Life Plans in a Nomad’s Eyes

Traveling is an amazing adventure, but at what time (if ever), do you settle down?

Being a nomad is such an amazing life. Just less than two months ago, we rented out our house, bought an RV and took off on a special journey. Most people seem to be in shock of the idea. I have heard the word “stable” and “roots” mentioned to me a lot as a reason why traveling with two small children is not the greatest idea. However, in a way, I was built for this life. I moved around as a child, joined the military at age 19, lived around the world and now have my own RV. It seemed to be a perfect next step.
There is a drawback though. All my life I have been looking for that next step. How to advance my career, how to make more money, how to be more independent, how to raise the best children that I can; each step is more like a puzzle piece in my unfinished life. Even now that I am on the road, I am constantly searching for the missing piece my story needs.
Traveling does not help this quest of mine to finish my life puzzle. In fact, I feel as though it only gives me more and more pieces to work with. Every quaint town or beautiful city has something spectacular to offer. Sometimes the location offers serenity, a calmer life. Sometimes it is more exciting and offers prospects of money and challenge. Sometimes, it is just the familiarity that entices me. They all hold a shared trait: new adventure.
We have found that as we have begun this trip, our talks have become more centered on what our life plan is. Do we settle down in a sweet mountain town in California, establish a farm in New Mexico, build a tiny house in Maine? Or do we simply stay moving, planning, thinking and collecting memories.
There are really no perfect plans and no real answers to any of our questions in life. As humans, we need to feel passion so we do what brings us that reward. The downside of being a nomad is the fact that anywhere I am, I am perfectly content at that time. I can and will find beauty in just about anything and fall hopelessly in love with the places I explore. That may not sound like a downside until you have been so many places. You begin to wonder where is that perfect spot. Have you already found it or is it just around the bend and down that next road? Your dreams consume you at night of places your hands have never touched. It is a wonderful, yet tiresome battle that I face everyday.
Maybe what I need to do is to put all of our ideas in a bucket and blindly grab our destiny. Stick to it and accept the new life as our own. Finally establish roots, even if that means we stay on the road and they are in a clay pot on the back deck. The world is ours for the taking, but the main question that needs to be answered is: “What do we want to take?”

How to be a “Leaf in the Wind”

The lessons I am learning as I work at letting go the idea of normal.

I had a conversation with my mother yesterday. Being Mother’s Day and all, I tried my very hardest not to engage in any kind of argument, however, being she is my mother and I her daughter, that can be quite difficult. It also didn’t help that I called at a time when I was not feeling the best. I was on edge and didn’t have much patience for some reason. I would love to blame it on the medications I am on to help save my sight and even though being grumpy is a common side effect, I am bound and determined to be in control of my emotions. This means I was just not in the mood.

Before I begin this story, I suppose I should also tell you that my mother does not know of my medical issues, therefore she really doesn’t understand the basis for us renting out our house, buying an RV and traveling. She does not know that I have lost vision in one eye and that I had to quit my job due to the illness, not because I wanted to explore the country, homeschool my kids, and start a blog. She believes that I chose to do this because I am a “leaf in the wind” of sorts; not wanting to settle down and establish roots. I’m still waiting for the right time to tell her, but telling her over the phone is not the place and considering I haven’t seen my mother in over ten years, I am not sure when this conversation will take place.

The conversation started with the traditional “Happy Mother’s Day” stuff followed by me letting her know I was currently in San Diego. We talked about the kiddos a bit and how nice the shower pressure was in the hotel compared to the RV. (Surprisingly, I was not as thrilled with staying at a hotel as I thought I would be after living in an RV). She then asked me the loaded question: “So how does it feel to just not to work and travel all the time?”

“Deep breath. Know your audience. Count to ten. Close your eyes. Another deep breath. Remember…. It is Mother’s Day.” My mental list for relaxing was not quite working. Yes. She is right. I did quite my job and yes, I am traveling. But I had to quit my job. I am losing my vision. I can not stare at a computer all day. Even as I write this post, my eyes are closed due to the immense pressure and pain caused by straining or even trying to move my eyes. We are traveling because I want to see this country while I still can. We are not on a vacation. We are living the RV full-time lifestyle. I am homeschooling two kids. That is more work than ANY job I have ever had. In fact, I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss having a “real” job that earned money and allowed me to run away to a corporate environment while my kids drove their other teachers to drink. We are not bringing in the same money we used to. It is not all fun and games all the time.

I love traveling around the country. It is beautiful. The people are unique and diverse. There is so much to learn, see, visit and experience. However, it isn’t always that spectacular. It is a lot of work trying to figure out campsites, places to visit, YOUR BUDGET. It is exhausting when you realize that on top of seeing the beauty of the country, your first priority is to teach Math, Grammar, Spelling, Reading to the little people living with you and now provide all three meals of the day.

Being a “leaf in the wind” requires a whole new perspective. One that allows you to accept any change and to roll with it, whether it is good or bad. It means that some days, even though life may be shitty, you figure out how to let it turn to gold. I’m not quite at that point. I am more like a kite. I have let myself fly in the wind and am getting used to the breeze. I am learning how to soar and I pray that when I land in the branches, it is only temporary.

