Month: August 2012

All I Needed Was A Latte

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Over this long, holiday weekend, we decided to take our boys to see a part of Colorado they’ve not visited before. We picked them up from school, pop-up camper in tow, and headed southwest. Our destination: Durango. We arrived at Haviland Lake at 10:30 p.m. and as quietly as possible set up camp. I’d say it was a testament to the strength of our relationship that no one was maimed or murdered during camp assembly in the dark. But honestly, my husband is a saint, and that is the only reason I am still alive today.

Early this morning when the sun was just beginning its process of lighting the silent campground, Joe jumped up and begged to go “exploring.” In that moment, on six hours of fitful sleep (fitful because the dog was restless last night and her restlessness was bothering Steve and Steve’s incessant chiding of the dog was bothering me), I questioned why the hell we do this. Exactly why do we insist on loading the car with all the things we already have at home so we can sleep in a cold camper in the forest?

In desperate need of a serious attitude adjustment, at 8 a.m. we fired up the FJ and drove the 18 miles back into Durango in search of a local coffee establishment. We found Durango Joe’s small hut. Steve got a Mexican Mocha and I got the heavenly Avalanche…a white chocolate and macadamia nut flavored latte. We drove into old town Durango and were just in time to watch the narrow gauge train start its daily trek to Silverton.

By the time we got back to camp, my attitude was improving. Recently fed and freshly caffeinated, I finished setting up camp. I perched the hammock between two trees and settled in. From my spot, I watched Luke fall into the lake trying to catch minnows in a plastic cup. Joe, a child who isn’t patient enough to untie a double knot in his shoelaces, stood on shore repeatedly casting his fishing rod while in some kind of trance. A few feet away, Steve took macro shots of wildflowers. Ruby, apparently exhausted after her sleepless night, napped beside me. In the serenity of the forest, I watched an osprey circle the lake searching for a meal while my hammock swayed in the breeze and the light scent of the pine trees reminded me to be in the moment.

Then it hit me. THIS is why we do this, why we load up our belongings, drive for hours, and set up house in the woods. Camping is the one activity where we can all be together and yet enjoy different things. Out of our element, distractions gone, there is peace. There is uninterrupted family time. There is relaxation. There is only now. This is where I find my zen.

Of course, we still have latte runs and my iPhone, so that helps too.

What About THAT Guy?

Yesterday I went to do one of my usual fall workouts. I know it’s not technically fall yet, but when the kids go back to school it’s fall for me. Anyway, I was at Red Rocks Amphitheater to do my standard exercise routine there. It basically consists of my walking or jogging a loop around the inside of the amphitheater…up the stairs, across the top of the amphitheater, down the stairs on the other side, across the front of the stage, and back up again. Depending on my energy level and schedule, I will do that 5-10 times. It’s not overly strenuous because I don’t get too intense about it, but it’s enough of an interval workout to get my heart pumping and my legs worn out. The charm of working out at Red Rocks goes beyond the sheer beauty of Red Rocks itself with its scenic with views of Denver and the towering red rocks framing the vivid blue sky. When you’re there, you feel like something of a bad ass. You’re not walking your dog down your block; you’re out there with the warriors who leap the steps, jump the benches, do lunges at the top of the amphitheater, and then crunches on the stage. And even if you’re not there doing a boot-camp style workout, you’re still there putting in your time. The folks who work out there form a loose community of nut jobs for whom a jaunt around the park does not truly register as exercise. You are a part of something unique and cool. You’re at the most awesome gym in the country. You’re a link in the crazy Colorado network of endorphin junkies. It’s no mistake that Colorado is the leanest state in the nation. We work at it.

So, as I was climbing stairs and feeling particularly bad ass for being there when what I really wanted to be doing after only five hours sleep was napping, I spied this guy.

<——-This guy is a firefighter. He’s in his full gear. He’s hauling a hose. He’s got his tank strapped to his back. He’s climbing the stairs in boots. Somehow, after watching him walk the stairs I was walking while wearing all that gear, I didn’t feel like such a bad ass any longer. In Colorado, as impressive as your dedication to your own health and fitness is, there is always someone who is more dedicated, someone who is doing what you do only he’s doing it longer, harder, faster, and better than you will ever do it. It’s humbling. It’s also inspiring. In my next life, I want to be that guy. For now, I’ll be satisfied that I was out climbing stairs at Red Rocks rather than sitting on my butt on the patio at Starbucks with a morning bun and a triple venti latte.

