Aren’t you glad I didn’t say ‘Summer’s Eve’. Bahahaha. I’m seriously the funniest person I know.
But seriously. It seems that this year, as summer ends, I am looking forward to the comfort of a schedule while mourning the loss my of mid-morning runs and watching of the Nate Birkus show.
I’m less reluctant to return to school this year, not just because I have the worlds best colleagues, but because I finally have enough years behind me to relax. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still as anxious as ever, I just don’t feel like throwing up at the thought of the 8:05 bell. Weird. It’s just that now I realize that I can’t prepare for it all, but I’m pretty damned prepared. It’s a good feeling that I don’t get that often. So I’m enjoying it.
We’ve wrapped up this last weekend of summer quite nicely. Actually, it’s been all kinds of awesome. Let’s work backwards. As I sit by the fire, enjoying the contrasting warmth from the hearth and chill from the window, Matt is off grocery shopping. I’ve been clipping away at syllabi and lesson plans and rubrics and so forth for the last few days, and he’s really stepped up to help out. Grateful I am. We’ve been home all day, alternately puttering, working and sitting by the fireplace with the dogs. I saw an old and dear friend at Mass this morning, and was so glad that I pried my fuzzy, post-champagne head out of bed to go. And really, I’m always happy to go. There is something about walking into that beautiful building with a squirmy tween who can’t stand for me to put my arm around him and leaving with him leaning on my shoulder. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.
But the champagne head, that came from last night. One of my baby cousins married her sweetheart and hosted the most family-friendly and FUN reception at a local bowling alley. The bride and groom are family people, certainly demonstrated by their choice to put family (namely: kiddos) first on their special day. We had such fun visiting with family and friends and remarking on the very interesting ways in which our family trees intersect . . . I’m not sure how things went down after Matt took us through the McD’s drive-through, but I woke up at 3 a.m. to find both dogs in bed with us, both of them wearing glow stick necklaces leftover from the wedding. I guess he got bored after I fell asleep. I earned my sleep, too, because I worked straight through yesterday. The only breaks I took were to ride (10 miles! Matt tried to take me off road, which wasn’t my cup of tea. I swore. I almost fell multiple times. I threw my bike. We went back to the trail shortly after) and run (2 miles. no exclamation point). Colby was with my parents, so I had the luxury of being in a quiet house and knowing that my kiddo was being spoiled silly. This led to extreme productivity. Again, weird.
In short, this has been the most fucking fantastic weekend I’ve had in a long, long time. I will need to hold this day in my pocket like a worry stone, and every time another weekend or day or moment takes a shit turn, I’ll remember that they all won’t be that way. Most, but definitely not all.
I have a busy evening of baking and cooking and tea drinking ahead of me. Off to see friends tomorrow and am so excited I may barely be able to sleep.
Do you get it? The pop-culture kiddie show reference? I just knew you would.
Once upon a time, two young women spent their early adulthood adventuring together. At first, most of their time was spent walking a certain un-named someone in the Baby Jogger until he went to sleep – then they would rolllll him into the house and watch Sex and the City re-runs while he slept. Eventually they went back to school and got real jobs. Wouldn’t you know that they managed to find professions with a summer break. They went camping, to Phish shows. They even drank bottles (bottles I tell you) of wine smack in the middle of snow days.
Life was good.
Then life was crazy. They moved and switched jobs and (one of them… ahem) got married.
Finally, they were exhausted and lonely. They missed each other. So they went on an adventure.
You guessed it. I’m talking about myself. And Angie.
We spent last Tuesday exploring Little Wilson Falls in Elliotsville Township. In an unbelievable stroke of luck, we managed to arrive without incident (barring a near-death experience at an intersection in Monson). The area was familiar because My Dear Friend Angie and I, like most who grew up where we did, grew our hiking legs on Borestone Mountain.
Armed with PB & Js, junk food, and bathing suits: we had arrived.
It was a textbook August day in Maine: hot, humid and buggy. The climb up was easy enough, and we chose a trail overlooking the falls. Incidentally, we spent a little too much time talking and a little too little time paying attention to our surroundings. We followed a few different trails on the way down (um, which one did we take?).
The trail connects with the AT, and we spied a couple of through hikers. One chuckled as we approached a small climb, and I thought he was laughing at our general naivete and school-girl gigglyness. Nope. I have a feeling it was because he knew his buddy was taking a shit in the woods and we were going to come upon him quickly. Just about the time I was ready to ask Angie if she was having some issues, the poor guy emerged from the woods with a tell-tale bag. Question answered.
Let me tell you – this is an amazing little hike. I wouldn’t recommend it for most kiddos because of the sheer size of the falls and the very, very long drops. If I had brought Colby with me I would have been picturing traumatic brain injury, broken legs, and potential landing sites for Life Flight.
