23 September 2015

solo (in words)

This was a long, hot summer. 

For months, sporadic wildfires indiscriminately blazed through brush, over hillsides, along highways and even through neighborhoods. On a handful of occasions, hazy brown clouds rose from the east and cast an eerie amber glow on endless summer days. This evergreen state dried out and turned yellow with dark scars of char and ash here and there. Burn bans were the law of the land, roads and state parks closed for a while and news of danger and destruction spread like wildfire not only locally, but nationally. 

We caught wind of these stories in late June, and they blew through July and August. Come September, on the heels of a big move and a bigger remodel, of depleted bank accounts and recovering credit from said remodel, of untimely vacancies and vacation rentals, of paddleboarding and projects left done, of soccer practices and tournaments, of summer camps and family visits, of road trips and a broken down truck (twice), of a boat that hadn't seen water all summer and an epic windstorm that left us without running water or power for days, of burn bans and wildfires... there were at least a hundred reasons why we couldn't -- shouldn't -- pack up our car Labor Day morning and spend a week camping in Chelan.

We received notice one week prior to our scheduled departure that due to the nearby fires, the State Park would likely be closed during the dates of our stay. Two days later, we received notice otherwise, as well as an invitation to spend the holiday weekend with family friends. 

So 84 days after summer vacation began, when blessed Labor Day weekend arrived, each member of my family was faced with a choice: to camp or not to camp. And each member of my family -- some more decidedly than others -- opted for the latter: to skip the trip and hang with friends. I, however, chose the former. This Labor Day, I went on our family vacation by myself.

I planned, prepped, shopped and packed for Lake Chelan on my own. I drove, unpacked, set up camp and spent a week solo. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad and disappointed about it at first. I sincerely believed my husband and children made the right choice in making the wrong choice. Part of me still does. One could easily argue the same about me. I wasn't sure how to wrap my brain or my heart, around each of our decisions. 

There's no question about it, I enjoy camping infinitely more than my family does. And my family enjoys spending time with other people far more and far more often than I do. Effectually, Paul, Maya and Cole each shirked a commitment that had been on the calendar for a year in the interest of friendship, of fear, of work, of circumstance, of soccer... They chose their friends over family and I chose solitude, fresh air, simplicity and sunshine over both family and friends. 

Chelan has been the highlight of my summer for the last few years, and this summer was no exception. I would have been SO bummed if I went along with the crowd and spent the last week of the summer doing more of the same at home. Paul would have begrudgingly skipped a fun few days with a good friend to watch me pack, then spent the week's remainder absent, conflicted and stressed. The kids would have missed out on ATVs and dune buggies, the last practices before the first matches of the season and time with friends. Maya would spend the week terrified of potential storms and wildfires and Cole would be without the potential of a sleepover for five days.

The thing is, we were each true to our hearts and our desires, and this led us down different paths. I am an introvert in a home full of extroverts, and my companions are extroverts living with an introvert. These simple facts requires compromise from each of us almost daily.  The difference this September, however, is that nobody compromised; we went our separate ways and once the dust had settled on our decisions, once expectations, guilt and obligations were stripped away, we each had a great week. So what do we do with that?

I'm not really sure, because we each had a great week. I loved my family vacation without my family. I did EVERYTHING I wanted to do for a week for as long as I wanted to do it. I had an amazing week, and honestly, I'm already daydreaming about my next solo camping trip and the solitary vacation after that. And I suspect Maya and Cole and Paul each came alive in a way that they just don't when I'm around. They stayed away in the company of friends far longer than I would have happily tolerated. There was no sweeping or cooking for an entire week. Paul worked, the kids played then worked, then played some more and mostly, they were glad about it. 

Do I love my family? Yes. Do I believe they love me too? Yes. Do I wish to spend this life without them? Of course not. Did we miss one another during our week apart? Yes and No. Sort of, but not really. 

This is pretty different from the families I read about or see on television or in my community. I don't have a model for this, and I'm not sure how to weave this thread of curious insight into our family fabric. But I know I felt alive and at peace while I was away, and I enjoyed this summer's solo conclusion far more than its communal commencement. I know the run-on (and on and on and on...) sentence of this summer was marked with an exclamation point, and I know I'd definitely like to try that last part again. 

16 September 2015

27 January 2015

three years later...

After three years, nearly 1000 hours of class and practical hours and a 3 1/2 hour exam... I have completed my final Pilates certification requirements. I'm done!!! 

14 January 2015


One sunny afternoon back in college, I sat beside a bright window, tucked in a booth across a table from a man whom I'd just met. 

"Who are you and who do you hope to become?" he asked. 

I glanced over his head to rest my eyes and ponder for a while, looked down at the table, then raised my gaze to meet his warm brown eyes. As thoughts came to mind, I shifted in my seat, averted my gaze and without interruption, I shared scattered thoughts. A slow, steady stream of words followed. And when the spaces between my words stretched into a comfortable silence between us, he finally responded. 

"You've spoken for nearly ten minutes," he stated simply, "but told me only what you do." 

And so, I suspect, began my undoing. 

So, what do you do? I've been asked this dreadful question more times than I can count in the decades since then. And I still don't have a good response. 