I wish I could tell you how to be a leaf in the wind. How to accept and embrace all the changes. Hopefully one day, I will be able to write a post about that. Until then, I have learned a few things I can share:

First: There is no such thing as normal. We are all mutations of sorts. All abnormalities trying to get along and survive in this crazy world. I don’t want to be normal. I want to learn how to embrace my new normal. Whether it is a good day or a bad day, it is MY day.

Second: Stress comes in more forms than one can imagine. Whether it is working, planning a trip, homeschooling kids, getting dinner ready or even going for a walk; there is some sort of stress that is wrecking havoc in your body or head. Having an autoimmune condition is slowly teaching me that I need to embrace the stress instead of fight it. If something is too much, I need to stop the battle. If not, I only fuel the stress.

Third: You BECOME the people you surround yourself with. Negative people only come branches keeping you from flying in the wind. I was able to see some great friends this weekend that reminded me of all the good energy that I need in my life. I am also so blessed to have a husband that is willing to sacrifice so much and be so supportive of me in this crazy time. If I gave into the fake people, the negative people and the people who thrive on insecurities, I would only suffer more. Instead of letting the negative people control me, I let them go and do not waste my time trying to make them happy. It is better this way, even if it is hard at first.

Finally: Breath, laugh, reflect, relax and enjoy the ride. You may not be thrilled at the ride you are on or satisfied where it has led you, but it is YOUR ride. Make the most of it. I don’t have the best relationship with my mother, but I am bound and determined that that aspect of my life isn’t going to hold me back. My body is fighting itself, but it isn’t going to keep me down. Gas prices are through the roof in California, but that doesn’t stop me from taking a walk on the beach. YOU are the only one who can make your day be good or bad. It is alway YOUR choice on what you FEEL.

So going back to my phone conversation. It was Mother’s Day. I didn’t lie to make her feel better but I did tell her (for the 50th time) that this wasn’t a vacation. I love homeschooling the kids. I miss working in so many ways. However, I was okay. I was making the most of every day. I was exploring and I finally was able to SEE the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life. Maybe this summer when I am finally able to visit her and introduce her to the man I have been married to for eight years and her two grandchildren, I will tell her more about the life I have been living. But until then, I am doing my best. I may not be a leaf in the wind just yet, but I am doing alright being a kite in a field.

All Dogs Need a Heaven

The beach should not just be reserved for people. Dogs need some sand, sun and freedom too!

This morning, I awoke to an amazing life. We are currently in San Diego for a long weekend and have been able to visit great friends, eat delicious food, play on the beach and enjoy life. Today was my day. My kids handed me flowers, my husband handed me a card with a homemade mimosa and my puppy snuggled up next to me. It feels good being a mom.

Since it was my day, I got to choose what to do. I had never been to the Pacific Ocean before, so that was the first thing on my list. We drove through the psychotic traffic of San Diego and found our way first to a pleasant park called Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. There wasn’t much for the kids there other than the grand views, some trails and the water, so we decided to go out to Ocean Beach.

Ocean Beach is the big deal in San Diego. It is where you can sit and watch surfers, play in the sand, get into a volleyball game and truly experience the San Diego laid back way of life. Your stresses disappear as quickly as the sand falls between your toes. It is a slice of heaven.

Now, we are not newbies when it comes to the beach. We spent five years living in the Panhandle of Florida where the turquoise waters of the Emerald Coast illuminate the sparkling white sand of beaches that are found almost nowhere else in the world. We love the beach, but today I saw what we were missing in Florida: a dog beach.

Maggie is a yapper dog. She is a whopping 9lbs of energy and excitement so when we take her out, she is bursting at the seams. So she will bark at every dog. Jump up and then sometimes growl when she isn’t allowed to play or sniff whatever she wants. She has never had an issue with another dog, but what kills me is that 20 seconds when she first meets another one or her continuous yapping when she sees another canine roaming the streets.

This made me quite hesitate at first. My excited yapper dog surrounded by dog’s whose right paw weighs more than her. However, I took a deep breath, unhooked her leash and watched her beeline for the first animal in view.

Without the leash, there was nothing I could do, but an amazing thing happened. There was no barking. No growling. No yapping. Just a quick sniff and few playful chases and she was back at our side. In fact, that is how every encounter with ever dog turned out. I saw no out of control animals. No growling. Honestly, I see more aggressiveness on the children’s playground everyday.

We spent the next hour or two sitting at the beach. Our kids played in the sand and laughed as the dogs ran over the sand castles. Maggie spent her time dashing into the water, chasing (other dogs’) balls, and running wild and free. All without any yelping, barking, or issues of any kind. When she needed a break and some salt-free water, she came over, dried off in Daniel’s towel (not by Daniel’s choice), got her water and went back out. She hung out with us, the kids and greeted the other dogs and people that wandered by. It was most likely the best day of her life.

Sitting there in the sand, watching the dogs run freely may have been the best part of my day today. It was a moment when one of my amazing children was able to be free and happy and live to the fullest. I am so blessed to be able to watch my beautiful human babies do this on a daily basis, but today it was my dog’s turn. Seeing all the dogs on their own playground, their own beach, their own slice of heaven; that warmed my heart.

