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Day Two: And I Would Drive 500 Miles…

16 Jun

Well, actually, 506 miles. If anyone is counting. And believe me, I am. I want credit where credit is due. Today’s drive, while only 90 miles further than yesterday, felt much, much, much longer. A lot of contributing factors: starting later in the day, cruddy driving conditions (more traffic, people going under the speed limit in the passing lane, lower speed limits in general, rain later in the day, several accidents), not having any unexpected visits with friends to break the drive. The myriad causes melded together and made it seem like a long driving day. And to be fair, what I was expecting to take 7-7.5 hours ended up taking 9 hours. So, like I said, a long day.

But, this morning was delightfully lazy, even my early rising boy slept in some. Okay, okay, not many people would call 7:30am sleeping in, but believe me, for him, that was late! And as several of the crew were slow to rise, Avery & I headed out to take care of a little business, namely, filling the van with gas, picking up some plastic spoons (stay tuned, those feature prominently later in the story), and buy bagels for everyone. The bagels were legit. Though, when I asked for a dozen, and the lady said that meant I got 14, I was a but perplexed. I mean, I’m familiar with a baker’s dozen, but adding an extra on to that? One-up-manship? Or trying too hard? Whatever, they were delicious! And I had an opportunity for a little teachable moment when we were in Harris Teeter buying spoons (seriously, stay tuned). We went to use the self-checkout kiosk, and I immediately noticed that there was money in the “change” slot. As in $40 cash, money. I try always to do the right things, but I will admit that for the briefest moment that $40 “free” money was mighty tempting! But I only pondered it for a nanosecond, and then told Avery that we needed to turn it in to customer service, and hope that whoever it was that had requested cash back, and then neglected to actually take the cash, would realize their mistake and come back to ask about it. It was, in my opinion, the proper thing to do, turning it in, in fact, it was the only thing to do. When I got back to the house and explained what happened, Harper was indignant that I hadn’t taken the money for myself, after all, I had found it! And that’s really where the teachable moment came in, because Avery was immediately on board with the fact that it was never our money at all. So, I explained to Harper that if I had found the money on the street in New York City, and it wasn’t obvious who had dropped it, I would have absolutely taken it and been thankful for my luck. But this was different, for a lot of reasons, and turning it in was the right thing to do. At least maybe I’ll get some karma points?

Anyway, after some hanging out, and some delicious bagels, it was time to say goodbye to our friends, throw the kids and dog in the car, and set off for our next destination: Harrisburg, PA. Our first stop was 166 miles up the road, in Pulaski, Virginia. Which gives me the perfect segue for a travel pet peeve of mine; I think there needs to be some kind of law/ordinance requiring those blue highway signs informing of available restaurants/gas stations/lodging/services/etc to indicate how close said services are to the interstate. Because in this case, I got off at the exit due to the blue highway sign indicating a McDonald’s, only to find out once I was already off the interstate that said McDonald’s was 2.6 miles down a country road. Grrrrrrr….. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, an extra 2.6 miles wasn’t really that big of a deal, but it’s the principle of the thing. I like it a heck of a lot better when I get off the exit and see the follow-up sign that indicates my chosen service is only 0.1 miles to the right or left. But it turned out to be a worthwhile stop, as this particular Micky D’s had clean restrooms, and a shaded grassy area in which to walk Remy. Once back on the road an accident hd us slowed down a bit – two lanes narrowed to a single lane, that then had to perform a slalom between wrecked cars and large pieces of debris. Also on scene was a downed motorcyclist (thankfully on the on-ramp, so likely his accident didn’t occur at highway speed.) When we passed, he was on the ground being attended to, but he did raise his arm, so at least we knew he was alive.

More driving, and approximately 200 more miles up the road, it was time for our second stop, this one rather extended, as we all needed to stretch legs, use the restroom, refill water bottles, and procure fountain drinks/slushees. During the time that Beau & Harper were in the store (How much do you love Sheetz stores in the MidAtlantic?!), Avery and I finally got around to scratching off our North Carolina lottery tickets. That’s right, the Lottery Project is still in effect this year, though in a severely truncated form. North Carolina was our first outing, and it yielded a positive return – $10 investment, $15 return. Now I just have to remember to stop in NC to cash those winning tickets in on the way home! (Side note: Have put gas in the van twice so far – and both time paid $2.19per gallon. I think I’m getting off fairly well, seeing as though the tank of gas I started with from home cost me somewhere in the $2.33 range.

Later in the afternoon (early in the evening? What time exactly does it switch from afternoon to evening?), we encountered some rain in West Virginia. Ready for another product placement? Holy smokes do I ever love Rain-X (especially when it’s on the windshield of my Honda Odyssey! See what I did there?) But seriously, it should be required for every windshield. Perhaps then people wouldn’t have such trouble driving in the rain. The kids asked me why I bothered doing that, putting all that stuff on the windows, and today I could just point to the clear windshield, and say, “Exhibit A.” Fortunately for us, we were going northbound on I-81 today, because there was a major accident on I-81 South in West Virginia that had all four lanes closed. Like diverting ALL traffic off the interstate closed. It obviously affected the flow of the northbound lanes, and as we crawled by I saw a mangled tanker truck, and a great deal of sand that had obviously been purposefully spread on the highway. I’ll assume that was spill control, and the tanker was carrying some kind of fuel; I just can’t imagine the sand would have come out if it had been a tanker of milk. But even more sobering than the completely jackknifed and mangled tanker truck was the minivan sitting on a flatbed tow truck at the scene. It was the same topaz gray Honda Odyssey as mine, and I can only hope that there were no children in the third row back seat, because it was crushed. It was completely sobering to see that van, my exact van, in such a mangled state, because if it had been us in the accident, that back seat IS occupied by my two oldest children. And just seeing that wreckage made me shudder. I can’t find too much detailed information on the wreck online, but I did see there was one confirmed fatality. Again, I hope against hope that it wasn’t a child in that minivan. And for more karma points, I called my mother after clearing the scene of the wreck. I could just see this being picked up by some national news outlet – seeing as though the interstate was going to be fully closed for quite some time, and my mother seeing that mangled gray minivan, knowing that I was to be in the WV vicinity, likely on I-81 late in the afternoon, and just failing to see the southbound indication before flipping out. Better a proactive phone call, than a frantic, reactionary one. Feels like a potential bomb diffused.

