Your “Never-ending Vacation Adventure”

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“You’re never satisfied. That’s what life is. It’s just this ongoing, neverending vacation adventure, you see. You can’t get it wrong and you never get it done—and we recommend that you have as much fun as you can along the way.” Esther & Jerry Hicks

I just love this. When the summer stretches long and the days stretch on and on and on, I try really hard to think of my life as this neverending vacation adventure.

Because sometimes it feels like a very long test. And sometimes it feels more than a little tedious. And sometimes I feel like vacuuming the floor again even though I just did it because that is when I am ensconced in noise – a peaceful, made-for-one cocoon to the noisy, clamorous, raucous world of sound where kids I don’t even know are asking to come in to play Power Rangers.

And sometimes I just really feel like I need to go for a good hard run straight up the mountain behind by house – but, alas, there is no way on God’s Green Earth that I can do that because my kids and most of the neighbor kids are home with me, sticking to me.

But I like to defy my reality and think of it as an adventure. And not just a neverending adventure, but a neverending vacation adventure.

That’s so much better, even, than a neverending adventure.

A vacation adventure. That’s good food at restaurants with twinkly lights in their windows. Long talks on hotel balconies talking and talking and talking with my beautiful husband late into the night because maybe I actually have the energy to stay up past ten because I’m on vacation.

It’s reading good books and running down the hallways to the swimming pool. It’s sitting in the sun under an orange brimmed sun hat and feeling my skin sizzle while watching other people who, like me, have no cares at all. It’s getting a little distance on our lives and so having an easier time remembering that all the things we worry about and obsess over are just elements of a game that we are choosing to play.

It’s that loose-in-the-middle feeling you get when you have just run really hard or belly laughed or finished a crying jag.

Just thinking of a neverending vacation adventure and the challenge of trying to make my everyday life into one. It kind of helps today.

A Great Big Bowl of Pen and Cherries

I told my kids once that I love Ben and Jerry’s, but I adore Pens and Cherries. This, I had said, was all I need to be content: A new smooth pen and some ripe and juicy cherries.

And then my kids (uh, I’m sure with Ty’s help) go and put a bowl of them at my spot at the breakfast table yesterday. Along with something to write on, a newspaper, and a mix of lovely flowers.

It’s my birthday, see, and my kids like to stretch, draw out, and milk a celebration as long as possible.

Yesterday, we celebrated Mom’s Birthday Eve.

With the dawn of the day today, I am (gasp) 35, which means I now represent a whole new demographic.  Ty says that I am now, like him, officially, a “folk,” which is a word rarely paired with youth and vibrancy.

There are folk tales and folk songs. Folks might be hardy and sturdy, but the word doesn’t conjure much of anything chic or elegant. I am not sure how I feel about being newly classified in this way.

Despite all this, I’m feeling pretty good. For I’ve got two new smooth writing pens and ripe rainier cherries – nearly big as plums and juicy sweet.

Here’s a kind-of related Momscape article I think you might like:
Simple Secrets That Create Happy Family Memories, by Dr. Michele Borba

Toots. No Maytals.

Or Things I Got All Wrong

So, yesterday, some friends and I were talking about things you thought were true your whole life and then you have this crazy, embarrassing and usually public epiphany.

So today I’m going to share with you one of those things I always thought I had right only to realize that, no, no, I had it all wrong.

Here you go:

When my kids were babies and they would pass gas, my husband would check their diapers and, if they were in the clear, he would occasionally say “Toots but no Maytals.” This meant, “False alarm. No need to change this diaper.”

So, in my mind, I guess I kind of made the word Maytals synonymous with, well, baby poop.

On this went, through three babies.

I would change the diaper and exclaim things such as “Oh, heavenly Maytals!”

For all these many years, I had no earthly idea that Toots and the Maytals was a reggae band. I was sitting in a café when I read an author (I think it was Anne Lamott) make a little mention about a Toots and the Maytals concert.

All at once, I tried to recall all of the times I had made a reference to “Toots but No Maytals” or “Toots and Mucho Maytals” in public, but I couldn’t. There were too many.

I’m comforted by the fact that it’s not the first (and definitely won’t be the last) time I have displayed my total ignorance of popular culture.

A Brand New Aperture on Life

I bought my first SLR camera this weekend and then I kept making my kids go on hikes with me so that I could go out there and find things to take pictures of and so I wouldn’t feel so silly and alone while lying belly down on the trail to get close to things like this little sweetie.

I know I have a lot to learn because I’m sure it’s supposed to be, you know, in focus, but when I put it on my computer, and I could see the little tiny baby hairs on its stem, it made very glad in a way down deep way.

