Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Loose the fight not the lesson

This morning, as I lay in the post sleep, pre-waking haze I knew just where I was... and it was disconcerting. Knowing immediately which state and city I am waking in has become an abnormality  and I realize that I am waking before the alarm as well. An alarm I am now becoming accustomed too. Also an abnormality. These hallmarks of normalcy, that for two years have been strangers to me, are finding their way back into my life and I find us regaining our footing in the land of status quo. The most surprising piece of which is that the boys are re-assimilating into this life so much faster than Alan and I. We are out of sorts, and, like old men at a yoga class, unable to bend and twist with the same ease to contort into the positions that once came so naturally. Ironic because the life we built on the road required such mental flexibility that now routine is the hard part. It isn’t that any of it is inherently bad, just different from the life we worked so hard to create. And, I am realizing that time to mourn the loss of a life we had needs to be given real consideration and space to happen.
     Daily life seems to have no appreciation for my situation. It seems to not care in the slightest that I am asking for time to process what this new position means in the grand scheme of things. Because while I attempt to ponder questions of import there are still lunches to be made, boxes to unpack and children who now WANT to ride the bus to a public school, leaving behind the lessons I so meticulously planned for them. And still the questions remain. Questions like… Is it over or is this a hiatus? If it is just a break, is that fair to kids who are back in a traditional school? Will it ever be economically feasible again? What happens to all the friendships that we made out on the road? What of plans and promises already in place? What do people do once they’ve lived their dream? And, perhaps most pressing to understand… What was the lesson not to be lost?

Two years ago, we sold everything, bought a little fifth wheel and set out on what was to be a one year adventure. I don’t regret a single second.

It’s Halloween, my favorite holiday. The Boys have changed costumes three times a piece and have settled on a Vampire and a green army man.
We drive over to a suburban housing development 5 miles from the house as we have mostly older people near us, with no decorations out and the neighborhood is really only two blocks anyway.

   We decide to park and walk the blocks and immediately I am filled with nostalgia. Kids are SWARMING along the sidewalks but it’s more than that. It’s the young mom’s walking with strollers and toddlers. It’s the groups of friends with their beers sitting by fire pits and having potlucks in the front yard, congratulating one another on one-upping the jones’ once again in the décor department.

     I remember the last year in our home, now three years past. The last holiday with a friend who felt like family, and the heartache of her leaving us with no word, no warning. I remember lavish parties of Halloweens past, with crazy punch and festive foods that the moms would sit and enjoy as all the dad’s took the kids out. I miss the comraderie of those communities.

            And then Alan says, “ C’mon, you don’t need to wait at the driveway, lets move up the block.” And I do, for a minute. But he’s reminding me every few houses, as I slow down and wait for the boys. “Give them space, look at all the other kids their age, their parents aren’t even out here!” and he is right. Our kids don’t know anyone here yet, they only have each other for now, I know he’s right. I have to give them space, even if they are yelling the contrary to me. “Wait Mom! Why are you so far ahead?” I reassure them, I’m just ahead, just outside of the street lights, watching and waiting until they are done. But all night long, Alan has to continue to gently remind me, to move ahead, give them space. And I resent it, but I do. Because he is right.

            The next day, the kids lie on the couch in a sugar comma, so we go out without them to pick up some things. We stop at Qdoba for lunch. A lovely young family are sitting across the restaurant. They have a daughter and a son. He has just mastered the art of holding a fork and is still using the overhand grip. I laugh, mention to Alan how close that seems and yet, it’s a decade past. And I begin to say, “I hope they don’t blink, if they do they will find themselves trick or treating half a block…” but the words stick. And suddenly I am THAT woman. The middle aged, overweight crying woman trying desperately to pull it together, hide it behind sunglasses. And I say to him. “It’s not even that we held their hands too long, it was that we just looked down and realized. Realized that time was done. “
Like that car ride home, when you pull into the drive and can’t believe you are there already. You struggle to remember the minute detail, some marker of the passing time.

I’m sure this thought isn’t new, and I cringe at the cliché of the situation. But suddenly I am overwhelmed with how very very unfair it is. The early days are so long but the years so short.  And I know that I need to be more grateful of the time I have been spending with my kids, as it is more than most get. And the time was good, important, meaningful. Traveling, discovering, uncovering and learning along with them. Not just hours of mindless tv or surviving but really living our lives with them. And I have to be grateful and still, there is the sour taste, the bitter, “It’s not fair” playing along the tip of my tongue. Because it isn’t fair. I squandered so much time in those early years, just trying to survive, wondering if I was doing the right thing, trying to find the right path. Working too long for the wrong things. I heard them say, it goes quickly but I couldn’t have known. And now, now I’m afraid to blink.


This is a piece I wrote to submit to O magazine…

I’ve come to realize this path is less about finding yourself and more about creating yourself. It doesn’t come cheap, there can be lots of sacrifices along the way, but it’s worth the cost.