Then it was just another 30 miles, and one quick, urgent bathroom stop later, before we arrived at our destination: Harrisburg, PA. I hear the downtown is really nice, and the state capitol is gorgeous, so we might have to make time to drive through town tomorrow morning on our way to our annual photo shoot in Hamilton Park (Weehawkin, NJ). But whether or not that happens, I am very pleased with the accommodations I secured for us. The Red Roof Inn isn’t going to win awards for swankiness, and their two doubles double beds feel really, really small (especially when facing the prospect of sharing with the starfish child – either spread eagle, or clinging to me in some contorted posture), but they are BIG dog friendly, and judging by the activity in the parking lot, every single person staying here tonight has a dog with them. Managed to back into a parking space directly in front of our room door, there is a large grassy area to walk the dog just across the parking lot, and there was a nearby convenience store, just a short mile or so drive away, from which to procure our dinner. (Here’s where the plastic spoons re-enter the picture.) Every year I allow one night of the road trip to be Ice Cream Dinner. And all we do, is go to a local grocery store, or convenience store, and procure vast quantities of ice cream, which we proceed to eat straight out of the containers. Of course we never quite finish it all, and it melts and goes down the drain, but damn is it fun to try to beat the forces of nature and down as much as possible of it before it changes form. So the children get adequately sugared up, and I seem like the coolest superhero of them all. I believe that’s what we call a win-win situation.

 

Day 2 by the numbers:

Miles driven: 506

Number of states traveled through so far: 8 (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania)

Number of times I’ve thought how lazy I am because I can’t quite muster the energy to re-read/edit these posts yet: 1,639,217 times.

 

Oh, and you may have noticed that other than mentioning the large-dog-friendly hotel, Remy didn’t get much play in tonight’s entry. And why is that? Because he is the super most awesomest, go with the flow, doggone road trippingest poodle that ever was. He hasn’t been restless or anxious in the car. He was super well-behaved at the Taylor’s house, he has been amazing on our stops. I am positively gobsmacked at how well it is going traveling with him. (Again, knock wood, we still have Manhattan to deal with – though I also have Xanax available should it become too much of an issue, so I’m still holding out hope!) But I really should thank him for shining a little light on the perspective that I indeed have more imaginary problems than real ones… Good dog.

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Day One: Unexpected Sandwiches and the Evils of Sauvignon Blanc

15 Jun

The best part about being completely unprepared and having little to no plan? The fact it allows for serendipity. Today’s destination was the lovely Matthews, North Carolina, home of the Taylor family. Seemed like an easy and unexciting point A to point B day with which to start CMRT 2016: K9 Edition. And seeing my anxiety regarding the wild card that is throwing a large standard poodle into the Crazy Momma mix, easy and unexciting was exactly the speed I was looking for. Unexciting, it was not to be. (Thank goodness!)

At 7:46am, with the odometer on my trusty Honda Odyssey (name drop!) reading 68,307, the kids, the dog, and I rolled out to begin this year’s big adventure. Just prior to that, at 7:37am, I received a text from dear friend and former next-door-neighbor extraordinaire, Buffy Smith, suggesting that LMRT make a stop in Columbia, South Carolina. I pondered that kind request as we sat in traffic to get on to I-95, and then as we smoothly sailed on the new 9B North segment avoiding miles of traffic and shaving valuable drive time, and then I pondered it some more as we slammed back into another wall of traffic on 295. As I looked at Waze and realized the expected arrival time in NC was approximately 2 hours earlier than the 4pm arrival time agreed upon, I thought, why not? What’s the likelihood that this equally busy momma with 3 of her own kids was actually going to be home and available for visitors on a random Wednesday afternoon in the summer. Not good, frankly. But, it was certainly worth a phone call to find out. And glory be! Buffy said they would be there, they would love to see us, and hey, why don’t we feed you all lunch while you’re here! Is there anything tastier than an unexpected sandwich with loved ones? Of course, catching up proved to be just as difficult and disjointed as when we were having these conversations in our own driveways – kids have a way of interrupting, especially when there are six of them. But we managed to get through some rather important updates, and there is no better listener in the world than Buffy Smith (she may have missed her calling as a therapist, because she is also unafraid to tell you the truth out of love.) I have missed my rock and confidant of a neighbor, but I am so truly happy to see her and her beautiful family thriving in their new home. Happiness can be a tricky, elusive thing, and I am grateful the Smiths have discovered and embraced it in their new home.

Our roll up the interstate to Columbia, once we’d broken free from Jacksonville traffic, was an easy and unexciting one. And the dog, over whom I had much anxiety seeing as though he used to not be such a great traveler due to his own anxiety, has been an absolute gem so far! (Knock wood, it’s still early days) There were a few instances where his big ol’ head blocked the pull-down video screen while the kids watched a movie, and there is the fact that he absolutely refuses to claim or apologize for his flatulence, but overall he’s been an excellent road trip companion.  His “hammock” (cleverly nicknamed by my fabulous friend Jen as the “pup pit”) shares the first row of seats with my most amiable child. Sweet Avery, and her propensity to make the best and see the sunshine in everything. She interacts with Remy while they ride, sometimes just snuggling her head down on his prone body, and other times talking to or engaging with him. About 2 hours or so into the trip she imparted this nugget of wisdom: “Here’s a little bit of advice: If you invite your dog to play cards, get ready to play his turn for him.” Hard to argue with logic, and good to know the limitations of your playmates.

With careful planning of Crazy Momma’s cockpit, I had everything necessary in easy reach, so I was able to hand out snacks, as well as pass back the wireless headphones before starting a movie. This made it possible for us to get 4 hours up the road before our first stop. Unprecedented! And completely unexpected. And we passed our first test of traveling with dog with flying colors. A buddy system had the baby & I running in to the convenience store for a quick bathroom stop and to purchase a few bottles of water, while the older two stayed on the grassy patch by the van with Remy on a leash. As we came out of the store I watched someone approaching the kids, obviously interested in petting the dog. I bowed up slightly, but I was very interested to see how they handled this encounter without me being standing beside them. Another test passed with flying colors. The kids were polite, but aware, and the man petted Remy for a moment and moved on. Then it was their turn to run into the store, and we were back on the road in really no time at all. Almost funny now how concerned I was about how these stops would go, logistically speaking. Fingers crossed that my luck holds on that front.