I love taking pictures of my kids and the other things in the woods. I love it so much I get butterflies when I think about it. It’s been a long time since I discovered something new that I love this much.

So that first day, I snapped photos of the trail that winds behind my house.

When I have this camera in my hand, it’s like I am on a hunt for things beautiful.

Then I was reading this John Shaw’s Nature Photography Field Guide before bed and the author said something that gets to the meat of why I think it’s so brazenly fun.

“In the process of photography,” Shaw writes, “we order the chaos of the world around us by making decisions. We decide to emphasize one aspect of the world – what we have discovered – and ignore all others.”

That means that you get to make the decisions on what to focus on. You are deciding what is beautiful and what you are going to share with the world this day.

It’s like the art of photography and the art of writing and the art of living have this one tremendous thing in common. You get to decide what is exquisite and what is good, and you focus in on it as much as you can stand to.

Dosha Dosha Bo Bosha

I love quizzes. They remind me of when I was a kid and me and my friend would sneak her big sister’s Cosmo magazines and we’d take the quizzes about things we knew nothing about and laugh and laugh at the guilty pleasure of it all. I just took one to find out which Ayurvedic sign I am.

Apparently, I am Pitta. Robust, intense and somewhat fiery. And I should stay away from hot foods, meaning both spicy and hot to the touch. Also, I must avoid onions, garlic, anything intense. And that bites because that’s what I like. And why do I like these foods? Because they are intense and robust and somewhat fiery.

We just bought this mug at a garage sale. I dig it.

Take coffee. I love my coffee to be very, very hot and very, very strong. Each morning, my husband makes his tea in his peaceful white teapot (which I once saw him actually kiss) and he pours it in his Stanley thermos and he feels very enlightened and cool with himself.

He pokes toward my coffee, which I clutch in both hands lest it accidentally slip sideways and I waste a drop.  “What you drink, there,” he says. “It is like tar. It is like stain. Someday,” he tells me in the hushed tone of a lama “you will see the light and then you will be drawn to the tea of green.”

That’s when I tell him, each morning, that I think his tea is like drinking bathwater. If I want to drink something, I want to taste it, not a glimpse of a mention of a hint of it, and I want it to practically scald me.

Perhaps I should be trying to balance my Pitta tendencies with the food and drink that I ingest. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me. Or maybe I just need to drink my coffee on ice.

For the Love of Mornings

My son’s legs look just like his daddy’s. They are long and lean. I can see his hamstrings. This morning, he is wearing only a t-shirt and underwear, which is on backwards. He needs a haircut and his hair curls in around his eyes, which makes him look sort of elfin.

He is eating Lucky Charms and, every now and then, he has something to say.

When he doesn’t know something, he asks me as though he were the host of a quiz show, pretending that he knows the answer and checking to see if I know the answer, as well.

“So, if someone can swim in 800 feet, could they also swim in 1000 feet?”

He pokes at one of the marshmallows in his Lucky Charms.

“Hmm?” he prompts me.

“Yes.” I tell him, “Once someone can swim and doesn’t need to touch the bottom, he or she can swim in any depth.”

“That’s right!” he shouts.

I win.

My son’s eyes are big and brown like two spots of hershey’s syrup. He dunks his marshmallows with the back of his spoon.

Time was, he ate only the marshmallows. Now he eats all the frosted oats first, then goes back and eats the sweets.  But he’s not all grown up yet because he still eats just the m&ms from the bag of trail mix.

He pushes back from the table.

“I’m going to go and play.”

Few words are spoken in the mornings. I love them.

Reversing my no’s

Yesterday, my mind was all bound up with too much, too much, too much. The day had been full of too many kids in my house who had been spending too much time together with too much time on their hands. There is too much pollen puffing off the trees with every passing breeze, and it’s making my eyes and throat itch way too much. There is too much dog poo in my yard, too much pent-up energy in my Labrador, and way, way, way too much laundry.

Typically, my saving grace on days like these comes at around 6 pm when a white diesel truck rattles into the garage. But today Ty had a mountain bike race after work. He’s been putting in way longer hours than normal (too much, too much, too much work) and hasn’t been on his bike enough. The kids and I all wanted to support his biking-ness, so we packed a backpack with almonds and bananas and potato chips, water and Capri suns and we headed out to the start line.