You Can’t Have It All…Enjoli Lied

Hard to believe, but this is not how I spend my days as a stay-at-home mom with nothing but free time. 😉

The other day a friend and fellow “stay-at-home mom” had a moment of frustration and ranted a bit on her Facebook status. Her post listed all the things she does on a daily basis and then noted that someone close to her remarked that she doesn’t really do anything. I read her post and felt complete empathy. Many of my blogs have been tyrades about how frustrating and thankless the job of Mom can be.

Then, today, I came across a Facebook post from a working mom friend of mine. She’s currently in-between jobs for a short period of time, so she was at the park listening to the birds, sipping a latte while her house was being cleaned, and thinking that she would like to be a “house frau,” presumably so she could enjoy more moments like that one. Now, I know my friend meant no disrespect to stay-at-home moms. As long as I’ve known her (over sixteen years), she has worked outside the home full-time while raising two children. I know how long and difficult her days are, and I know how devoted she is and always has been to her children. I can understand how she would be enjoying a brief reprieve between career positions today and thinking that it would be nice not to have to work at all.

Still, I had to reply to her post to remind her that, as a certified “house frau,” I can attest that I can’t afford someone to clean my house because that’s what I agreed to do when I gave up my income to stay home with my boys. I told her that I have to clean my own house, which (let’s face it) sucks and cuts into my time to sit, worry-free, in the park in the morning sipping my latte. There have been many times when I’ve looked at Barb’s career, her housecleaning service, her professional wardrobe, and her European vacations, and felt something akin to a twinge (or perhaps a seizure-full) of jealousy. I know, though, that her life, while seemingly more glamorous than mine, is a lot of frigging work too.

I’m in something of a transitional period in my life right now. While still technically an unemployed, stay-at-home mom, I’ve made the decision to work on my writing. Between this blog and my book, I’ve been spending between 4-6 hours a day writing, researching, and trying to grow my platform. While this has been a boon for my sense of self and my creative mind, I’ve found myself becoming overwhelmed, cranky, and increasingly depressed. Why? Because I’ve discovered that I can’t do it all. I can’t keep a clean house, cook for my family, run the errands, be homework coach and chauffeur, wash and iron clothes, and develop my writing into something that might perhaps segue into a paying career.

Remember that commercial for Enjoli perfume? That stupid commercial vexes me. Ever since I was 12, I was sold the idea that a woman should be able to do it all without struggle. I should absolutely be able to have a career, cook for my family, keep a clean house, care for my children, and have the energy to seduce my husband nightly, right? I’d like to bitch slap the men who came up with that ad. Oh, come on. It had to be men who envisioned the Enjoli woman. That ad is a fantasy. There isn’t a woman in her right mind who would tell you that at the end of a long day, during which she had spent at least eight hours in an office, then cooked dinner, cared for her children and put them to bed, what she really thought about was making her husband feel like a man. More than likely, what she actually thought about was a glass of wine, a locked door, a long and solitary soak in a tub, followed by a collapse into a bed where her husband would let her get some sleep.

The other night I had a Come-To-Jesus meeting with my husband and our sons. I told them that as much as I would love to be able to continue writing, I cannot do it if I do not get some assistance from them. Because our financial situation has not changed, I can’t afford a housecleaning service. I need them to pitch in if I want to be able to devote myself to writing. This was not an easy conversation for me because, the entire time I was asking for help, I was feeling I had failed my inner-Enjoli woman. What I was really doing, however, was not admitting defeat but instead recognizing that I had been trying to do the impossible and be the unattainable.

No one can do it all or have it all. We all sacrifice. The grass isn’t greener anywhere else. It’s not easier one way or the other. We make choices and then we live with them. On a good day, I get to yoga, manage to knock a couple things off my to-do list, and find time for a shower. On a good day, my working friends knock something off their to-do-lists, maybe get a kudo from their boss, and perhaps get to enjoy an uninterrupted lunch for an hour. But, most of the time, we all just settle for the best we can get, which is most certainly nowhere near having it all.

File It Under “Typical”

The license in question…and, yes..the info on it is correct. Well, all of it except the vision restriction.

I spend most of my life in a perpetual eye roll. It’s probably not the best look for me, yet the habit persists. I used to be able to control it, or at least curb it during inappropriate situations, but now it’s second nature much like breathing or sucking my stomach in when I get out of a swimming pool. Just a bit ago, I found myself in an eye roll that was likely visible from space. The magnitude of my annoyance was so great that astronauts aboard the International Space Station could have seen the whites of my eyes if they had been looking.