So, after an easy drive, and a delightfully serendipitous lunch stop, we arrived at the Taylor’s house at 4:05pm, with the temperature gauge on the van reading an exact 100 degrees. In the delightful way of children who have missed their old friends, the 5 combined Willim & Taylor children scampered off up the stairs to play, leaving the grown-ups to catch up. And, since it’s Tony Taylor, drink some tasty local craft beer. We had thought we might head off to their amazing neighborhood pool, but hovering thunderstorms took that option off the table. But one addictive board game, and enough personal electronics to make for a linked Minecraft session proved enough to keep them entertained until it was time to eat the largest pizza ever delivered to a private home! Seriously. This thing was massive. I believe it was referred to as a “sheet” pizza. I’ll assume that was a reference to it being square, and likely baked on a cooking sheet. It might also have been a reference to it being approximately the same size as a bed sheet. With the added bonus that it was sooooooo good. Very flavorful. (It was no competition for DaVinci’s in Smyrna, GA, which I consider the second best pizza I’ve ever eaten – second only to DiFara’s in Brooklyn – but this was still vastly better  than your average chain delivery pie.) And by the time we had finished dinner, along with the salad, fruit, and veggies supplied by our healthful and thoughtful hostess, Karen, the skies had cleared enough for us to head outside for a corn hole show-down. Unfortunately, these pesky kids wanted to play too, so Tony & I were not able to have it out head-to-head. (Not sure if he remembers exactly how badly I crushed him last time I visited, but luckily I can report it here to remind him.) And I couldn’t very well insist on defending my title when he was actively participating in the first documented near death experience of CMRT! I’m telling you, beware the sauvignon blanc! Especially the sneaky Chilean variety. It’ll make an attempt on your very life. Luckily, Tony was able to come back from the brink of death to participate in an adults vs. Harper baggo smack down. Huh, I wonder where that middle child of mine gets her competitive streak?

Overall, it was a lovely day, and a positively perfect start to CMRT 2016: K9 Edition. We were loose with our plans, and a delightful visit fell into our laps. We connected with friends – both mine, and my kids’ – which is such a wonderful way to spend time. And we have nothing to do tomorrow but drive to our next destination, a hotel room in Pennsylvania. Leaves room for a lazy morning, and maybe we’ll get to fit in that pool visit after all…

 

Day 1 by the numbers:

Miles driven: 416

Number of states found (you didn’t think I would forget about my license plate game, did you?!?): 32

Proof-reading/editing done to this blog post: zip, zilch, zero (I’m sure my OCD will require I come back & edit later!)

 

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LMRT

14 Jun

So, clearly, things are going to be a little different this year. I mean, here I am, a little less than 8 hours away from the departure of the latest installment of Crazy Momma’s Road Trip, and I haven’t posted one darn thing about it. Some of you may even be wondering if it is happening at all this year. Yep. Currently, departure scheduled for T-minus 7 hours and 15 minutes. But I haven’t said much about it at all. There are several reasons for that, not the least of which is that my words have found another focus. Amazing how meaningful it can be to spend time communicating directly with another human being. Not to take anything away from the bond shared between us, dear readers, especially those of you who are true CMRT fans. (Have y’all come up with a catchy nickname yet? The Grateful Dead had Deadheads, and Barry Manilow has Fanilows, and Benedict Cumberbatch has his Cumberbitches; I’m just saying’…) But in order to pander to a fan base, I’d have to actually hype the trip. And I’ve done none of that this year. Perhaps because this year everything feels different. Okay, maybe not every-thing. Still renting the same house on Turbat’s Creek in Kennebunkport, Maine. Still driving a minivan – hey, let’s get specific, a Honda Odyssey (Honda, where are we on that sponsorship deal?) And still taking the opportunity to see some of our favorite long distance friends – those who are crazy enough to host Crazy Momma & the Willim 3 +Remy (Huge debt of gratitude to the Taylor, Warr, Tison, and Gray families!) But there are some significant changes. Did you happen to notice that +1?

Indeed, this year Crazy Momma decided that her fourth “child” would make the trip. Because when the rental vacation house you love so much is dog-friendly, you change your entire plan to extend the rental for an extra week, and you throw your 55lb fur baby into the small space still available in the over-packed van, along with your three kids, and drive approximately 1,500 miles each way. At least, that’s how Crazy Momma rolls…

And having Remy along for the ride changes everything. Because CMRT used to be a journey. There were museum stops, and factory tour stops, adventure stops, and sit down service lunch stops. Now there will be rest area stops, you stay with the dog while I dart into the restroom stops, and let’s all eat in the car after pulling through this drive through stops. This time it is more about the destination. And sometimes that destination is the overnight stay with friends, which we are all very much looking forward to. But ultimately, the travel time has been shaved down to a bare minimum. Less about the journey, more about the destination. And frankly, other than getting those overnight lodgings secured, I have done next to zero planning. I used to have this trip drilled down with military precision. Not so much anymore. In fact, I have done so little planning, that my sweet baby Avery recently said to me in all earnestness, “Maybe we should change the name to ‘Lazy Momma’s Road Trip’.” Oh, sweet child, don’t kid yourself, it takes an awful lot of effort to be this unprepared!

Anyway, there are going to be several changes this year. I’m still going to attempt to post most nights (I’ll try harder if there was something of note that occurred.) But the dynamics have changed. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just different. And I’m not going to lie, I’m not great with change. But I’m going to do my best to roll with it. Besides, we have much to look forward to: a special surprise guest will be joining us for a few days (yay for friends taking chances, and breaking out of their comfort zones!), reuniting with local friends in KPT (can’t wait to play with the delightful Nelson girls), and being able to unpack and stay unpacked for two whole weeks!