Once the race had begun, we had nothing to do but wait in the woods for Ty’s speedy return but this was a 17 mile race, so we had some time to kill, which was just as well for the kids. Waiting in woods such as these is nirvana for kids. This was a part of the valley that was new to all of us, even though it’s just a few miles from our home, and everyone  wanted to explore. Except for me. I wasn’t really in the mood for much of anything except sitting and sneezing.

I always know that I’m not in a proper frame of mind for parenting when I want to say no to everything the kids want to do, without even thinking about it. The kids wanted to balance on the log fences. No, I said instinctively, snapping the word in a way that was oddly satisfying. Okay, I softened when I looked at their dirty little faces, staring up at me. “Actually, why not?” It got to the point where my kids were actually waiting after my “No” for me to reverse myself.

“Can we chuck rocks in the river?” No. Actually, why not?

“Can we hike down that trail to see what is at the end of it?” No. Actually, why not?

“Can we climb that hill of rocks?” No. Actually, why not?

“Can we take off your hat and braid your hair?” No, actually why not?

The evening sun squinted through the valley, and filtered through the pollen, it looked almost misty and altogether beautiful. It was nice to wait for a while, in the woods.

Written by Momscape founder Susie Michelle Cortright. Follow her on Twitter.

Three Agreements to Help You Stop Dieting

The word diet makes me think of deprivation and hunger, followed by a rebellion against myself. And while many of you know that I did do an online weight program after my third and final kid was born to lose the baby weight, and that was a great way to get serious and just do it. But now that I’m more or less at my goal weight and just maintaining things or occasionally having to get rid of the five pounds that creeps on here and there when I’m not looking – I find that I’m happiest about my body when I am naturally doing just a few things, by simply being nice to myself, by taking care of myself.

Here are a few agreements I’m trying to make – in an effort to see the food that I eat as a way to give back to this body that does so much for me each day.

1. Eat what you want mindfully and enjoy every bit of it.
Eat really yummy stuff. Don’t eat things that you don’t find delicious and don’t eat while you are watching TV or working on the computer.

2. If you have a craving for something, have a bit, but just a bit. I notice that the first two bites of cherry cheesecake or cookies and cream ice cream or crème brulee taste the very, very best. After that, I might was well be slurping up straight mayonnaise what with all the guilt I feel. And then I have to remind myself that I’m in adult and, thus, I am in charge – maybe not of how my living room looks much of the time, but at least I’m in charge of when and what I eat. If I get hungry later, I can have a little more. I don’t have to clean my plate. When I’m full, I can even put my plate in the fridge and eat more later. If I can do these things, I stop thinking about food. The chocolate no longer calls to me from the cupboard. I can whisper back to those lovely morsels that they must wait for another time, when I will eat them slowly and consciously, giving each one the love and attention it so deserves.

3. Do something each day that you enjoy to get your body moving outside in nature. If you love photography, go out for a walk in the wide, wide world and take your camera along to document what you see. Go for a bike ride or a run or a hike and feel the freedom that comes with moving your body in the sunshine. Do something that makes your hair flop against your scalp and makes you stink a little bit and makes you feel totally and utterly alive for a few minutes a day.

Sometimes, when we launch these great big plans and goals, we forget that we can start with the smallest little steps and, done correctly, these small little steps can snowball into great big rewards, sometimes all on their own.

I’m a big Gretchen Rubin fan. Her book The Happiness Project: Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Funis available now for preorder and promises to be dy-no-mite.) Here’s a piece she did on her blog that I think you’ll like: Five Tips for Cutting Calories without really Dieting – in fact, without really noticing.

Written by Momscape founder Susie Michelle Cortright. Follow her on Twitter.

Maslow for Mamas: Slowing Down and Finding Your Pace

I want to be the kind of mama who moves slowly and graciously, who doesn’t rush all over the place, who drifts from one place to the next, sweeping along as though there were nowhere else to be but here.

But I’ve never been good at that. I’ve never been good at lolling or loitering or sauntering or pottering. In some ways, it was easier to do when my kids were small. I look at my writing from that time of my life and I notice how I not only noticed the fine points of my day, but I took the time to write them down: The way my toddler puckered as she smeared on her Hello Kitty lip balm; the way my oldest laughed in great rollicking leaps, like a waterfall; the way my young son’s scalp smelled like the earth itself.

Author and father Piero Ferrucci, on the subject, says, “There is a sense of healthy laziness that I have learned in being with children: Slow down, take it easy, be here, enjoy yourself,” he writes. “You are allowed to have no purpose.”

I spent a decade or so – when my kids were tiny – in as close to a healthy laziness as I’m ever going to see. But now that my kids are growing up and spending more and more time away from me, I find myself grasping for purpose, just as I did before I had kids at all. I remember how I’m happier when I do have a purpose and happier still when I know what that purpose is.