It is a shame that there are not more dog beaches and parks in our society. Every person on the beach today picked up any waste, to include litter that had blown in with the wind. The dog parks and dog beaches seem to be the cleaner than the dog-banned ones. Places like these give dog owner the ability to reward their children. It gives them  place to go to help their animal and people to talk to that have common interests. Finally, it makes the dog a better dog.

When we finally left the beach, Maggie was a different dog. She didn’t take off running towards a new dog that was on its’ way to doggie heaven. She didn’t bark or yelp or even jump on any dog on the walk back. She didn’t even freak out at the squirrel antagonizing her on our walk. She was satisfied and I think she is beginning to understand that she gets a whole lot more positive interactions when she stops being a yapper.

I think it is the time to push for more dog-friendly places in this country. Parks where the dogs can play, roam and be dogs. Not tiny fenced in areas that feel more like a kennel than a park. We need places where the focus is making life a little better for them. A place where they know what Heaven on Earth actually feels like.

I Could Never Homeschool My Kids… Until I Did

I never thought I would be the parent who homeschooled her child. Now, I wish I would have done it sooner.

I could never homeschool my children. Not that I am not smart enough. I am certainly educated. It is more than that. While I think I am a pretty amazing mom, I just never found that patience that is born with teachers. Going over the same thing a hundred times with a frustrated child until they get it right. Not having the adult stimulation that my insanely nerdish brain craved. I tried doing the stay-at-home mom gig a couple of times. It was truly the hardest job I ever had. I am not the Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker kind of mom who organizes play dates, bakes fancy cupcakes and keeps the house meticulous. In fact, I think my kids spent more time at a CrossFit gym with me than at parks when I had them “full time”.

The truth is: I need to work in order to maintain sanity. I need a sense of individuality. A sense of professional accomplishment. A time away from the chaos of two children that ask for my attention more than is humanly healthy. I need that time away from my family to appreciate them that much more. Even to maintain a schedule. My brain loves being a night owl, but that isn’t quite conducive when you have small children.

Homeschooling was never on my mind. My kids needed to be in an institution where learning was the centerfold most important thing on the agenda. Not breakfast, dishes, lunch, dishes, vacuuming, taking the dog out, picking up toys, dinner, dishes, baths, etc. Get my point? Kids need to be in an environment where they are with their peers and have to learn how to adapt to other’s personalities and a structure that is provided by someone who did not have anything to do with their creation. The Teacher.

Teachers are these strange creatures that I admire, not want to be. They get paid pennies, yet still manage to instill wonder, magic and knowledge into the heads of the children in the classrooms. I have always been amazed at anyone who desired to be a teacher. It simply wasn’t something I possessed or even wanted. So I thought.

As Spring Break began this year, I embraced a new, exciting, terrifying adventure of being a teacher. Not a licensed one, but a homeschool teacher. Yes. I took my children out of school and made the decision to homeschool them.

The decision was not an easy one. However, it was the best decision for our family for many reasons. The first reason was that I was forced to stop working due to my health. While I would love to have sat around drinking wine all day while the kids went to school, it made no sense to keep paying for the preschool my daughter attended. Plus, I needed a new challenge in my life. Another huge factor was my son. He has pretty severe ADHD. Smart as hell when he is focused, but imagine trying to focus in a class of 24 first graders hopped up on sugar. It wasn’t working. We tried changing his diet. We tried meditation. We tried jui jitsu. We tried caffeine. We tried fidget gadgets and even counseling. Even the IEP that was established didn’t do anything. Pretty much anything and everything we read online, heard from friends or could imagine, we tried. Nothing seemed to help much. In fact, his academics and self-esteem seemed to be going on a downward spiral. He would come home crying saying he was dumb, overwhelmed, stupid.

When your first grader thinks he is stupid, something needs to change.

That was the point when I took him to the psychiatrist. My heart was so heavy. I felt like the worst mother in the world. Why couldn’t I fix this problem and unlock the true potential that my child had in that amazing brain of his. The shrink made me feel better by acknowledging I had done everything I could and more. She said that the best thing for him would be medication.

I was going to be medicating my seven year old son so he would fit into an institution of learning that was not designed for him. It would help him focus. It would help him feel not so overwhelmed. It would make him excel. Medication was my last option.

As I sat in the pharmacy line at Walgreens, waiting for my turn to pick up the prescription, I began texting my husband about the plan. I told him the drug’s name and instantly received a response back: “WE ARE NOT GIVING HIM THAT DRUG!!!”. Wow. Turns out, my husband had  the same drug prescribed to him as a juvenile. He hated it. It made him feel so sick and not himself that he ended up refusing it all together. There was no way he would let someone put his child through that torture.

It turns out that most kids have to go through three or four different drugs before they find one that “works” for them. This is over the span of one to two years. I couldn’t agree to putting my son through hell for another couple of years until we found something that would work.

That is when my husband sat me down and talked to me about homeschooling. At first, I kept my old opinions that I could not do as good of a job that TRAINED teachers could. My kids needed that structure. They needed that establishment. However, my son was failing in that environment. We could always transfer him to a private school with very small class sizes but that would cost an arm and a leg. It wasn’t the answer. We made the decision that we needed a complete change in the way he learned. His brain was overly active. Why not teach him in an active environment? Teach him how his brain learns best. That idea was the key to solidifying our decision to homeschool.
The first month of “homeschooling” was more or less a relaxed time of getting to know one another on a more delicate level. I watched my kids play and taught them lessons based off what they should know. I analyzed how my son reacted to physical, emotional and mental stress. I discovered triggers that would make him shut down. I figured out tactics I could use to get him excited about learning. My kids became my test subjects in a fascinating and educational experiment.