So, having just dashed this off before sliding my laptop into my bag, and in the spirit of LMRT possibly not even bothering to proofread it, let me just say, thanks for following along. It’s going to be a different story this year, but hopefully just as entertaining for all involved. Including the muddy dog, and the Crazy Momma who will have to deal with him.

Welcome to CMRT 2016: K9 Edition…

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On the Road Again

23 Feb

Recently, I have had some rather unpleasant drama land unbidden on my doorstep. Uninitiated by me, but rather the result of some else’s selfish behavior and disappointing choices. I was not a willing participant. And, as such, I removed myself from the fray as quickly, and gracefully, as possible. But it has brought a certain kind of clarity that previously eluded me. And I am more grateful than ever for my true friends. Deeply appreciative of the people who care for me, and do not love me simply by half measures, or only when it is convenient or advantageous for them. I am reminded of the advice I recently doled out that life is hard, and being an adult sucks. That people will hurt you on purpose, and for no reason. But that life, if we pay attention, is also filled with unspeakable beauty, and moments of incandescent joy. So despite pain and disappointment, and people who suck, we must engage in our own lives. We must do it anyway.

The truth is, I need some peace in my life. So, to that end, it feels like the perfect time to actively seek it, or at least plan for the journey towards it. And nothing makes me happier than a journey. Recent home improvements may have curtailed the impetuous travel budget for a time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go big this summer…

That’s right, after a discomfiting hiatus last year, it’s time for Crazy Momma’s Road Trip to make it’s triumphant return! Time to get started on the planning phase of CMRT: Summer 2016 – K9 Edition. Yep, because 1 mom, 3 kids, and a minivan wasn’t crazy enough, we’re throwing the dog into the mix! CMRT is undergoing a major overhaul. Instead of a slow, leisurely jaunt up and down the Eastern Seaboard, with bizarre and exciting stops along the way, we are making quick tracks for Maine, and staying put in Kennebunkport for two solid weeks of blissful Turbat’s Creek living.

Just typing those words put a smile on my face. Two weeks in one of my favorite places on earth, but with a twist. The house we rent is dog-friendly, and the beach at Turbat’s Creek is definitely dog-friendly, so I figured, why not complicate my life exponentially?! Yes, it means we’ll have to put in some hard driving days. And yes, there will be limited entertainment stops, at least of the museum variety. And the kids get that. They are so excited to stay in Maine for two weeks, and to have our goofy dog with us, that they barely batted an eye at how this will change our travel dynamics. Of course, it may also have something to do with the fact that after 5 years of CMRT, we’ve hit pretty much every roadside attraction within spitting distance of I-95. When I asked them if there was anything they really wanted to do on the drive up, keeping in mind our canine travel companion’s limitations, they said that they still wanted to drive into Manhattan. Because what’s cooler to some suburban Florida kids than just randomly taking your dog for a walk in Central Park? Nothing. And this little dream? Yes, kids, your crazy Momma will make it come true.

But, as well trained as our pooch may be, and he is a very good boy, I recognize that this will necessitate changes in our overnight locales. I’ll need to find a few (large dog) dog-friendly hotels for a few nights. And I will wipe the slate clean, not presuming that anyone who was brave enough to take on Crazy Momma & the Willim 3, wants to up the ante by adding a 55lb standard poodle to their guest list. If I’m wrong, and some of you are willing to take us on, we’d love to see you, and would be eternally grateful. One of the ways CMRT has morphed most pleasantly over the years is the home visits with friends, old and new. So, if you still want to stay in the line-up, please let me know. I’m in the initial route planning stages. Our Maine rental runs from June 18-July 2. I’ve already locked up a few nights in CT to start our southbound leg – it simply wouldn’t be CMRT without a visit to Chez Tison – but everything else is still up in the air.

Friends, we’d love to see you, but I only recently got over the guilt of accepting people’s gracious hospitality, and I certainly wouldn’t expect you all to be onboard with the changes of CMRT – K9 Edition. So, I’ll start my planning, and maybe I’ll hear from you, or maybe I won’t; and that will be fine either way. Because I just can’t wait to get on the road again…

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I will keep it safe.

16 Jan

It is a particular weakness of mine that I am terribly affected by words. I recognize that other people are not burdened with this particular affliction. There are those who can casually toss off words of no consequence, say things they don’t mean. There are people who don’t take others’ words to heart, and who do not assign meaning to a lack thereof. I am not one of those people.

In relationships, I am often most affected by a lack of words from others (“Say something I’m giving up on you…”). I’m a talker. A sharer. I don’t just talk too much, I say too much. And I have this need to hear others, to understand them. I believe that the only thing we can know about what another is thinking or feeling is what they tell us. This is not to say that I don’t value, or place an importance upon, actions. I believe they are probably to be trusted above words. But still, I need the words. It is awful this insecurity of mine that begs for coherent communication. Truly. Awful.

So, in general, as an epic understatement, words are exceedingly important to me. And I am constantly being affected by random quotes. It doesn’t really matter who said the something I find in the pages of a book, or posted on the internet. The author is not what makes a sentiment poignant to me. I am constantly finding someone else’s words speaking to me, even if they were not written or uttered for my express benefit. Sometimes, upon being struck by a particular quote, I merely smile, or laugh, or feel warm inside. Perhaps a hand to the cheek, or a heartfelt sigh. Maybe a misty eye. (Ugh, it’s annoying how quick I am to cry – out of sadness, or anger, or love, or sentimentality.) But I receive enjoyment from the written word, or the carefully crafted dialogue or lyric, I may jot it down to revisit later, but it is a passing moment. I move on.

But occasionally, a quote sticks around. It gnaws at my brain, messes with my heart. Makes me think. Sometimes changes the way I think, or view the world. Most recently it was this:

“Why should I be sad?

I have lost someone who didn’t love me.

But they lost someone who loved them.”