When I don’t have one, I feel unconstructive, floppy and sad. I’m a little bit type A and can quote Abraham Maslow at will: “If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life,” and: “Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be.”

I think that’s why things were so liberating back when my kids were home all day and relying on me for everything. I really did feel that I was allowed to have no purpose aside from them. I had a different relationship with time because I had a built-in, overriding sense of purpose by simple default.

There was a deep sense of purpose in just waking up and smiling at them and pouring their milk. There was a deep sense of purpose in sitting at the breakfast table and competitively guessing how many little fruits were in the box of Raisin Bran.

There was a deep sense of purpose in just talking with them and looking at them and worshipping them the way a mom worships her little, little kids. With that sense of purpose comes a deep sense of fulfillment. I could finally take a deep breath and feel like it satisfied something in that way down deep place.

This is one thing I noticed when my youngest child started kindergarten this past year. Suddenly someone else was responsible for each of my kids for a good chunk of the day. Someone else was feeling that sense of purpose and fulfillment and everything else I did paled in comparison to what I used to do all day.

I remember the first few months of school last year, I vacillated between a panicky sense of not getting enough work done before they stepped off the schoolbus and an empty feeling of wastefulness that made my throat cling and grab.

So I’m reflecting on all of this while I’m trying to work from home over summer vacation and my 6-year-old son comes in and he wants to play a game of cards. My first instinct is to say, “I don’t have time,” which is sort of ironic and which gets me to start thinking, “what exactly is time for, then?”

Is it for enjoying, for filling, for deciding what to do with, consciously and deliberately, with reverence and devotion? If it is, then it’s probably for playing Uno with this tan little kid who now sits across from me, holding an Uno deck in his grubby, stubby fingers, which will someday soon be man hands that will be texting his girlfriend or closing his bedroom door in my face.

And then I try to do everything I do in as slow a manner as I can. To tell the truth, it generally drives me crazy to do that for too long, but even for just a minute it helps me to have reverence for the puzzling way time passes and the way our children grow, both gradually and all at once.

It reminds me of a time when I was eating at my favorite fast food joint, which is actually this bright little cafe where they ladle steaming bowls of freshly made soup into paper to-go bowls. It’s like fast food for slow, old souls. As my kids and I were hunched over our bowls, shoveling in spoonfuls of Potato Gouda because we were late for soccer practice, a minister whom I admire very much came in and stood in line.

He did not see us there in the corner and so I know I was observing him in his natural state. I was immediately taken by the slowness that enveloped everything he did, from the way he shuffled forward in the line to the way he put his hand in his pocket to fish out his wallet. It was the way he creased the tall brown bag that held his soup and his bread and his cookie. His pace alone made him appear reverent and devout. He was paying attention. He was letting even the tedious errand of getting take-out become an experience that would surround him like a cloak.

Reflecting on this, I have to ask myself, what am I in such a hurry for? Why are we all rushing so much? Are we rushing because we like it – because we feed on the false drama? Are we rushing so that we can fit in more things or so that we can make more money? Are we rushing to make some form of mark on the world and in the meantime risk missing our own lives?

There are those friends in life (if we make time for them) whose very presence slows us down. Just being with them says, “You can’t get it all done. You are already enough just the way you are, so let us set a pace in this life that we can enjoy.”

In truth, I think that’s what a family is for. At least that’s what I hope my kids will say that their family was for, when they have grown into busy parents and are striving to slow down for themselves.

Written by Momscape founder Susie Michelle Cortright. Follow her on Twitter.

I’m complex with sweet undertones and a nutty finish.

I’m complex with sweet undertones and a nutty finish.

That’s not a personality profile. It’s part of my coffee profile. I just read about this in O Magazine‘s July issue and I’m such a coffee fanatic that I decided to give it a go.

TheRoasterie.com allows you to create your own custom coffee blend. It takes just a few minutes to answer the questions to a short quiz here: http://www.theroasterie.com/myblend/

These are eight questions, which cover such things as which flavor of Danish you prefer, then you get immediate results of your coffee profile: Mine was “Full bodied and complex with sweet undertones and a nutty finish.”

Next, you can create your own label with your own words and uploaded photos. Order in July 2009 and when you buy two bags of your custom MyBlend for $24.98, you’ll receive FREE shipping along with two FREE 2 oz. bags of coffee. Yum!

And if you are more of a tea lover, you can create your own tea blend during Teavana’s Tea Master’s Challenge for a chance to win a $500 Teavana Gift Card.