Perspective From Two Hours On A Flight Next To A Hungry, Tired Toddler

This was once my reality

Sitting in the small airplane, four seats wide, sharing the row with a young mother of three with a screaming toddler on her lap. Toddler is tossing everything she is handed onto the floor.

“It’s been a while since I had littles,” I tell her with as much patience and understanding and motherly wisdom as I can muster, “but I remember those days well. No worries.”

Her four year old son sitting behind me kicks my seat the entire flight, stopping only to push both feet long and slow into my lower back. Six year old daughter next to him bugging him for the iPad. The mom next to me looks exhausted and, boy, do I get it. Her toddler thrashes in her arms, grabs my hair and pulls. The mom is mortified and apologizes, and I nod with understanding. It’s been seventeen years since I last held a wailing toddler on a flight, but that experience never leaves you. The muscle memory of the anxiety and embarrassment remains fresh.

The toddler in her lap, likely desperately tired and frustrated, begins howling with increasing ferocity. The mom hands her off to her husband who is sitting next to their oldest daughter across the aisle from the young ones behind me. As her daughter thrashes like a shark in shallow water, the mom shrinks, puts her head in her hands, and shakes it slowly back and forth. I know she is counting the seconds until her tiny creation at last succumbs to the sleep she needs.

As she is doing this, I look out my window-seat rectangle with its rounded corners. I am grateful to be wearing a mask as the silent tears slip behind the fiber filter on my face. You see, I said goodbye again to my almost 21 year old this morning after I passed him the four bottles of wine we couldn’t fit into our checked luggage. And I’m heading home to my high school senior who will be moving away in four month’s time. The ache this mom is feeling as she wishes the time on this two-and-a-half hour journey would pass more quickly is a similar ache I am feeling as I wish these last few months would pass more slowly.

I would never tell her these things, as she will be in my shoes far sooner than she can fathom. She will discover in her own time the way childhood speeds up as it approaches puberty and adulthood. What starts as seconds moving as sand grains, imperceptibly draining through the narrow tube in an hourglass ends as deluge of sand dumped from a toddler’s beach pail. And this mom will learn, as I did, that those prayers for time to speed up aren’t selective. Time doesn’t speed for the rough moments without also speeding for the good moments. Time is brutal that way. Lucky parents will learn this the hard way, seeing their children mature in the blink of an eye and move on. We’re the fortunate ones, the ones who get to see their children reach adulthood. Many parents don’t have that same good fortune.

This is my reality now

For now, I say a silent prayer for this mom in opposition to her prayer to speed time up. I pray that she will embrace all the moments with some quiet, inexplicable gratitude for what they are because she will be like me sooner than she knows, with greying hair and reading glasses, hugging her adult son and handing him wine bottles. She will be both excited to get home to her high school senior and afraid to get there because she knows there are 46 days until graduation.

Parenting is the greatest purveyor of perspective I’ve found. It simultaneously breaks me and saves me over and over again.

Last Day In Walla Walla Wine Country

One of the days it sucked to have to live without gluten

Our last tasting day was pleasantly chill. We started with coffee and pastries at the Walla Walla Bread Company. Then we stopped at Graze to grab picnic food and headed to our first winery in Lowden. L’Ecole No. 41 is one of the first wineries in the area. I had purchased a few bottles from them back in the fall and was due for a few more. The winery is in an old school house. The decor and woodwork in the building are amazing. We grabbed a table out on the deck (so glad the weather was infinitely nicer and drier), started our tasting, and had our lunch. We purchased a couple bottles before leaving to head to our last winery of the trip.

Our next stop was Reininger. I knew very little about the winery, but it had recently been reviewed quite favorably so we gave it a try. We were very impressed. We sampled six wines. I enjoyed them all, could have purchased five, but ended up with two bottles of delicious un-oaked chardonnay and a yummy red blend. Steve had more driving to do, so we also got a reasonably priced charcuterie board to help us soak up the grapes. I would revisit this winery in a heartbeat. Our server was a personable young Whitman College senior who happened to be from Colorado, very near to where we currently live. The whole experience was delightful.