When I first read it, I actually gasped. Sounds melodramatic, I know, but it’s true. After having been fairly recently dumped by my boyfriend, and then had my feelings hurt by a toxic friend, I found this a startlingly different point of view. Indeed! Why should I be sad? Why should I be sad? They should be sad, damn it! I am the most caring and thoughtful individual I know. You should be so lucky as to be loved by me! Anyone who has the chance, but choses not to love me, or treat me well? That is their loss! And why should I be sad if someone is too stupid or selfish to appreciate me? I actually experienced a moment of liberation. A moment of: screw you, sadness, get the hell out of my life, and good riddance! But that bravado felt hollow. I started to really ponder the sentiment, and found that it didn’t ring true. At least not for me. Because, despite the beautiful and poignant lesson of The Velveteen Rabbit, I believe that what really shapes us and makes us real is the act of loving, not whether or not we are loved in return.

Why should I be sad? Because when someone important to you leaves your life, they take away your love. Not just the love they may, or may not, have once, if ever, had for you. But the love you gave them. Obviously, your feelings are still your own, and it is certainly possible to feel love for someone who is gone, but to my way of thinking, love is a verb. It is more than something you feel, it is something you do. Something that is expressed, and acted upon. I define myself far more by the things I do for other people, than the way people feel about me. And when a relationship of any kind ends, I keenly feel the loss of my own ability to love that other person. It is not just a loss to them. (Though they should also feel sad; after all, “they lost someone who loved them.“) I find the greatest joy in expressing my love to others. In the giving of thoughtful gifts, simple kindnesses, physical affection. And, of course, in words. Those oh-so-important words. Written. Spoken. Chosen. Words.

So, I think it’s okay for me to feel sad that those things were taken away from me. I can’t control how other people treat me, whether or not they want me in their lives. And when someone choses to lose me, I find it perfectly rational to feel sadness over the many losses that entails. But I don’t have to let that sadness define me. I prefer to be defined by my love, not the love of others. How I chose to love. What I chose to say.

That reminds me of another quote I saw recently. This one stuck with me, too. Maybe because it’s like me. It says too much, but means every single word it says…

“Lately I’ve been thinking about who I want to love, and how I want to love, and why I want to love the way I want to love, and what I need to learn to love that way, and who I need to become to become the kind of love I want to be… and when I break it all down, when I whittle it into a single breath, it essentially comes out like this: Before I die, I want to be somebody’s favorite hiding place, the place they can put everything they know they need to survive, every secret, every solitude, every nervous prayer, and be absolutely certain I will keep it safe. I will keep it safe.” 

 

 

 

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Hair today, gone tomorrow

09 Dec

All off.

That’s what I’m going to say tomorrow at my haircut appointment. All. Off.

About 2 weeks ago I woke up with the decision firm in my head that it was time to cut off all my hair. I’ve done it before. In law school, my hair was super short. (Though, in full disclosure, I fell into that haircut when I asked a small town beautician to “get the bulk out” of the sides of my head, and she gave me a mullet. I then told her I had changed my mind and wanted it all that short.) But I loved that haircut. It was so damn easy. Light. Freeing. And so, when I woke that Saturday morning almost two weeks ago with the thought that I was tired of it, and perhaps it all just needed to go, I felt happy.

The overriding thought in my head that morning was of two significant movie haircuts. Audrey Hepburn’s in Roman Holiday. And slightly less classic, but delightful in it’s own right – “Bollocks to him! Bollocks to him!” – Gwyneth Paltrow’s in Sliding Doors. I truly couldn’t shake the thought, or idea of Hepburn’s Roman Holiday cut.  It was soooo cute!! And before you comment, yes, I fully and entirely realize that I am nowhere near as elfin and adorable as Audrey Hepburn. And, my curly, insistently center-parting hair would never maintain those cute bangs. I know all that. But the idea is the same. All off. And it seems the universe was pointing me in that direction.

Later that day I happened to be in a restaurant with a specialty cocktail menu. One of the cocktails listed? A “Roman Holiday,” and it was delicious. Then I went to the movies, and the girl behind the concession counter had the most adorable super short haircut. (Again, younger and cuter than me from the get go, but I’m still assigning her and her hair status as a sign.) I’m pretty much convinced at this point. But then the next morning at the dog park, two pups come running up to play with my dog, and their names? Samson & Delilah. If that isn’t the universe calling out for me to move forward with a haircut…

So, of course I wanted to do this immediately. I wanted to go in the next day and have it done. I wanted to take my own scissors to it to start the job. Because, as I may have mentioned before, patience is NOT my strong suit. But I didn’t know who to call. I usually only get an annual haircut, a trim really, and for that I go to the Aveda school in town. And while I’ve never been dissatisfied with the experience, this sort of appearance-altering haircut, seemed best to be trusted to the hands of an experienced professional. Somehow paying salon prices makes me at least feel like there is a little accountability in play. So I asked around, got some suggestions, and ended up making an appointment at a local salon for tomorrow afternoon. Which has given me loads of time to think about what I am about to do. So, to generate some of my own accountability, I have told people what I am going to do. I have used the phrase “all off” and watched it sink in. How much? How short is short? Super short. “Boy short.” It has been humorous watching some people digest this idea that I will be shorn. Which is super comical to me. Because as much as I occasionally like my hair, in fact I love those tight ringlet curls that lay against my neck, it’s just hair. It’s not my identity. Or maybe it is. And that’s part of the problem. I want a new me.

In 1998, a tv show named Felicity began airing, and totally rocked my world. In 1999, the lead actress, Keri Russell, she of the glorious mane of supernaturally thick, fluffy, curly hair, played a scene where Felicity Porter walked into a NYC salon with her loose hair flying, and emerged with a pixie cut. It was the haircut heard ’round the world. The loss of her luscious mane was blamed for a ratings decline, and generated an enormous amount of buzz in a nascent-internet era, but I loved it. I thought Keri Russell looked luminous without that frizzy weight on her shoulders. Of course, the only similarity shared between myself and Keri Russell is the genetic anomaly of attached earlobes. So, I may be making a mistake. Tomorrow night I may find myself pulling out any one of the pop culture references to the travesty of Felicity cutting off her hair. But I am excited to take the chance.