     Two years ago our family found themselves at a crossroads of sorts. My husband was looking at trying to survive yet another round of corporate layoffs and the school I taught at was making a major shift in pedagogy.  It was a set of circumstances that wasn’t particularly out of the ordinary but presented us with the timing to do something extraordinary. For years we had dreamed of getting away from the rat race and spending a year on the road, traveling the country with our kids. And so we took the leap, sold everything we owned, bought an old 32 foot fifth wheel and a used truck and left our regular lives behind. I homeschooled our two boys, quietly while my husband slept after a long nightshift at his computer. It wasn’t ideal, and oftentimes it wasn’t pretty, but it was always worth it. During the afternoons we would explore America’s National parks and earn Jr. Ranger Badges, 60 of them! We spent our days exploring the battlefields of Gettysburg, the shell beaches of Sanibel Island and the small towns of America getting to know this country inside and out.  And what we found was truly miraculous. The time we were able to spend as a family, outside our comfort zone, pushed us to be closer than we could ever have imagined. Day in and day out of required mental and emotional flexibility gave us the space to see each other in our true forms. As a mother, I was able to see my children in a completely different light. I saw them stretching their comfort zones, making new friends along the way and maintaining long distance friendships. I saw them shift to become inquisitive learners, seeking out knowledge rather than waiting to have it presented to them. I saw them change and grow and become young men who engage and hold active conversations with people of all ages from all walks of life. I realized I had been seeing them as the world thought they “should” be, and judged their progress that way, rather than giving myself, and them, the space to see ourselves as we were and as we were becoming.
      As a wife I became even closer and more grateful for a husband who would do so much to spend this time with his family.  It was amazing to see him as a father, pushed beyond his comfort zone and still exploring and learning and overcoming along with us. How many times did we sit on the side of the rode with yet another flat laughing like lunatics because we realized that THIS WAS the life we chose, Rather than the hand we thought we had been dealt.  As a couple we were often amazed to look at each other and say “I can’t believe we are really doing this! We are living our dream!” I found myself living each day with a sense of authenticity in who I was becoming and what we were doing. I loved taking the time and space to really settle into a life of profound gratitude and gentle reverence for what I had achieved as well as what I had been given.
     And when people would ask why, why would you leave all you had achieved? Why would you give up your retirement? Why would you intentionally live in 320 square feet?  We would tell them. Because we all leave this world and we don’t get to choose when. And to leave this world with the regret of not having lived our dream, was too great a burden.

At the end of one year, we attempted to return to the life we had left behind only to find it no longer fit. We were trying to shove ourselves back into a box we had clearly outgrown, and my authentic self would not have it. So we didn’t even unpack, we just said our “see you down the road” ‘s to our beloved community and took off once again. The danger of finding your authentic self is that things will never again be the same. Nothing looks as it once did, nothing fits the same way. For us, living small had made so much more room in the world we knew that we couldn’t go back to the same way of being. Not once in the last two years have I asked myself, “What is the meaning of this life I’ve been given?” I know now, that no matter how many times the view from my window changes, the important thing is the people inside my rig. For us, home really is where you park it, and that sense of home is wrapped up in the journey we are taking together. I thought I was leaving home to explore the country, but what I found was that we took our home with us, to find our authentic selves. And we haven’t looked back.
Well, I guess as you can see, the last post was April. So much has changed in that time. Some of it is hard to process, hard to understand and hard to accept. But it's all part of the journey!
So I'll post some of the writing I have done since we've stopped here for the winter in Fort Collins Colorado.
Long story short, we sold our RV and our truck to a lovely young family, and we are here staying in our friends home until April while they travel the southern states.
I promise to write more about why and how we have made this choice but not now... working up to it!
Travel safe, see you down the road....

Friday, May 1, 2015

Jacob's V-log....

Jacob chose to spend his 12th birthday time/energy/gift at a no-kill animal sanctuary. Even BEFORE he chose to spend it that way I regarded him as a unique and powerful force in this life but more so now. I am so glad he has found his passion and even more grateful that he has become the kind of person who wants to help those in the world without a voice. I am amazed by the young man he is becoming. He is even saving half of everything he makes to start his own shelter at 18! Enough bragging.... Here is the link to our family You tube channel with his Vlog. (Video Blog)

Jacob's Vlog!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

BoonDock prep

Boon docking or dry camping. Camping/living without electricity or water provided by an outdoor source. "off the grid". 

Crystal clear waters at Sand Hollow and the Lake all to ourselves...
We are preparing to boondock for the next week, or so. I say “Or So” because it really is the truest test for us of flexible planning. Our rig is not as self -contained as we would like it to be. For instance, we have a small, very loud gas powered generator. It provides enough energy to run our microwave and to charge our battery so that we can have computers and hot water heater and lights.  But it is LOUD and no one, ourselves included, wants to hear it for more than an hour at a time. So, until we get solar panels and an inverter we are beholden to stay in places with power, use the generator or, in this case, hook up to our dear friends who have enough solar to power a small village! (If our lovely friends can power TWO families for a week on their solar panels, why in god’s name aren’t we ALL doing it in our sticks and bricks and sharing with those who need it?) I can't adequately describe the feeling of living free- FOR FREE! Of course, it's not, there are all kinds of factors that come together to do this but you get the drift. 
     We planned on staying one night at the Sand Hollow campground just outside St. George Utah but the winds were too dangerous to move in so we stayed another day. Thank goodness because we got to explore a WONDERFUL park in St. George and the children’s museum. About 6 months ago I stopped taking the boys to kids museums because most of the ones we ended up at were really geared toward younger kids but in this case there was lots to do for everyone. It was great, as you can see from the pictures! We had a great time while Daddy took one for the team in a stinky laundromat with our friend Chris and finished some much needed laundry. Today, off to boondock outside of Zion! Wahoo!!!!

My office this morning...

Jacob and D.J. on the way home from swimming...

The perfect jumping rocks, and it was COLD!!!!!


Our new Hula girl and the Tardis leading us into UT