Last Friday morning, I decided that my exercise du jour would be an inline skate. It was cool when I left the house, so I donned a light jacket with a pocket. When I got to the parking lot near the path, I loaded the jacket pocket with all the usual necessities….chapstick, my ever-present iPhone, my Nano (which has all my best music on it because I save the memory on my iPhone for apps), and my driver’s license because you never know when you’re going to be exercising alone, become the victim of some completely bizarre tragedy, and need to have your body identified. I skated a bit longer than usual, so halfway through my skate the temperatures had climbed and I didn’t need the jacket anymore. I wrapped it around my waist to transport it back to the car. When I got back to the car, I had just one thing on my mind. A venti Cool Lime Refresher from Starbucks. So, I peeled off my skates, slipped back into my flip-flops, and headed off to Starbucks in mental turmoil about whether I’d use my expired gold star card or not.

On Friday night, I was digging through my wallet looking for something and realized my driver’s license wasn’t there. I remembered I had taken it out for my skate, so I checked the back pocket of the jacket. The license wasn’t there. Curious. I then thought I remembered putting it in my purse (and not in my wallet where it belonged), so I began rifling through my bag. Not there either. I searched my car, the garage, the kitchen counter. I mentally retraced my steps. I scoured both the purse and the wallet again. It appeared to be gone. I told myself that I would give it the weekend to turn up and then call it quits and face the dreaded line at the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles.

Well, the dang thing did not miraculously hop back into my wallet over the weekend, so this morning it was time to face the executioner. Armed with my passport, a current credit card bill, and our checkbook, I prepared myself for the misery that is Driver’s License Hell. Amazingly, there were only 6 people ahead of me when I arrived. When I was able to approach my surly clerk (from what I could tell while I waited, there were 4 surly clerks and 1 pleasant one), I handed over my identification, took the vision test which I passed with flying colors sans corrective lenses courtesy of LASIK 6 years ago, and shelled out $21 for a replacement license. When I was finished, the clerk informed me that my license “should arrive via mail in 30 days.” This comment induced another epic eye roll. I have to wait 30 days to discover what hideous portrait the camera dude was able to come up with? Sigh. I took my temporary license (a flimsy 8″ x 4″ piece of paper) and went home annoyed at myself for losing the real thing. The photo on the license I lost was taken in 1999 when I was 31 years old. I liked that license because I looked, oh, about 13 years younger in it.

Well, I’m sure you know where this is going. This afternoon I got the mail. I opened an envelope addressed to me and guess what I found there. Yep. My original license, the one I lost, the one that wasn’t due for replacement for another two years. (This is when the eye roll visible from space occurred.) Some kind soul had found it along the path where it had fallen from my pocket and mailed it back to me. Typical. What does today’s experience teach me? It teaches me not to be so timely when I replace lost items. It also teaches me that the next time I skate I leave my license in my car. If some horrific tragedy befalls me while I’m skating, let the coroner ID my body. That’s his job anyway.

It’s Only Coincidence When You Aren’t Willing To Be Open To Fate

“Fate leads him who follows it, and drags him who resists.” ~Plutarch

You’ve got to do what you’re meant to do.

Have you ever had an experience that was so out-of-the-blue bizarre that you start questioning whether it was a striking coincidence or an act of fate? For example, there have been multiple instances in my life when I have picked up the phone to call someone only to discover they are already on the other end of the line; we were calling each other at the same time even though it was not planned. That type of event always makes me wonder what type of links exist between human minds. Is an incident like that purely coincidence or is there some type of tie between the two individuals that brings them together simultaneously?

I have been thinking over the past couple days about the notion of fate and how it is related to coincidence. So, today I asked some of my friends what their thoughts were on the subject. My husband doesn’t believe in fate. He thinks most things in life are coincidence. One friend told me that she believes there is no such thing as fate, but there is God’s will and that He determines, orchestrates, ordains, and predetermines how each individual life unfolds. My sister told me that she believes opportunities present themselves via fate and then we have free will to do with them what we want. Another friend told me that she’s had so many “random” occurrences that really couldn’t be random at all, so she subscribes to the notion that fate is chaos theory at work. The more I asked people their thoughts about fate versus coincidence, the more my head started to swim.

I’ve long held the belief that fate does exist. I think the trick lies in being open-minded when “random” things happen. It’s my assertion that fate throws things at you, and you have to be clever enough and receptive enough to know what you’re seeing. Have you ever known people who believe that fate has screwed them over? Their misery is a direct result of things that have happened “to” them. They have no recognition that their own actions (or lack thereof) might have something to do with their less-than-optimal state of being. A friend shared this quote by Richard Bach today: “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they are yours.” Sadly, I know quite a few people who live a life of limitations because they honestly believe that is all there is for them. They are unable to look outside their box. In their case, fate is a negative concept, one that rids them of any responsibility for their unhappiness.