Here’s the thing about my hair. At times, it behaves perfectly, and I couldn’t love it more. Those ringlet curls, the way it moves. The feeling of someone absentmindedly stroking their fingers through it. Sigh. All fantastic. What’s not fantastic? Not being able to brush, or use a hairdryer on my hair. Feeling like I perpetually have a dead, slightly damp cat on my head and wrapped around my neck when it’s still 80 degrees in December, never mind what it’s like here in July and August! Having these ridiculous wispy hairs on the sides of my head that make me resemble a lionfish whenever I pull my hair back in a ponytail. And not having someone who is absentmindedly stroking their fingers through it.

So, what’s the point of keeping it if it doesn’t make me happy?

What’s the point of keeping anything if it doesn’t bring you joy?

All off.

 

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“You.”

20 Nov

This afternoon, as my middle child was having her violin lesson, my youngest and I hung out in the backyard with the dog, enjoying the weather that has finally begun to succumb to the truth that it is now Fall. She was playing on our playset, the dog was laying on his back chewing a huge stick, and I was seated on the patio engrossed in the final chapters of a novel. I just wanted to sit and read, enjoy the cool breeze and dying light. Escape. But my daughter, as always, had other plans. She wanted to talk, tell stories, engage me in childish inanity that I find difficult to properly process when I am not feeling my sharpest. And I am not, definitely not, feeling my sharpest these days.

Call it a midlife crisis – though I hope to live past the age of 84. Call it depression, or regret, or just a general malaise. I have always been one to do a lot of thinking, as my brain is this ever-churning machine, that howls when I wish for quiet. But these days, what I mostly do is doubt. How did I come to this life? Not just this particular point in life, but *this* life? I realize that this path has been cut mostly by my own decisions, some of them good, some of them bad. Mostly they were mine, but not all. Sometimes people make decisions for you by default, their actions taking away the options you wished or meant to pursue. You can’t control that. But sometimes even my own decisions feel foreign to me. And I wonder who the hell this is living my life. This isn’t who I meant to be. Who I wanted to be. Things are not turning out as I planned. And I am lost. So I doubt. What was the point of all that education when you don’t apply it? What is the point of loving people who don’t love you back? What is the point of exercising when you’d rather eat? What is the point of cleaning the house when no one except you ever sees it? What is the point of being kind to people who don’t appreciate your efforts? What is the point of taking care of everyone else when no one takes care of you?

How did I get here? Can I escape? And where would I rather be?

Back to the backyard…

She is stinking’ cute, this baby of mine. So sweet. And I realize this is fleeting, her desire to know my every thought, to even have my input. So, as much as I wish to disengage, to disappear in this moment, I force myself to close my book, and attempt to open my mind to her. To not just catch hold of this ephemeral moment, but honor it with my mental presence. She is skipping along the paving stones at the end of the patio, a few feet away from where I’m sitting. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I don’t even recall what it was that she was saying that caused me to present this query, but it was some fanciful story, twisting and turning, into an imagined future. I found myself asking her, “And what do you want to be?” I don’t know what I was expecting her to say, but it wasn’t this. She hesitated for only the briefest second, her hand coming up to her chin in a thinker’s pose, before turning to look me right in the eye, and respond, “You.”

I had to grab her quickly, and pull her into an embrace, bury my head against her hair, so she didn’t see the tears that instantaneously flooded my eyes. Because this wild, magical creature, this innocent child who still truly believes in Santa Claus, this baby so sweet her nickname is “Smoochie”, thinks I’m special. And it broke me to realize that. She doesn’t see me as I see myself. She doesn’t know my regrets, my disappointments, my fear, my sadness. She doesn’t know my loneliness. She sees me as strong, and capable. As kind and loving and thoughtful. She appreciates me. Flawed, broken, doubt-filled me. She knows my love, my protection. She knows my silliness. And she loves what she sees so much she wants to be me. Hell, most days I don’t even want to be me. But she doesn’t wonder why her mother who has a law degree is staying home, and working part-time as a substitute teacher, she just wants to be a substitute teacher when she grows up. She doesn’t know that I’m always tired because I hardly ever sleep well, she just knows that she is safe in her bed at night, and that her lunch box gets packed, her permission slips get signed, and her karate uniform is always clean. She doesn’t know that I worry about money, because I want her to have everything she wants, as well as needs, she just knows that her adventure-loving mom will take her to Maine in the summer, and there will be plenty of food to eat and appropriate clothes to wear.

She doesn’t need to see me any differently. But I do. I need to try more often to see myself from her point of view. Because to her I am enough. Because for all my doubts, for all my mistakes, for the missteps, the bad decisions, the moments and people that have turned into regrets, there are three things I did perfectly and wonderfully right. And while I might not have turned out to be the person I wanted to be, they still might. And they need a mother with passion, who fights for them, and teaches them the fine art of sarcasm. One who throws them My Little Pony birthday parties, and who takes away their electronics when they make bad decisions. They need a mother who reads, to them and around them. One who makes mistakes, and shows them how hard, but also how necessary it is, to genuinely apologize. They need a mother who shares their interests, and celebrates their triumphs, but doesn’t let them believe they are the center of the universe.

They need me. Flawed, broken, doubt-filled me.

And in *this* life, I have three amazing children, who look to me for everything. And it took the baby of the group to remind me that for all the myriad things I get wrong, I sometimes get this part exactly right. And in that moment, I found that I really do want to be me.

 

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Do it anyway

08 Nov

I recently had the occasion to write a letter to a high school aged boy who is very dear to me. I don’t see him nor talk to him often, but we share a connection. He reminds me of me, though he is far cooler and more self-possessed than I ever was. We are both observers – of life, of people. Constantly processing information and thoughts and feelings. He is far more quiet than I, but goofy in his own delightful way. I’m not sure when I might have the opportunity to see him again, so I wrote him a letter. Truly wrote one. Pen, paper, envelope, old school. Kind of a rambling hodgepodge of my thoughts couched as life advice; as if I am in any position to be giving advice to youngsters. And I realized when I finished it, re-reading it for the mandatory edit my neurosis requires, that I had written the letter to myself as much as to him. It was advice that I needed to hear. And maybe I knew that all along, and just needed an external focus to hear it. But I found myself wishing after I had mailed it off that I had some record of it. There was no digital copy. I did not take a photo, or record my words in any way. So I’m going to try to remember what I said, even if the words don’t match verbatim, and write those thoughts here. So I can return to them. As a touchstone. And who knows, maybe you need to hear them, too. So here’s the heart of, or at least the gist of, my letter to a 15 year old boy, and my 42 year old self:

 

Life is hard. So flippin’ hard. Being a grown-up sucks.