It was time for our friends to make their trek back to Seattle, so we said our sad farewells, grateful for the opportunity to reconnect and have a relaxed, fun weekend away from home. We are going to have to do this again more often!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go When You Travel

Travel plans for next year’s trip to Monaco for the Grand Prix race are gaining steam. I’m actually starting to get excited about the race itself. My sister’s boyfriend recommended we watch Drive to Survive, and now I’m beginning to understand the appeal of the sport. I’ve also been researching accommodations and activities in Nice, France, and well, Nice looks nice. I think I can get behind spending some days in the south of France on the Mediterranean, sitting on a beach sipping wine. My sisters and I were discussing what to do after the race weekend ends, and the idea of taking a train to Italy came up. Why not hop from the French Riviera to the Italian Riviera? We could go from La Belle Vie to La Bella Vita in 5 hours. Makes perfect sense to me. Travel to the Cinque Terre has been on my list for quite a while.

I think one of the most amazing things about travel is how it opens you up to ways of being and living that are unfamiliar and fresh. It awakens your senses and your mind. Even when I can’t be traveling, learning about new places, even places I thought I had zero interest in, makes me feel positive about this life. It’s the antidote to the misery of my time-tested cynicism. It’s one of my top five raison d’être.

I have been a ridiculous level of lucky in my life to have had many opportunities to get out of the US and out of the US mindset. Every place I’ve been is now a small part of me, a small piece of colored glass in the mosaic of who I am. If the time comes when travel becomes impossible to undertake, I will simply slither through the jungle of my mental travelogue and return to the places that made me who I am.

Going To The Monaco Grand Prix – Ka-chow!

Photo by Reuben Rohard on Unsplash

Next April, my youngest sister will turn 50. And while it pains me to realize that the baby of our family is turning 50, which therefore makes me ancient, something worthwhile will come from this milestone. Julie has always wanted to go to Monte Carlo for the Formula 1 race, so that is how we plan to celebrate her 50th. I don’t see how her turning 50 and requesting this trip, or my turning 55 in Monte Carlo over the race weekend next year, can be negative. I mean, we’ll be in Monaco experiencing the most glamorous motor race in the world. That might even make 55 palatable, which means my position as the Luckiest Girl in the World continues.

The plan is for all three sisters and their significant others to travel to France and then on to Monte Carlo. The specifics have yet to be determined. Julie messaged today to request a sister meeting this weekend so we can discuss timing our travel and each couple’s wishes for the events. I’ll be honest. Going to Monaco for the Formula 1 was not on my bucket list or travel bingo card. I have no clue what to expect or what I want to see or do. I’ve reached the age in my life where I believe travel is important for the sake of experiencing life out in the greater world. I no longer get bent if, while on a trip, we don’t get to see all the sights or do all the things. I’m simply grateful for the opportunity to escape my own reality and live a few days in someone else’s. With travel, it’s easy to get caught up in all the going and doing and seeing and forget to be swallowed by the experience of existing somewhere else for a brief while. And I get it. When you’re shelling out thousands of dollars to fly thousands of miles away, you want to get your money’s worth. I just think it’s worth refocusing your expectation around what you want to get for your investment. Maybe you don’t need to see ALL the things. Maybe you can take a beat and just be for a bit too.

Don’t get me wrong. I will do my research. I will figure out if there is something I absolutely do not want to miss in Nice or Monte Carlo. Mostly, though, the thing I don’t want to miss is time with my sisters and their companions. I look forward to traveling with them and learning what I can from their perceptions of this foreign landscape. Traveling with others is fun because you often get as much insight from your travel companions’ observations as you do from your research and sightseeing.

So next May around Memorial Day weekend, expect a post or two from Monte Carlo, where I will be keeping my eyes peeled for Lightning McQueen because that is the extent of my knowledge about the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Abbreviated Drama Queen

If I had to share one thing about myself that would help you in your dealing with me, it is what is written on this mug. I am not so great at dealing with unanticipated changes the moment they are happening. But, if you give me a few minutes, I will pivot, accept the situation, and move on. I just have to be dramatic and whine about it and act like it is a much bigger deal than it actually is first.