I don’t see fate that way at all. I think that life presents you with the people, experiences, and circumstances that will best allow you to reach your true potential as a human being. You need simply to be open to them. To do that, though, you need to be at least somewhat in tune with your true self. Unfortunately, many people never reach that point. I’ve seen situations where a solution has presented itself to someone repeatedly. I see it, but they do not. They continue on an unfavorable path while the universe keeps trying to nudge them in an alternate direction. All the signs are there, but they are blind to them. You can almost hear fate telling them, “Dummy…it’s right here. Wake up.” There have been times in my life when I was certain I was supposed to do one thing and yet doors kept closing on the thing I was sure I was meant to do. At some point, it finally occurred to me that maybe this was not the path I was intended to take.

What I want to believe is that fate brings us only what we need to reach our highest possible expression of ourselves. Sometimes the thing we need is at cross-purpose to the thing we want, though, and we view fate as negative. But, it all comes down to perception, doesn’t it? Sometimes when the universe is telling us no, it’s doing so because there is something better, bigger, and more important for us to attend to. At least, that’s how I see it. Since there is no way of knowing for certain if fate plays a bigger role in our life than coincidence, I’m certainly open to other possibilities. What do you think?

 

Nudists Let It All Hang Out…Naturally

The billboard that caught Steve’s attention

We had some errands to run in Boulder today. Actually, what we had to do was deliver some postcards we picked up in Post Office Bay in the Galapagos Islands. On the way out of town along Highway 93 Steve spied a billboard. I saw him do a double take.

“Did you see that?” he asked.

“See what?”

“That billboard back there for the Family Nudist Resort,” he said.

“Wha?” I asked in my best Despicable Me minion voice. “You’re joking, right?”

I was skeptical about his eyesight, but that sounded too good to pass up. I had to investigate, so I grabbed my iPhone from my bag. Sure enough. Google led me right to Mountain Air Ranch, Colorado’s Family Nudist Resort, part of the American Association for Nude Recreation. It was twice voted America’s friendliest nudist resort.

“Holy cow,” I said as I perused the site. “They aren’t kidding. It’s a full-fledged nudist resort in the foothills. Located on 150 acres with 10 miles of hiking trails. Can you imagine hiking naked? Wouldn’t you be worried about getting scratched up by plants? Oh, man. If you slipped coming down a steep hill, imagine what that fall could do to your unprotected nether regions.”

By this time, our kids were starting to pick up on the conversation.

“Hiking naked? What are you guys talking about?” Joe asked.

“Well, there’s a resort not far from here where people don’t wear any clothes. For the entire time they’re there, they walk around naked. People who do that on a regular basis are called nudists,” I explained.

“They don’t wear any clothes?” Luke questioned.

“Nope. No clothes. Shoes maybe, but no clothes.”

“Why would you DO that?” Luke asked.

“I suppose for the feeling of being free. You know, when you think about it, nudists probably are a lot more comfortable in their own skin than the rest of us,” I said.

“That’s because their own skin is all they’ve got,” Steve quipped.

“I don’t know,” I said, trying to keep an open mind. “There are probably a lot worse things a kid can grow up to be than a nudist. Don’t you remember how much the boys used to love to run in the sprinkler in the backyard totally naked? There was a natural joy in that.”

“They were 2 and 4,” Steve said. “They were carefree before they got undressed.”

I shrugged my shoulders and kept looking at the site. It was hard to see on my tiny iPhone screen, but people appeared to be unencumbered by clothing. They looked completely at ease. I’ll be honest. I’ve always kind of wondered about trying out the nudist experience sometime. Maybe just for a day on a beach or something, but it has crossed my mind. Not all that seriously, obviously, since I’ve never done more than skinny dip on a moonless night…once…when I was in college and when I’d had too much to drink. Steve glanced over at my phone.

“There are photos?” he said incredulously.

“Yep.”

“Let me see,” said Joe.

“Nuh-uh,” I told him.

“Hey…this resort is up Deer Creek Canyon,” I told Steve. Deer Creek Canyon is minutes from our home. “It’s close. We could always try it,” I suggested.

“If we went,” Joe asked, “would everyone be naked?”

“Yep. And you would have to be too,” I told him.

“There’s NO way,” said Luke.

“I’m not going either,” Steve said. “If you ask me, there would be just way too much ugly naked going on at a place like that.”