People can be mean, downright cruel. And sometimes they will hurt you on purpose, and for no reason. But people will also surprise you with their kindness and thoughtfulness. Their tenderness. Their love. When they do, be grateful, and express your gratitude. Tell people how you feel about them. Tell them the truth.

People will disappoint you, and they will break your heart. Fall in love anyway. Because opening your heart and mind to another person is one of the best feelings in the world. Connection to another person is a powerful thing.

Life is going to knock you down. And potentially kick you while you’re lying there trying to figure out what the heck just happened. But you will also feel moments of incandescent happiness. Because life is beautiful. Truly. It is staggering in the scope and breadth of its beauty.

Life is scary, so be scared. But do it anyway. Engage. Participate in your own life. Listen to other people’s stories, and then write your own.

Believe in yourself. I believe in you. And sometimes just knowing that there is someone out there in the world who believes in you is the one thing that makes all the difference.

Read. Keep reading. Read some more. It is the key to everything.

 

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The World We Live In

28 Oct

Given an hour or two for perspective, I’m becoming more convinced that this was just a simple case of mistaken identity. Probably a Craigslist meet-up that went astray. I do, after all, drive the most common vehicle on the planet. Not just a minivan, a Honda Odyssey, and apparently Smoky Topaz (otherwise known as “gray”) is the most popular color for this particular model. But the encounter set off immediate alarm bells in my head as it was happening. And I felt myself slipping into the same demeanor as when I’m facing a venomous reptile in my own backyard. My senses were on high alert, but I was calm, forceful, and vaguely pissed off that I had to deal with it at all. It was like someone flipped a switch and I went into Momma Bear mode. Handle the threat. Prove myself capable. Protect the cubs.

I really do think it was a case of mistaken identity. It must have been. But I have a residual icky feeling, an ache in my chest. I feel a little off kilter. Because this is not the way I want my world to be. I don’t want to have experiences like this, questionable encounters that must be turned into learning experiences. I want my innocence back. I want my kids to keep theirs intact. I don’t want my children to have to overhear a conversation I have with the sheriff’s office. And at the same time, I need them to know that this is the world we live in. We cannot afford to live in blissful ignorance of the potential evils around us. Be kind to everyone, respect your elders, use your manners – that’s what we drill into our children every day. And yet, today, I was forced to teach them the counterpoint – be rude if you need to be, run away, make a scene if you feel threatened. If you see something, say something. How confused they must be. How can I teach them to trust their instincts, the way I did mine today, when they are daily taught that manners are of paramount importance? I don’t want them to doubt a smile on a stranger, but they must. They must. It causes an ache in my chest, a sadness that resides in my heart. I urge my children to shine bright as the sun, but they must also beware the shadows. What pains me is teaching them that the evil may potentially be lurking right there in the light, in plain sight. It might not creep like a silent menace in the dark, it may approach in broad daylight with a smile on its face.

After taking the kids straight from the bus stop to an afternoon and evening full of an allergist appointment, karate class, pumpkin patch, pet store run, we drove through the drive-through at the Wendy’s on Racetrack Road, in the Publix shopping center. After clearing the drive-through I pulled into an unused section of parking spaces in order to pass food back to the kids. I was broadside across several parking spaces, with no other cars near me, the car still in gear, and my drivers’ side window still down. I noticed a man walking with great haste across the parking lot. Coming from the Publix, in fact with a full plastic grocery bag in his left hand. I assessed where he might be going, knowing there were no cars between him and what appeared to be his destination. I assumed he was going to cut in front of my van to exit the parking lot onto the sidewalk that runs parallel to Racetrack Road. I kept tabs on his brisk trek across the parking lot out of the corner of my eye while I was getting the food issue settled, not out of any abject fear or distrust, but only because I’m the type of person who notices everything that is happening around her. (Perhaps we can discuss latent paranoia issues in a later post.) At the last second I realize that he is not aiming for the pedestrian exit to the sidewalk, and he is suddenly right at my door, practically leaning his weight against it, with his face almost breaching my open window. In that snapshot moment I took in that he was a white male in his late 40s-mid 50s, balding dark hair, dark mustache, glasses, a white golf shirt with thin, horizontal, burgundy stripes, and khaki pants. The plastic bag in his hand is full of canned goods. He has a huge smile on his face. As he takes those last two strides into my personal space, I lean slightly away, and with a somewhat unfriendly look say, “Yes?” Big, bright grin in place, he manages to enthusiastically get the words, “Hey, young lady! For $20…” out of his mouth before I put up my hand, and in my best imitation of a law enforcement officer, firmly say, “I need you to step back.” (I’m not going to lie, I sounded completely badass. At least I did in my own head.) To be honest, I don’t know if he stepped back or not, but he must have – not that I would have cared if my tires had rolled over his feet – because I immediately accelerated away from him. He had been reaching into his pocket as he approached the van, and through my open window I heard him say loudly, “Don’t you have a picture for me?” as he extended his right hand, holding out his wallet. At the time, as I drove to the parking lot exit to make a right turn onto Racetrack Road, I wasn’t thinking anything like, oh, maybe he thought I was the woman who agreed to sell him a framed print of Elvis Presley off Craigslist, and told him to meet her in the Public parking lot, she’d be the one in the gray minivan. No, instead I was thinking something along the lines of,  What. The. F%@&. Was. That? I kept an eye on him, watching him still standing there, his right arm extended, wallet still in hand, as he watched me drive away. And it just felt creepy, and wrong, and like some kind of close call. Some horrible crisis that had been narrowly averted. Because who does that? Goes barreling up to an open car window of a stranger like that? Talking about money, and pictures? Who does that? Mentally unbalanced people. Dangerous people. Seriously, who does that? (Oh, yeah, looking back on it now, people  who are engaging in commerce with strangers from internet sites may do that.) But in the split second heat of the moment, it felt like stranger danger of the worst kind.