My youngest sister gets this about me. When Julie was moving to Connecticut, I told her I would drive out with her and fly home. The day before we left, she let me know her car was very full. In addition to the last and most important of her belongings, we would be making the journey with her poodle, Jezebel. Julie kept telling me that I had to make sure my cross-country bag was small because her car was packed. So, I packed a small duffle bag for the three day trip and the flight home. When Julie pulled up, I noticed her sweet dog was not in a kennel, which is where I expected she would be for most the ride. Instead of a kennel, Julie had Jezebel’s dog bed. That was when she told me I would be riding with the dog bed on my lap with Jezebel in it. I wanted to lose my crap and get all dramatic, but what could be done about it? Nothing. We had to leave and this is how it was going to be. So, I got into the passenger seat, put Jezebel on my lap, and we were off for the 1900 mile drive. Julie told me later that she didn’t tell me earlier precisely because she knew I would get all dramatic about it. She also knew that if she just showed up and dropped the bomb on me minutes before we had to leave I would have a lot less time to be dramatic and I would just get over it. She was right. I did.

So, now you know the secret to dealing with me. When I am backed in a corner, I might grumble a bit but I will get on board more quickly. If I have time to be annoyed about it, I will still still get over it but you will have left me more time to whine about it. I still say I am flexible. I always adjust. Sometimes I just complain about things for a little bit longer.

I Need Six Months Of Vacation Twice A Year

“I want to live in a world where searching for plane tickets burns calories.” ~Unknown

I have spent most of my day researching travel. We have a week picked out when we can skip town (or the country, as luck might have it) to celebrate Luke’s graduation from high school. We have a decent-sized budget for this trip and had originally considered going to Italy. We had two trips we were trying to decide between, one to the Amalfi Coast and one to the Cinque Terre and Tuscany. I spent a lot of time vacillating between those two before I found one in the French and Italian Alps that piqued our interest momentarily. We had a couple family FaceTime sessions, trying to get everyone’s input and buy in. For some reason, I still wasn’t able to pull the trigger. So I took a break for a few days. Then I tossed it all out the window and started looking at trips to Costa Rica or Belize. Then I thought maybe we could take the boys to Machu Picchu. After that, I landed on Iceland and was busy researching that before I came to my senses and decided I didn’t want to go anywhere I might need cold weather gear. And all the back and forth and hemming and hawing landed me squarely in analysis paralysis.

Then tonight, for giggles and also apparently because I was trying to avoid writing this post, I started searching Mediterranean cruises because I am certifiable. And there, on the Celebrity Cruises page, on the exact date on which we hoped to start our vacation, was a cruise leaving Rome and visiting Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos, and Naples before landing back in Rome. Hold up. Hold up. Hold up. This was hitting all the boxes we’d previously discussed. Italy? Check. Pompeii. Check. Boat. Check. Swimming opportunities? Check. All-inclusive. Check. Within the budget? It appears to be. I floated the idea by Luke. He was thrilled. I asked Joe, and he said he was down. Steve too said it sounded like a good balance of relaxing and eventful. Is it possible that all four of us agreed on something? Might my relentless search finally be relenting? I crossed my fingers and took a deep breath.

There were all sorts of things I should have done today rather than sitting at the kitchen island obsessing over air fare and trip insurance. But not one of them would have been more interesting or a better escape from the news. And, in the end, if it gets us out of the country for the first time since 2019 and we get to go on an adventure, it won’t have been a wasted day at all.

Dream Big — If You Can’t Dream It, You Can’t Do It

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I bought a journal and new pens. I bought one for my youngest sister too. Then I told her we would use our journals to get our poop in a group. Because she and I are on similar journeys of self-discovery, I told her we would come up with writing assignments for our journals and share what we were writing so we could lift each other up and support each other to reach our goals. To that end, a week ago I created our first assignment. I called it our Dream Big Assessment. We were to come up with a list of things we would like to see, experience, do, or have in our lives in the next twenty years. The caveat is that we have to dream big. No worrying about money or practicality or health or reality. It didn’t matter if what we listed was pie-in-the-sky. It was meant to be. You can’t manifest something if you can’t first envision it. And if you’re going to envision a future you would love to live, why would you let reality tether you? I started my list with this statement to make sure I kept my intentions clear.

“If I could dream anything for the next twenty years of my life, these things would happen. I would…”

It was a good idea to start with active statements, but my statements started out rather prosaic. I suppose this is because I am a practical person, but I suspect it is also because I’m accustomed to living smaller than I am. When you have spent your life in a box someone else designed for you, it’s a challenge to stretch and imagine yourself or your life as something so much bigger than you ever dared to dream before. So my list began mostly realistic and, therefore, understated. I would….