One would think that when starting a homeschooling program that the best thing to do would be to sign up for a program. I’m not that kind of person. There are so many online schools out there that are great to use, but I don’t want my kids sitting in front of a computer. They need to learn by doing and I don’t want to use a program as a way-out for myself to sit around and drink wine. Instead, I have spent countless hours scouring various resources and developing a plan for what the kids will learn about based off their ages. Evelyn isn’t set to start Kindergarten until 2018, so she has a lot of leeway when it comes to what she has to know. We are still working more on the Kindergarten level, but at a slower and more playful speed. Alexander is actually already working on the second grade level for the most part. In less than two months, he went from struggling with first grade math to flying through his second-grade math assignments. It is a night and day difference.

My white board is an outline for what we should get done in a day. There are still worksheets, but also fun activities. Today we did Even/Odd assignment where I sent him on a bike ride to count various objects and determine whether they were even or odd. We play with hot wheels. We visit National Parks. Last week, we actually sat on a cliff in the Grand Canyon and did “schoolwork”. This week, we were in Joshua Tree National Park learning about desert plants and animals and how they survive. Our RV shows a map of the United States and both of the children can point out what states we have traveled as well as name their capitals.

I won’t lie and tell you that I don’t miss working. If I could go back, it would be hard to say no. However, I do have a new job that is exciting and just as challenging. I am nowthat strange creature I admire; just on a smaller scale. Homeschooling has given my son hope that he can thrive in the intellectual realm. I believe that one day the kids will go back to “school” and I will  find a new challenge. When they do return, they will have the skills to adapt to the environment, the knowledge that they have discovered while out of that environment and the patience and tolerance for others who struggle. Struggling doesn’t mean a kid is dumb or stupid; it just means that they learn differently than those that don’t struggle. Different can be good.

I never thought the day would come when I would say “I love homeschooling my children”. However, seeing the results and eagerness to learn has made me a true believer. Homeschooling isn’t the answer for all families or all kids. It isn’t an easy way out. It is hard work, lots of patience and should include a nice glass of wine at the end of the night (for the teachers…. not the kids). It saved my son from a low self-esteem, a hard struggle, and lots of tears. It raised his academic performance almost overnight. It enabled him to excel. Those results make me proud to say that I am his teacher or rather: HE is my student.

Claustrophobia and the Grand Canyon

Claustrophobia and the Grand Canyon. How one saved me from the other.

Claustrophobia. The fear of tight spaces. It is a very common fear and well known. Up until recently, I thought that it was a fear that a person was born with. I had never had this fear. I could crawl in the tightest spaces, unafraid of anything. However, a couple months ago, I learned what claustrophobia was… the hard way.

I was laying in an MRI machine again. With the rapid progression of my visual loss and the way my body has been attacking itself, it was no surprise that yet another MRI was ordered. I’ve had several and tried to approach this one on the light side as though it was another well-deserved nap since my body was continuously running on empty lately. I laid down on the cold, hard table and the technician placed the face mask over my head. In my mind, I remember thinking not to comment about feeling like a hockey player and just relax. So I did. I fell asleep quite quickly since lately my energy levels had been nonexistent. All of a sudden something happened. I think I went to swallow some saliva and ended up choking instead. Worst possible thing to happen in the middle of an MRI. With a face mask tightly secured, I couldn’t sit up. Frantically, I hit the panic button. Again and again and again. My eyes popped open and all I could see was this shield blocking my face; immobilizing me. Keeping me from fresh air… from breathing. I reached for the mask, trying to rip it away. The technician came into the room and retracted the table as slowly as I thought was humanly possible.

When I finally was able to sit up and gasp for breath, the technician looked at me in amazement. She asked me what happened and all I could tell her was that I started choking. When she asked me if I wanted to come back to redo the MRI, I told her that I was able to finish and that it was just a random occurrence and that I was ok to complete the procedure. Turns out: I wasn’t. That simple occurrence made me develop this random thing that is called claustrophobia. I was terrified of that mask being secured over my face again. I laid down and the moment it went over my head, I freaked out and jumped up again. My heart raced. My anxiety was through the roof. What happened to that nice nap I had expected? Now, it had been replaced by fear.

I knew that if I was going to make it through this procedure the way things were progressing. I had to calm myself. I didn’t want her to know what was going on so I asked for a drink. I knew that seeing that mask cover my face would elicit the panic I felt. So I took a drink and closed my eyes. I laid down and took deep breaths. The sound of the mask clicking into place raised my heart rate but I knew if I opened my eyes, the panic would take control. I too a deep breath and pictured a place I had never been. A place open and wide. A place bigger than life: the Grand Canyon.

The remainder of the MRI, I took myself to a place I had only seen in pictures. The Grand Canyon. It was a place that was deep and vast, open and wide, free of anything confining. I felt myself standing on the edge of a cliff with my kids as the wind flowed through my hair. Nothing held me back. Inside, there was still fear that everything would cave in and that I would choke to death, but I made my mind believe that there was a place that this could never happen.