A handy number to keep in your contacts? The non-emergency number for your local law enforcement agency. As I pulled out of the parking lot I had already dialed the St. Johns County Sherriff’s Office. This felt like a See Something, Say Something moment. But it didn’t rise to the level of 911 urgency. He had no visible weapon, I had not been overtly threatened, he had not exposed himself, etc. But what if I hadn’t said something, and later I heard that some random attack had occurred in that parking lot? Some random woman in a gray minivan went missing, or was violently attacked? When I got dispatch on the line, I described the situation, gave a description of the man, his physical appearance, his clothing, etc. I gave my name, and said I’d be happy to talk to someone regarding my report if the need should arise. It felt like a natural extension of controlling the situation. I was safe, the children were safe. They were going to send a car into the parking lot to check it out, see if the man was still lurking about. I felt like it was a weird and discomfiting encounter, but that I had handled it with capable efficiency. But then it got hard. Because I had to discuss it with my children, and consider the implications.

My 11 year old son initially said, “Why didn’t you stick around to see what he had to say?” And my knee jerk response to him was, “Because that man could have stuck a gun in my face and shot me.” That silenced the crowd. But I feel like my kids need to be shocked every now and again. I do everything in my power to keep them safe and protected from an ugly world. But I can’t be there all the time. And they need to know. They need to know that this is the world we live in. Where this has, quite disgustingly, become a real fear. Random violence at the hands of a smiling stranger. I felt uncomfortable on a base, instinctual level, and I reacted. So this became their take-away from this split second encounter of which they were truly only vaguely aware was unfolding: trust your instincts. It is always okay to put distance between yourself and a person or a situation that makes you uncomfortable, makes you feel threatened in any way. It is always okay to be rude, if rudeness is required for you to feel safe. I was terribly rude to that man. And that was perfectly fine. In fact, it was the right thing to do in that particular situation. Be aware of your surroundings, and trust your gut. That’s a difficult lesson for an 8 year old who beams sunshine and light and love. But it’s the world we live in where this instinctual resonance may be the very thing that saves your life one day. As much as it pains me to reveal the worlds’ harsh realities to my children, I know they need to see, and occasionally taste, the real life beyond the bubble I have created for them.

Were we in danger today? Looking back, probably not. That was probably one super confused guy who doesn’t understand why I reacted to his friendly overture in the way that I did. I think it was probably an innocent case of mistaken identity. Something that could have easily been sorted out quickly and calmly, with sheepish laughter and slight embarrassment on his part. But would I do it differently if it happened again? No. I don’t regret my reaction for a single moment. Because you never know. Evil can smile in your face. Danger can approach you in broad daylight. That’s just the world we live in.

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Aloha

29 May

I rushed out tonight to the movies. Alone, as per usual. Just masturdating on Friday Night – Date Night. But I’ve been dying to see the new Cameron Crowe movie – Aloha – and I didn’t want to wait another day. Here’s my brief review: It was disjointed, ridiculous, uneven, thrown together, missing huge elements of plot, requiring massive suspension of disbelief throughout, and, well, mesmerizing. Brilliant. Mostly because there is no one writing movies today who turns a phrase like Cameron Crowe…

“The future isn’t just something that happens. It’s a brutal force, with a great sense of humor, that’ll steamroll you if you’re not watching.”  (delivered by Bill Murray)

And while there were times when the performances did not quite seem the stellar best we could expect from this particular A-list cast, there were moments. So many moments. Ironically, so many moments of silence, that were touching. It’s not like Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone are difficult to look at even when they are at their worst, but did ever two people have more gorgeous eyes? And both of them have the type of eyes that light up when they smile. I remember that feeling. And I’m pretty sure that there are hours and hours of exquisite raw footage that wound up on the cutting room floor. Heck, some of what was shown in the trailers didn’t even show up in the theatrical release. So this one might be worth watching on DVD with extras. But the music, ah, the music. Perfection. Set the mood for every moment without me even noticing it was doing that.

My two cents is that not everyone is going to love this movie. In fact, I bet many, many people are going to outright hate it, and call it garbage. I found it charming. It moved me. It is, at it’s heart, a relationship story, about several different relationships. And different types of relationships. Here were a few things in particular that I picked up from it:

(1) I really, really, really want to go to Hawaii. Really. So if one of you wins the lottery, please consider making that particular dream of mine a reality.

(2) I want to thank Cameron Crowe for creating the character played by Rachel McAdams. I identified with her on many levels. Most especially the way she craved words. Especially from the men she loved. And how it wasn’t really the words themselves, but the thoughtful effort required to share the words that was what she needed. She needs the people in her life to be present, to show up. She lost the love of her life when she asked him to show up to something specific, and he didn’t. He was selfish, and he lost her, because she walked away. She had to; even though she really didn’t want to. Hers is a strong character who comes across as vulnerable. She has a few great quotes about regret, and putting things back together after someone else wrecks them. She also gives Bradley Cooper’s character advice about how he needs to stop letting people go. She tells him to fight for the girl, the way he didn’t fight for her. Takes a big person to say that when she is still struggling with her own emotions.

(3) I have girl crush on Emma Stone. I want her to be my best friend.

(4) Alec Baldwin makes everything funny. Bill Murray has an endearing smile. Bradley Cooper is damn hot.

(5) There is value to myth. The entire film is interwoven with Hawaiian stories and myths. Cameron Crowe does a beautiful job of relating them to the symbolism of our everyday lives. Overarching themes of respect and honor, the return of a great spirit, a force to be reckoned with. The way belief in something greater and beyond ourselves can help us make sense of and enrich our lives.

Is it a perfect movie? Not even close. But I enjoyed it. I enjoy the sledgehammer to the heart that Cameron Crowe can deliver. A plucked heartstring he can achieve with just a few words. Less than 5, actually. Don’t bother telling me if you hate this movie; I kind of warned you. I’m not even necessarily recommending you run out to see it. But yet, this quirky, emotional girl found a lot to love about it.

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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim