until we walked the strip; our first overnight stop.  Neither the hubs nor I are gamblers and we had not returned to this city since his best friend married his wife over sixteen years ago.   Bedazzled by the ever twinkling lights; we shared with our boys that this was the adult Disneyland.  As we traipsed through the casino to our room, their eyes were mesmerized by the machines; the real versions of games that produced cash if you were lucky.   To my surprise our sons want to return here; the land of the JabbaWockeeZ.

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We ventured away from all cell reception within the mountain ranges; left to our very basic map.  Amidst the cliffs of red rock I could finally sigh in relief.  But I remained grumpy and tired; hiking the rear as we traversed steep drops and rocky terrain.  It took me two days to realize we had changed time zones and that my tiredness was due to the high elevation.  And, of course, my unexpected visitor chose to arrive a week early whilst on a two mile hike and I was ill prepared.   The boys continued to torment one another and when we hopped off the shuttle for our fourth hike of the day the boys groaned.  Whose idea of a vacation was this anyway?  I found myself thinking the same thing.

Day four found us on the road crossing state lines once again.  We gave up figuring out what time zone we were in; our cell reception still sketchy.  Our back seat to our SUV is now too small as long gangly legs fought for space.  For hours the car chargers were in constant use until we discovered at our last gas stop; a car charger with two USB ports.  Again the hubs chose to ignore my directions (which on this entire trip were correct, mind you).  Our differences in personalities revealed themselves in the close quarters of our vehicle.  I like to travel during the day and study maps.  My spouse, on the other hand, prefers detailed guided directions way in advance and traveling at night.  At the roundabout signaling a highway change he announced their was no signage.  Once again we backtracked to our route and I loudly and clearly stated I told you so.

By the time we arrived at our viewpoint we all were ready for fresh air.  True to form, my off-road hubs chose to trailblaze off the beaten path.  I longingly gazed from the Watchtower filled with tourists; many of them foreign.  Immersed amongst so many diverse cultures I happily took in the view until I noted my sons and husband were hiking down and away from the safe railing.

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Whenever our family hikes I always take the rear.  When my sons were young I needed to keep them in tow like a mother duck; the hubs taking the lead.  Four of the members of my family were making the descent towards an unmarked plateau and my sense of adventure vanished.  Amidst the south rim of the 7,000 foot Grand Canyon I stood frozen.  I have a fear of heights and my husband and children were happily descending into the steep canyon on an unmarked trail on the edge of a cliff.  My fear for my children’s safety overrode my fear of heights and I unwillingly hiked after them constantly repeating the mantra in my mind.  Don’t look down.  Don’t look down.  I breathed deeply; my heart in my throat.  Why can’t we be like the tourists and stay where it is safe!

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My sons chose to throw rocks over the cliff, waiting to see if they could hear them land.  They could not.  When the hubs asked where my sense of adventure was I remained quiet.  I sat away from the edge as he monitored our boys; taunting me as if they were falling. Eventually my heart returned to normal and the hubs revealed the trail.  It was well marked but it was unpaved and there are no safety rails.  But others have come down this path; the tell-tale signs of footprints.  He proceeded to tell me that this will be the best view we’ll have of the canyon, you’ll see.   I was dubious but I sat; itching to reach our hotel.  He sighed.

What is your rush?  Why can’t you just sit and enjoy the view?

Of course we lost our way to our final stop; hungry and tired in the midst of Grand Canyon village.  I was stressed and my boys, masters of the obvious, tried to ease my mind.

Look Mom!  That family is fighting too.  It’s not just us.

They had begun to notice this on our first day in Las Vegas as a mother yelled at her husband in Spanish while their kids followed while walking the strip.  In Zion National Park a German family with similar aged kids, argued and pointed at maps; lost between shuttle stops.   I did not relish traveling at night and had already wanted to be at our destination reading my Kindle.  At 8PM the general store was closed and I was still in need of feminine items for my unexpected visitor.  Thankfully, a kind woman re-opened her register just for my transaction.  Without cell reception to call the hotel that we would be a late arrival I fretted.  Minutes later we arrived.

Day five we hiked various trails along the rim with scenic viewpoints.   Leaving the crowds behind we happily hiked until we realized we had forgotten our tripod.  Across the trail we heard a mother yelling.  When I say we are going to take this picture I don’t want to hear anything else.  This is the one and only time we will ever see this place so you better act like you like it.  The boys turned to me and grinned and the hubs chuckled.  Yep.  I know the feeling.  We stuck our camera in the tree, set the self-timer and took our own picture.

I, the woman with the itinerary, still have a long way to go to be able to just go with the flow and enjoy the present moment.  But I seized my moment as I quietly sat at the end of the unpaved trail at 7,000 feet.  My husband saw my frustration and sat beside me.  The eldest stopped taunting his brothers and came to lean on my other side; quietly staring into the canyon depths.  I realized how rare this moment was and the tears came to my eyes as my other sons threw rocks below.  My time is short with these boys and Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right.

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Life is a journey, not a destination.

I smiled to myself in the darkened car as I replayed our vacation.  San Francisco had been a spontaneous, unplanned vacation with no expectations.  I had no agenda or itinerary; unlike this past spring break where I had places to go and sights to see.  I had highlighted guide books and trails and we actually did see most of them; just not on the timeline I would have anticipated.  On the evening of day four I had highlighted this quote from the book I had been reading, Moon Daughter by Zohreh Ghahremani.

“Life is nothing but a chain of mistakes.  Some we learn from, but most others are only horrible misjudgments on their way to becoming regrets.”

I was grateful that my actions didn’t become regrets.  It was natural to lament the negative: the navigation arguments, the disgruntled kids wanting Wi-Fi, the full moon and unexpected monthly visitor.   We survived 1,200 miles together, enjoyed the natural beauty of two amazing national parks and discovered that the family vacation is the same across all cultural backgrounds.  It’s real life.

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The objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. 

They are right in front of me but I keep projecting out into the distance; thinking of the future.  I need to travel in the present time and enjoy them with no regrets.  No smoke and mirrors.  Here and now.