That is how I made it through that day. Even after the radiologist ordered contrast and I had to endure another thirty minutes of deep breaths and my imagination taking me to a far away place. The Grand Canyon saved me from claustrophobia.

Today, I finally made it to the Grand Canyon. While my imagination did a pretty good job letting me know the freedom it brings, my mind did not do it justice when it comes to the depth and magnitude it holds. While sitting on the edge of a cliff, my husband said it perfectly “you can feel it’s silence”. In fact, it is so large and powerful; you feel as though nothing can escape its’ greatness. It is deafening. Frightening. Calming. Tranquil. For the first time since that MRI, I felt as though everything was okay. I was just a dot on this Earth that existed in such a small amount of time. My panic and fear was not even an blip in history. The greatness of the canyon was almost too much to take in; a counterbalance of what the mask felt like in the machine.

Now as I sit writing for the first time of that new fear, I feel a sense of relief and gratitude. Maybe I was meant to know what it was like to feel constrained and fearful so then I understood the relief of being free and grateful. Maybe I would not feel the greatness that the canyon holds if I had never felt the restraints of being out of control.

I would love to sit here and describe the Grand Canyon to you. I would love to tell you about the way the layers of rock and earth delicately fall upon one another. How the stone is older than the dinosaurs and how water and wind eroded the land to form the beautiful landscape. However, the Grand Canyon can’t be described. It can only be felt. Lived. Seen. It is a monument that pictures can only capture the surface of the power that it holds.

While I sat in that MRI, imagining myself at the Grand Canyon, I saw a beautiful canyon with an open horizon before me. Freedom and solitude that I needed to get through a procedure. Today, I saw time. Evolution. Peace and serenity. Today, I saw Mother Nature in all her beauty. Today I witnessed the power of the Grand Canyon.

Nevada: More than “Snow-capped”

I never thought Nevada was anything but a desert with a big city, but little did I know…

Nevada. The word rolls off your tongue as if it were a fancy drink at some posh restaurant. In fact, the word simply means “snow-capped” which holds true to its form. Before coming to Nevada, I never thought much of the state. We all know about Las Vegas; the gambling, money, sex, drugs, and booze. A city in the middle of nowhere that never sleeps. We have heard of Reno, however many do not know why Reno is familiar, just that it exists. However, the actual state of Nevada is something that until now never inspired me. Never made me want to visit and explore. It was just a vast state in the middle of nowhere; on the way to somewhere with a city that never sleeps.

We left Idaho a day earlier than planned. The weather was not great and the kids were not enjoying the cold wind that swept across the reservoir. While we loved the Salmon Falls Dam, it was time to move on and go for another adventure. Shortly after starting our journey, we arrived in the quaint city of Jackpot, NV. It is the typical border town that you would think of, except here there were run-down casinos everywhere and restaurants that didn’t open until dinner time. A quick coffee and we were out on the open road, expecting less than an exciting journey. Personally, I was looking forward to a nice nap so when my husband asked if we could listen to a Joe Rogan podcast, I was all for the idea. Evelyn was quickly passed out in the back, Alexander was reading a book about plants and trees and Maggie was laying in my arms as though a child who I had rocked to sleep. However, instead of closing my eyes, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the landscape. The road separated the mountains so as we drove, I stared at the snow-covered hills colliding with beautiful fields that had just started to bloom. It was truly the beginning of spring and the countryside captured each moment with grace and beauty.

We ate lunch in yet another run-down town of Wells, Nevada. It was good cooking yet pricey for what we got. It may be the first time I saw a kids menu that was all over $10 at a diner. However, the service was nice and the break from driving was well worth the money.

As we got back on the road, I couldn’t help but think to myself what our time in Ely, Nevada would be like. We had booked a full three nights there and if it were anything like Wells or Jackpot, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it. However, my husband completely surprised me with a beautiful reservoir in Southern Idaho, so I had to trust that we would have a wonderful time no matter what.

We arrived in Ely around 4 pm. It was beautiful. The sun was out and the 70 degree weather was something that I cherished more than ever after a long winter in Idaho. Ely is tucked in an amazing valley that has views in every direction your eyes can wander. We had opted for a KOA campsite that turned out to be almost perfect. It had trails that the boys went mountain biking on. It had a park that the kids have played on each day. The service was wonderful and there was so much nature around that we knew we had plenty to look forward to. The next morning, the boys went mountain biking while Evelyn and I played around being lazy girls. We then ate lunch, packed up the truck and went to Cave Lake, just a short trip down the road. The weather was intermittent rain, but it didn’t slow us down at all. The lake was breathtaking. Its’ water was a turquoise color that made you wonder how nature could create it. There was a trail around the lake and the kids and Maggie ran freely, climbing and exploring the area. When we came back, the boys went to another lake to fish. It was the first time that Alexander actually became engrossed in the activity. Normally, he would fish for five minutes and be bored, but this time, he became obsessed and managed to bring home two brown trout.