  • Publish something I have written
  • Speak about said published work to interested readers in a public forum, like a book club
  • See my sons in happy, healthy relationships where they feel loved and supported
  • Hold and love on a grandchild or two or three
  • Own more dogs

Most of these items are intentionally vague. I mean, “publish something” could mean an article in an online newsletter with a readership of 25 people. By not elucidating an action more clearly, I am giving myself a safe space to continue being small. After realizing I was being too calculated and cautious with my dreams, choosing things that had a decent probability of happening, I started to get a bit more specific with my choices:

  • Cycle through Provence when the lavender is in bloom
  • Spend a year traveling the US and living in an Airstream trailer
  • Learn how to scuba dive, knit, and tap dance

Again, all these items are fairly attainable and not huge stretches of the imagination, but at least they were more specific. I was making some progress with my wording and specificity, but I felt the list was sounding rather shallow. All the endeavors I listed were about doing, not about being. So I commenced traipsing down more of a life-philosophy path:

  • Feel more comfortable being myself regardless of the situation
  • Be less defensive and more contemplative, curious, and forgiving
  • Be mindful and grateful as often as possible
  • Lead with compassion and empathy

While all these items are good goals and, when compared to my normal modus operandi, are definitely dream big enterprises in terms of personal growth, they don’t really fit the assignment either. Try again, sister. So I let my mind get a little crazier and stretch a bit farther and dig into dreams I had when I was much younger and had more life ahead of me than in the rearview:

  • Own a Jaguar E-Type convertible in British racing green with camel interior
  • Travel the Greek islands in a private, chartered yacht
  • See the Northern Lights in Lapland
  • Visit the Maldives or the Seychelles or both
  • Live in either Italy or France as an expat
  • Try a psychedelic drug*
  • Swim with the jellyfish in Palau

I feel I am beginning to get to what I originally intended with the creation of this list. I plan to keep working on it. Items that resonate with me more than others will be added to the vision board I started creating a few weekends ago. If I can dream it, I need to see it to manifest it in my brain as part of a future to strive for.

What would make it onto your Dream Big list? Maybe something I wrote here will inspire you? Maybe something on your list would spark an idea for me?

*This idea came from a book I read by Michael Pollan called How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

Icy Roads With A Chance Of Say Your Prayers

This is the forecast for the morning commute tomorrow. Ask me how excited I am. They might as well have written this:

Tomorrow morning your commute will be shitty. Make sure you have your insurance card ready for the accident you will likely be involved in. If you do manage to avoid an accident, rest assured it will take you a full hour longer to get where you are going. Oh….and the roads will be ice covered in snow for the afternoon commute, so that should be fun. Good luck, losers.

I mean, with recent Covid-19, work-from-anywhere transplants from Texas, Florida, California, and Georgia will be on the roads. How bad could this be?

Let’s go!

Shell Shock: The Crustacean Calamity

Shells without feet waiting for a clean and polish

We got home yesterday afternoon and, being the Type A person I am, I immediately dove into the process of unpacking, doing laundry, and getting settled at home again. This was an even bigger task than usual because we had celebrated Christmas by unwrapping gifts the night before we left for Hawaii, which meant there was an even bigger mess left behind than usual. Sigh. I don’t like chaos in my house. I find it counterproductive to my intention to live a more peaceful, mindful life. It’s difficult for me to feel at peace when I look around a cluttered, dirty house.

While we were in Hawaii, I would wander along the lava rocks on the beach outside our rental home and look for shells that had been beached and discarded. I would collect nice looking shells of that variety, ones on dry land rather than in the tidal pools because I know the tidal pools are teaming with sea snails and hermit crabs, and sometimes live cowries too. To be careful, though, when I would collect the shells, I made a habit of drying them on the lava rock wall by the pool or on the counter in the bathroom. The shells needed to be dried before packing, and I figured this would allow time for any sea life living in the shells that had somehow managed to escape my notice to make a break for it. And it did happen. One day I brought the few shells I had found to our bathroom, removed them from my pocket, walked into the other room, and a little while later heard something make a sound in the bathroom. I returned to find a hermit crab in the sink. Apparently that shell’s owner objected to being collected. I took him back to the beach and set him into a tide pool. He was free.