He may have a point there. I’m not entirely sure I want to see nude men playing bocce ball or women engaging in a lively game of nude shuffleboard. That might be a bit more than I’m brave enough to handle. Oddly enough, the idea of being naked myself while doing these things troubles me less than the idea of watching other nude people going about their daily lives. I’d never know where to rest my eyes. I have a feeling I’d be walking into branches and tripping over rocks while simply trying to avoid gawking at anyone’s parts.

Then again, maybe that’s why I need to go. Maybe my growing edge lies in wholeheartedly recognizing that a person’s body is not the person. Aren’t our bodies like suitcases for our souls? I’m sure I know this in my heart, but that doesn’t stop me from judging people by the clothes on their backs. Nudity is honest. It takes courage to expose yourself to the world and to know that the essence of your being isn’t diminished by sagging flesh or incongruent parts. To their credit, nudists naturally let it all hang out. There’s a beautiful peace and simplicity in that. I’m not quite brave enough for the whole nudist experience yet. (Rest assured that no clothes were shed for the writing of this post.) But, someday, I’m going to have to try it. The nudist resort, I mean, not writing naked. I expose myself enough with my writing as it is.

I Think, Therefore I Write

My process includes a laptop and my two bibles.

My new blog friend and comrade-in-arms, Amy, wrote an article yesterday inquiring about other writer’s “process” of writing. I read her post and wanted to leave her a comment about my process, but what I discovered in trying to flesh out my exact writing process is that I had no idea what is was. Funny how you can do something every day for 263 consecutive days and have no idea how you did it. Socrates would be disappointed in me if he were around to see how truly unexamined my life is, at least in this arena. So, I tried examining my process. What I found today was that I didn’t want to write. It’s impossible to determine your process if you can’t start it. Instead, I played on WordPress, changing the appearance of my two blogs rather than being willing to contribute any written work to them. Then I played some Words With Friends and Mind Feud before deciding that what I really needed to do was write another bit in my book, which I have finally started. It wasn’t until I started writing there that I realized what my process is. In lieu of a comment on your page, Amy, I find I must write an entire blog post about my process for you. This is probably more than you were looking for, but you’re a writer. You know how it is.

My writing process starts with thinking. Lots of thinking. Sometimes days, weeks, months of thinking. Ideas germinate in my head before I am willing to claim ownership to them by talking about them or writing them down. I am a thinker, first and foremost. As an introvert, writing is merely the means by which I am most comfortable relaying my thoughts. I rarely write anything on paper. Instead, I will peck notes into my iPhone for future reference. When I’m looking for something to write about, I will revisit my Notes. Sometimes I add quotes I’d like to use in a story. Sometimes I add topics to write about. Sometimes all I get in the Notes section is a vague kernel of an idea. Then, I think about it. I leave it. I come back to it. Then, one day, what I am supposed to do with that tidbit becomes clear and I begin writing. Today, I wanted to work on my book. The idea for it has been years in the making. It has morphed like a shape-shifter, revealing itself to me in myriad forms until it appeared the way I thought I could best extract it from my brain. When it’s all said and done, I’m lazy. I don’t want to write a word until I’m sure it’s what I truly want to say. I won’t waste my time until the story I want to tell exists clearly in my head.

Then, like a woman possessed, I will keyboard my thoughts onto the screen so I don’t lose them. (It’s so easy to lose thoughts once you hit middle age.) My friend, Chris, told me to “write from the heart and edit from the head.” That was the best writing advice I have ever received. So, that is what I do. Sad fact is, though, I’m not a great writer. I identify with James Michener who said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I am an excellent rewriter.” My first drafts are rough. All my ideas are there, passionately written, but they are a mess. So, I rewrite. Luckily, I am an editor by trade. Editing is what I enjoy and is what comes easily to me. I move sentences. I reword them and rework them and piece them back together. My thesaurus and dictionary are my closest friends. Literally. They sit one foot from my MacBook as I edit, and I would never write a word without them.

I consider my work finished when I feel good about it. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes I am finished because it’s midnight and I have to be up in six hours and this is all I have to offer. I have learned during these past eight months of blogging that it’s more important that I write than to love what I have written. I can’t become a better, more accomplished writer by thinking about writing. Writing is a process and, no matter what your process is, thinking about being a writer doesn’t make you one. I put words on a screen so I can legitimately claim to be what I know I am at heart. If I can mix philosophers here and toss in some slightly edited Descartes, the truth is that I think, therefore I write. That is the only way I know how.