Today, we decided to go for another adventure. I was a bit concerned since we actually woke up to snow. Yes… snow. Two days ago the temperature was 70 and sunny and today I woke up in the same place to massive snowflakes coming down. We bundled up and headed down the “Loneliest Highway in America” toward the Great Basin National Park. The clouds hung low as the snow continued to fall while we began our journey. After a few minutes, the snow turned to rain which eventually ceased, but the clouds still obstructed a lot of our view. On the way, I joked that there was no way anyone else would be at the park today because the weather should be a great deterrent. Then, out of nowhere, Daniel’s eyes opened wide and said “LOOK at THAT mountain!” I peered out my window into the distance. There was no mountain in view. Right as I was about to ask him what he was talking about, an enormous cliff appeared in the fog right before my eyes. As I stared in awe, the fog lifted and the remainder of the mountain range took shape. Sharp cliffs rose from the ground, peppered with pine trees and sage brush. The sun reflected off the new snow that was blowing off the peaks and the landscape transformed once again to an exciting wilderness that beckoned you to explore it. Never have I thought that something this beautiful existed in this state that I once believed to be only desert.

When we arrived at Great Basin National Park, we went to the Lehman Caves. We had a wonderful lunch that Daniel had packed for us and then waited for our cave tour. The kids completed a Junior Park Ranger book and were awarded their badges in front of the tour group who all were very receptive to them.

The caves were wonderful. There was so much to see and learn. The tour guide was quite accommodating to the children and very good at engaging the group. The Lehman Caves were founded over 100 years ago and to this day are still a great site to see. Learning about caves, stalagmites and stalactites in a book has nowhere near the same impact as seeing them in person. We all got “kissed by the cave” as water dripped on us and witnessed with our very eyes how over a million years ago, something as simple as water formed the natural wonders we are able to view today. It just proves that education doesn’t always have to be in the classroom.

Our Nevada trip has come to a conclusion. We are heading for southern Utah tomorrow. Fishlike National forest first, then Zion National Park and beyond. While we are leaving Nevada for now, many things will stick with me. I know not to underestimate any place before experiencing it. Seeing my son come back from a afternoon of fishing with his dad has carved a deep place in my memory and heart. Watching my daughter scale rocks like she is a (semi) pro shows me that while she is my baby, she is more than capable of handling herself. Finally, I realize that a simple element like water and a lot of time and patience can make everlasting beauty. Things like that help me see life in a whole new perspective. Maybe while I thought I should move fast or get instant results, that isn’t what Mother Nature has in store for me.  In all actuality, time and patience, love and courage, and most importantly faith is what I really need in order to be completely satisfied with this wonderful, crazy, perfectly insane life that is only mine.

Nevada. Never put all your trust into a name. It is a state capable of a lot more than just being “snow-capped”.

The Problem With Holidays

Why does our society encourage gluttony during the holidays instead of health?

As I am slowly diving into the world of Twitter, I have learned many things. While I  will wait to elaborate on all the lessons Twitter is throwing out there, the thing I have been focused on lately is the enormous amount of “holidays”. We just had National Dog Day, which was after National Siblings Day and today is one of my favorites so far: National Grilled Cheese Day. Yes, even two pieces of bread glued together with cheese has it’s own special holiday. I am amazed. While I am sure all of these made up holidays may actually boost a love between siblings and our pets or an increase in sales of grilled cheese sandwiches, is it really necessary? In fact, are most holidays all that necessary or good for us?

Take Easter for example. It is coming up on Sunday. Easter is one of the most confusing holidays in my book. Each year it is on a Sunday, but that day can be anywhere from March 22 to April 23. It is quite interesting the way it is determined: the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the March equinox. It is quite interesting to me because this means the day Jesus was resurrected changes EVERY year. Talk about confusing when you try to explain that to your kids.

Now, I understand the importance of Easter. I am not very religious but I do consider myself a Christian. It is probably the most symbolic day of the year for the Christian religions. So why let it be ruined but colored eggs, plastic grass and oversized plush animals hiding candy? It seems to make a mockery of this incredible day. In early times, new litters of rabbits were generally born in the time near Easter symbolizing new life, but is this really what the Christian church wants to hold on to?

Ask any kid on the playground at school about what their favorite part of Easter is. While many of them will know the reason behind Easter, their favorite part will not be attending church. It is not going to be learning about the sacrifices Jesus made for humanity and the incredible miracle that took place as he rose from his tomb. No. It is about the big egg hunt. The colored eggs. The candy. Easter has become a day where binging in chocolate and treats is more than acceptable; it is encouraged. Gluttony (one of the cardinal sins) is actually encouraged.

One of the hardest things I deal with while facing these holidays is how bad for our health these holidays are becoming. We eat very healthy. We limit our sugar intake, avoid junk food, teach our kids that things like squash, zucchini, spinach and broccoli are amazing to eat. However, the task of raising our children to avoid bad food is incredibly difficult when every store pushes it on us or people are continuously trying to hand candy to your kids. I even have people tell me that my children deserve a treat, another piece of chocolate, more candy.

In a country riddled with diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer, and addiction, shouldn’t we focus on healthier alternatives and a healthier lifestyle than a sugar-induced high? Shouldn’t we protect our children from a life of illness and teach them that when you are constantly indulging in treats, you are actually hurting yourself? Something as simple as a single Hershey kiss has 2.5 grams of sugar in it. Considering an ADULT woman’s recommended daily sugar intake should be no more than 25 grams of sugar, that small indulgence is a lot more than small. Ten pieces is the same as an entire day’s worth of sugar! And that is for an adult, not a child.

I’m not going to tell you that this Easter there will be no chocolate in our house. At this point, it is inevitable. Anywhere we go, candy is pushed at us but what I will tell you is that my children will learn about the true meaning of Easter, and when they awaken to the baskets the “Easter Bunny” left for them, they will have things such as new biking gloves and paints instead of chocolate and chick-shaped marshmallows. The best part about it is that they will be thrilled because treats don’t have to be edible.

One final word: please think before you offer someone else’s children candy. While the gesture is nice and thoughtful, it puts parents in a difficult position to turn it down in front of their children. It make the parent the bad guy for not allowing that sucker. Yes, it is a small treat, but think about how quickly one small treat escalates when everyone is doing it or when you look at the amount of sugar in that small treat. If you do feel compelled to give kids “treats”: things like stickers, pencils, erasers, and tiny trinkets are just as loved by kids and they serve a purpose in the home. Those things have more meaning to children than candy and it doesn’t affect their health. We are doing our best to raise our children to be healthy and we hope that you can support our decisions. While you may think they “deserve” that piece of chocolate, we feel that our kids shouldn’t be getting chocolate everyday or even every week. I am not asking for you to agree with that decision, but please respect us enough to allow us to make those decisions. Thank you.

 

Life Lessons: Learning to Ride a Bike

There are no lessons quite like the ones that you learn when you first ride a bike.

There are many lessons we learn throughout our life. Some of these lessons we learn the hard way: why it is not advisable to touch a hot stove. Others, we learn through watching our friends, family members or complete strangers. Then there are some that we have to live through. Experience so we can truly grasp their meaning and the lesson that is associated with it. We have all had our hearts broken but in that process, we learned to love, trust, understand, listen, and learn. However, with all the lessons we learn throughout our life, none are as important as that day when we learned how to ride a bike.

As I ran countless laps up and down the street today, pacing next to my daughter as her lime and fusha bike wobbled over the pavement, the memories of my first bike roared back. Nearly thirty years ago, my sister was the one next to me, holding onto my pink banana-seat bike telling me what to do, encouraging me along the way and also letting me experience what it felt like to meet the old dirt road we lived on. There were so many things to do and for someone so little, it was overwhelmingly scary, but empowering. The trust I gave her to keep me safe and to teach me how to ride this machine was more than I ever would give her again but you have to take that risk sometimes. In a few short hours, I went from completely relying on her to having freedom like never before. This machine could take me anywhere I wanted to go and all I had to do was peddle. That day, I was unstoppable. It is a day I hope to hold onto for the rest of my years.

Looking through a mother’s eyes, the same experience is quite different. My son had mastered the skill within a short day but my daughter has been a bit more reluctant. Her fears of me letting go overpower her actual skills that she is able to go for stretches without needing my assistance. Her eyes light up as we go together, but anxiety hits when she thinks that she is alone in this journey. As a mom, I don’t want to ever let her go. I want to relish in the fact that she needs me, even though the cold hard truth is that she doesn’t. She has the skills to ride the bike on her own, she just wants me there for that safety net; the one to grab her off the bike before she meets the road. Teaching her how to ride a bike is also teaching me how to let go. My baby is no longer a baby. She is growing into a strong, independent girl and one day I will have to let her go live her life as she deems to live it. I know I will always be there with the bandaids when she loses control, or maybe even a bottle of wine later on when she feels like her whole life crashed, but today I have learned that sometimes it is best to let them go.

As a kid, there are many lessons you learn as you master the skill of riding a bike: trust, independence, hazard avoidance, risk assessment, perseverance, and self-aid. As an adult it changes: acceptance, patience, when to hold on and when to let go, and first-aid. The moment my kids rode away from me for the first time is probably more heartwarming than the moment I rode away from my sister so many years ago. Because in that moment, I knew that no matter how many times they may fall, they now know how to get back up and ride again. All you have to do is keep peddling and you will be ok.

Before the world goes dark

When the things you take for granted are taken away from you.

Imagine if you will. It is 7am. You are drifting in and out of consciousness, contemplating waking up when your four year old daughter lands on the bed. “Good moaning mom!” she exclaims, still not yet able to get that good “r” sound. She loves the mornings when she is one of the first ones up. She curls up next to you and starts coaxing you out from under the covers. “Mom! It’s moaning! The sun is shining! The birds are singing. The flowas are going to bloom today! You have to get out of bed!” Her giggles are contagious and uplifting, better that the coffee you can smell brewing in the kitchen. She snuggles her face up to yours, gently nudging like a puppy would do. You open your eyes. You can’t see her. And right at that moment, your heart drops and a tightness rises in your chest. You can’t see her.

You can’t see her expresso eyes glittering as the sun coming into the window hits them. You can’t see those chubby cheeks that you kiss at least fifty times a day. You know she is there, but she is hidden. You have been blinded in one eye with the very real possibility of being blinded all together. Today, you are able to roll over so the one good eye can see that beautiful miracle you made. But before you are able to think about how lucky you are that she is yours, you first have to push aside the fear that one day, that face may forever be hidden from you.