"Um, laundry... dishes... Pilates... (insert awkward silence)... Um, I don't..."

The thing I began to consider that sunny afternoon on my college campus is the unsettling realization that doing isn't really the point; doing can and often will be undone. A lifetime later, I'm still trying on the idea that the question of what I do is of little consequence to the deeper question, the real question I wish to answer with my life

"If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, and about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth," Brene' Brown writes. This is not the tale I've been told. In a culture so focused on and fueled by doing, I think it is a tale worth telling, however. 

Laura Hillenbrand, the author of the gripping story of redemption and survival I'm reading right now, writes of a moment of clarity in which two men drift  in open water -- starving and still. 

"One morning, they woke to a strange stillness. The rise and fall of the raft had ceased, and it sat virtually motionless. There was no wind. The ocean stretched out in all directions in glossy smoothness, regarding the sky and reflecting its image in crystalline perfection..."
"Louie found that the raft offered an unlikely intellectual refuge... Here drifting in almost total silence, with no scents other than the singed odor of the raft, no flavors on his tongue, nothing moving... every vista empty save water and sky, his time unvaried and unbroken, his mind was freed of an encumbrance that civilization had imposed on it. In his head, he could roam anywhere, and he found that his mind was quick and clear, his imagination unfettered and supple. He could stay with a thought for hours, turning it about."

The consequence and promise of this moment at the center of the earth takes my breath away. These men were wasting away on a raft in the middle of the ocean after more than 40 days at sea, yet in this moment, thirst, hunger and fear abated; doing ceased and beauty remained. 

It's a new year and the dawn of a new day. I think I'd like to sit with this for while. 

07 January 2015

right here

"I am watching myself change because I have changed the place I'm in." 
~Laraine Herring

Cozy on a comfy couch, in the company of four of my favorite persons on this planet, a dear old friend asked Paul and me recently, What are three things you love about where you are? 

I looked to Paul, Paul looked to me and the question hung heavily on the silence in the room. Paul broke it with eyes locked on mine. "I'm waiting for you," he explained. So I closed my eyes and tried to feel my way through. 

The first jumble of thoughts that came to mind spilled out of my mouth all over the floor. Regretfully, my words hardly gave justice to the warmth within me. And long after the conversation veered elsewhere and our friends packed up their car and drove a thousand miles away, the question remains. A week later, I'm still considering. 

*Joy.* A sequined Christmas pillow across the room sparkles with this message, and I can feel it thick in the room. I smiled to myself in the shower this morning at the quickening of my heartbeat and the hum of anticipation of another day. We are a week into a new year, our Christmas tree still winks beside me and each time I look up from my screen, a sparkly reminder speaks to me about my intention for 2015.

And with time, space and room to think, to feel, to gather my thoughts and to capture them, I'm back to comfy and cozy and this question of love, the sweet spot where the choice of joy begins. I'm not sure I could have seen it from where I sat six years before now, but I really do love where I am.  

I love...

  • Summertime in Seattle
  • Summertime on Whidbey
  • The Maxwelton 4th of July parade
  • the water
  • the mountains
  • the omnipresence of green
  • the color of autumn
  • the cozy of winter
  • the hope of Spring
  • that most days begin with a good stretch and end around a wood stove
  • that I've learned to love grey 
  • that I really, REALLY appreciate a sunny day so much more
  • that I really, REALLY appreciate a snowy day so much more
  • this dreadfully uncomfortable chair I call home
  • that Paul's eyes sparkle in a different way here
  • that my kids are down-to-earth, playful, and mostly still kids
  • my *Joy* pillow
  • the library
  • the ferry
  • our home
  • our boat
  • camping at Chelan
  • the pace
  • that the ladies at the grocery store (and the bank, and the post office) know my name
  • getting away
  • coming home
  • walking
  • teaching Pilates
  • my handful of new friends
  • the unexpected turn of events with my hair
  • the simple
  • the subtle
  • the sublime
  • Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle
  • the suitability of an occasional latte
  • my gym
  • the Island County Fair
  • Dock Yoga
  • deck yoga
  • The Bayview Farmer's Market
  • the blanket of clouds that rest upon the Sound in early morning
  • Double Bluff Beach
  • Double Bluff Beach Club
  • sunsets at Maxwelton Beach
  • Ebey's Landing
  • Mukilteo Coffee Co. 
  • who I have become 
  • where we are headed next
  • that I feel grounded
  • that my family and my spirit feel alive and awake
  • that I've made friends with myself
  • that I feel connected, yet free
  • this middle ground where the highs aren't so high and the lows aren't so low. 
  • Wednesdays... and Mondays, and Tuesdays, and Sundays, and Fridays... and, well, Thursdays and Saturdays
  • that I've been able to write and to read and to write and to read... and to dance.

And yet it's not all daisies and roses in this place . Your voice is but a whisper where it once was a shout. I feel cold and sad sometimes, I miss my family and friends, the sun doesn't always come out tomorrow, and the climate of my relationships is different. But I feel weepy and warm nevertheless. I know you are here beside me.

This is the beginning of a list that could go on forever; this amazes me. And it feels so good to be right here, right now -- to feel joy about what is at this time of year fixated on what is to come. Thank you for bringing me here.

To 2015.