At any rate, as I was unpacking my suitcase yesterday, I found the shells I brought home in a Ziploc bag and set them out on my bathroom counter. I had plans to sterilize and polish them, but that process could not begin until I had the house settled again. While I was busy unpacking my toiletries and putting some towels away, out of the corner of my eye I saw one shell moving across the counter. Dammit. I had a stowaway. Despite my best efforts to ensure I didn’t transport any live creatures from the Hawaiian tropical climate to cold, semi-arid, high altitude Colorado, one of the shells held a tiny hermit crab who had refused to let his presence be known on the bathroom counter in Hawaii.

The little guy had lived through a day on the counter and another twelve hours in a plastic bag inside a suitcase, only to arrive 3300 miles away from its origins and 1030 miles from the nearest ocean. I momentarily considered setting up an aquarium setting for him before coming to my senses. Colorado is no place for a tiny, salty hermit crab. I had to dispatch him. I hated to do it (and I will not disclose the methodology of such actions here because I am still wracked with guilt), but it had to be done. And, no, I don’t really want to talk about it.

I’ve spent a bit of time since then beating myself up for being a murderer. Finally, though, I decided I had to forgive myself. I did not mean to bring him here. I didn’t set out to harm anything. I tried to leave my shells time enough to walk away if they were inhabited. I also realize I am likely not the first human to err in this fashion. And on multiple occasions while looking for shells on dry land in Hawaii, I found hermit crabs who were stranded away from the ocean (seemingly miles away if you consider how small they are and how far the tide had carried them from their point of origin) and picked them up and returned them to tidal pools, thereby saving their lives. Sometimes, life is messy. I am a person who has rescued snakes, voles, mice, rabbits, and even salamanders from window wells. I need to cut myself some slack on this one life. I try to be a good steward on this planet, but being good does not mean being perfect.

Next time I go to Hawaii and collect shells, though, I am going to stop the collection process two days prior to my departure to give any accidental sea life ample time to escape my evil clutches.

Hawaii: The Big Island – January 1, 2022

Blue as far as the eye can see

After a week of mostly cloudy skies with periods of sunshine, this day began with a clear, bright, perfect blue sky. Being an internal optimist (like a Sour Patch Kid, I am sweet on the inside and sour on the outside), I believe that this blue sky day on the first day of 2022 portends good things for this new year. Hope I didn’t just jinx it. See? Sweet and sour at the same time.

My sister-in-law, Karen, booked us an outrigger trip for an hour this morning. We lucked out with the flawless weather and applied copious amounts of zinc oxide sunscreen. We started our trip off the sandy shore at the Marriott’s King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. We met our guide, Jeff, and began the experience by pulling the outrigger to the water. I lucked out because I got to be the official photographer for this. That wooden boat is heavy, even on wheels!!

The sea had a moderate swell, but outriggers are made for this so it was no issue with seven of us paddling. The ride was smoother and easier than I imagined, and the views of the island from the water made the effort worth it. We paused a few times, just drifting on the ocean, so Jeff could tell us a bit of the history of this area. We learned that Hualalai, the dormant volcano visible from Kona’s shores, means “head in the clouds,” which has been true for the majority of our time here. I told the boys that from now on when one of us is in another place mentally I shall say we are “hualalai.”

While we were taking a paddle break at one point, we heard a mammal surface nearby. Looking around, we saw a couple dolphins and were lucky enough to see them curiously check us out by swimming underneath the boat. How cool is that?

There is a dolphin there swimming off…they are fast and hard to capture in a photo

After our outrigger trip, we returned to the house for some steak and eggs before heading out to do a little souvenir shopping in Kona town. Luke was craving shave ice. I hadn’t had any yet on this trip, so it seemed like a good idea. I got lilikoi (passion fruit) flavor because that is my absolute favorite and something I don’t often get to enjoy in Colorado. Somehow I convinced the boys to play along for this little photo op. I think Joe was representing a brain freeze with his expression here.

Trinkets obtained, we headed back to the house to order some takeout Thai food and enjoy our most colorful sunset here yet. It’s like the universe aligned everything just for us on this New Year’s Day. With our trip coming to a rapid conclusion, the reality of our imminent departure hit Joe and I like a wave hitting the lava rock shoreline. He and I are the most committed to this state, the ones who would be most likely to have to be dragged kicking and screaming onto a flight back to cold, snowy Colorado later. I am trying to be zen about our exodus, but I am struggling. Time to engage my mindfulness skills, stay in the moment, and mourn the exit when I board the plane in 12 hours.

Seriously, Hawaii? Why you make it so hard to leave?