This is my story. Over the last few months, I have lost the eyesight in my right eye. My eyes constantly hurt with pain ranging from throbbing to stabbing pain. It is accompanied with other issues such as muscle weakness, fatigue, and body pain, but the loss of vision is the main issue that have the doctors struggling to find answers. I have been through more tests than I can count, yet we don’t have an answer for why I have lost half my sight or how much further it will go. As of the current moment, the doctors know I have some sort of autoimmune disease that is causing my body to attack itself, but autoimmune diseases are interesting in the fact that some are nearly impossible to diagnose or even figure out what can cure or at least slow it down.

Millions of people in this world suffer from autoimmune diseases. Some being very well known life Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Disease, Type 1 diabetes. However, many are still random, unknown and not understood. It not only makes a person going through the process feel lost, but also a bit like they are losing their mind. There are days I can go all day without any issues (other than the whole blindness thing), and there are days where I feel like I am trying to workout while battling the flu. Days where naps are mandatory and even then, there is no energy flowing through my body. It’s perplexing, haunting, frustrating, and heart wrenching to say the least.

I have had to quit my job as a result of my loss of vision as well as the other physical tolls that this disease is having on me. I miss working. I miss the people, the job and the mission I was a part of. It is hard dealing with a constant sense of defeat, but I am not the type of person who settles and admits defeat. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful husband who has been there for me throughout this and is supporting me like no other. We decided to buy an RV. We took the kids out of school. We are traveling. We are seeing the world before the world goes dark. We are learning how to adapt.

My son is kind of like my seeing-eye kid. He walks on my right side everywhere we go and tells me what is on that side so I don’t bump into anything. He keeps me focused on the positive. My husband is devoted to finding a natural way for my body to heal itself. We are working on breathing, meditation, yoga. He reminds me not to stress myself out. He is understanding and encouraging. And then there is my daughter. Well, she is a bit too young to understand the concept of being sick. That’s what I like most. She pushes me to get out of bed. To open my eyes. To giggle and cuddle as much as possible. To go outside and see the “flowas” bloom.

The spring is here, it is a beautiful day. Let’s go out and see it.

Instant Gratification

Instant gratification and the effects of having everything right at your fingertips.

America has become the land of instant gratification. We revolve in a world that allows you to make your coffee in under ten seconds, connect with anyone around the world with no delay, and even have items delivered by drones within a couple hours after ordering them. At restaurants, you see entire families staring at their phones; having multiple conversations with anyone and everyone but the ones right in front of them. Children are handed an iPad instead of waiting patiently or engaging with adults while they wait for their food. Even dining establishments offer games to play to keep their patrons occupied while they wait.

I remember as a child riding my bike to a friends house just to see if they were home and wanted to hang out. I sent letters to old friends and family. I stacked jelly packets at restaurants while waiting for the food to come. I got toys on my birthday and Christmas, but rarely any other days. The world was simple back then. And then the computer era happened and it made life easier, quicker. Better?

While all the technology sounds great, could it be that this technology is distracting us from what truly matters? Does instant gratification take away our ability to be content with what we have and enjoy the richness of life? Or is it simply numbing out minds; allowing our culture to become narcissistic and disabling any hope for lasting, physical relationships.

While I sit here any type this, I think of the effect technology has had in my life over the years. I look at my Facebook page. It is a love-hate relationship. I find it rather odd that I can say I have a relationship with a website, but in reality, that is exactly what it is. It provides me with an outlet to discuss things or vent if need be and satisfies a social desire. I hate the drama of it, yet, somehow I am still pulled in late at night as I scroll through the endless stories of friends and family. Sometimes it can actually make me feel useless or not good enough. I see friends buying lavish things that I envy, even though I have no need, use or even want for them. I hear about husbands constantly buying their wives gifts all the time or random vacations. While I love seeing my friends happy, there is a part of me that may start to doubt my own life, adventures or even my marriage.

Why do people so quickly hop from now relationship to the next? Why are we unable to work on our marriage like previous generations did before. I never remember hearing my grandparents air out their dirty laundry, but now, all of cyberspace is open to the drama and has more than just an opinion or two to offer. How can two people be a healthy couple when the world is involved in their private business?

Moving away from a traditional house and into an RV opened my eyes to the destruction of self gratification. As I make my coffee in the morning, using my teapot and french press, I genuinely await the delicious taste that is being developed. The act is no longer a mindless act of putting a K-cup into a Keurig, but instead there is a process. Just like that of a great BBQ. You can’t just throw a rack of ribs on the grill and expect them to be falling off the bone in one minute. You make it an all day event. It becomes the centerpiece and highlight of the day. The guys sit around and talk by the grill while the aroma spreads throughout the neighborhood. The children eagerly await the feast and when it is finally ready, everyone comes together to cherish in that moment.

Technology isn’t always bad. It does connect us to those in another world. It makes life easier and allows us to discover more than we ever thought possible. However, keep in mind, that this is the only life we have. We need to embrace the real moments and not just the digital ones. We need to put our phone away and pay attention to what is in front of us. We need to cherish the process; for without the processes, the moments are hardly worth remembering.