We, Angie and I, agreed that it had been far too long since we had been on an adventure of any kind. The thing is, what we do tends not to matter. We’ve been stuck in traffic in Hartford for 9 million hours and the time, well, however we spend it, it has the same effect. I think the recipe is something like no husbands + no children + friends who will stop and let you drive if you think you’re going to puke = actually relaxing. Not a day at the spa relaxing, but relaxing into yourself and a moment without worrying about someone’s health and safety, or worrying whether or not your traveling partner is enjoying the experience. So in February when I’m going out of my mind, will you all remind me of this? K. Thanks.
Now. What do you do at the end of a day like this? Well, if you’re me, you get naked in the parking lot because there are no changing rooms in the Maine woods. Then you go swimming.
It was lovely. We meandered home, stopping in Monson at a craft store and in Guilford in search of iced coffee and Dramamine. Funny enough, I arrived home a kinder and gentler mama. Maybe there is a lesson for me here?
We survived the family vacation, a rare but expected occurrence in familylife. We drove to Prince Edward Island for a quick (2 full days, 2 1/2 days) summer holiday. For all of my intentions to plan well (avoiding those nasty annoyances of family vacations such as, but not limited to: feelings of slight, unannounced and therefore unmet expectations, and all-around miscommunication), we did not. Oh, we packed well, but that was about it. Where were we to meet for breakfast? No one knew until five minutes beforehand. What did we want to do? No one knew. So this became the vacation in which I learned to, from now on, clearly articulate exactly what I want even if no one else will. In other words, Colby’s not the only one who is growing up. I guess this is good.
It seems to me like family vacations are like childbirth. You find moments of beauty to remember while the moments of agony fade over the following days, months and years (time entirely dependent upon the amount of discomfort involved). I distinctly remember a family photograph in which my mother is seated with us three (very young) children on a fountain. She looks like she is going to drown us, herself, or c. all of the above in the fountain directly behind her. Somehow, we went on more vacations after that. Whatever happened must not have been terrible enough to prevent further outings.
Our vacation wasn’t, of course, perfect. There were tears (mine) and name-calling (all you Dearest). We were together too much and not enough. We did too much, we did too little. At the end of it all, we went together and we survived together. We had fun!
Here are some of my favorite moments.
Family values are a little like family vacations -— subject to changeable weather and remembered more fondly with the passage of time. Though it rained all week at the beach, it’s often the momentary rainbows that we remember.
Colby (and his teachers, peers, and counselors) put on the most kick-ass performance as the finale for this summer’s Maine Summer Youth Music camp at the University of Maine.
I am, as you all know, one nervous mama. The funny thing is, even though Colby got himself lost the first day, I always knew that he was in good hands. He was learning and growing and wringing every bit of value out of his all-you-can-eat meal plan at Hilltop Commons.
Since some of you couldn’t be there, I wanted to share a bit of this with you.
I’ve been borrowing children. Since it’s easier to switch cars instead of multiple car seats, my friend and I swap keys and kiddos. She goes to work. I pour a large cup of coffee and herd us all out to the porch.
Did I mention I get the minivan with the kids???
Colby is so embarrassed. He says “Mom. Promise me if you have another kid we won’t get a van. Promise me”. I always swore that I would never drive one, but I have to tell you, these things make you feel like you are In Charge. You may actually have control over very little, but strap a couple of kids in a minivan, hop in the drivers seat, and look back. You, my dear sir or lady, are in control. Seriously. I had lines from Invictus (poem not movie) going through my head all day. I am the master of my fate:/I am the captain of my soul.
I don’t know if it is the sheer size of the vehicle or the space that it puts between driver and children. All I know is that I like it. Don’t tell anyone.
No, we were not moving.
We spent over an hour on the porch. Playing pentominoes, drinking coffee (and juice).
Notice that there is no picture of me at the end of the day, when I lurched out of the house and into my car and drove to music camp in my pajamas at 9:30 p.m. to pick up Colby.
Well. As Matt put it in a text to his father, “Heather finished the race and didn’t die!”. I’m still a little stunned that I ran 13.1 frickin miles. For many reasons, my training did not go as planned. I lost training time to injuries, sickness, and life. OH, and excuses. When I was actually running the race route, I surprised myself. As pleased as I was for those moments where I was in my sweet spot, when I exited a porta-john at mile 8 with locked up knees I realized that there was a real reason for training plans. I finished and honestly, I am just so proud of myself and my body and my brother for almost literally pulling me through to the finish line.
I could go on and on . . . so I will.
Here’s the breakdown:
Pre-Race: We traveled from Maine to Virginia with little incident. This surprised me more than anything, because I was more anxious about the whole-family traveling dynamic than I was about the race itself. We drove from Bangor to Portland, flew from Portland to BWI, drove a rental car from BWI to my brother’s house in Quantico, VA. We were tired and dirty, but when we pulled up to see my niece and nephew waving from their door I thought I could have run from Maineto see them. We had plenty of late night Rock Band and snuggles and a shared bag of Goldfish crackers.
We spent Saturday drinking coffee, playing babies and baseball, meeting up with my best college friend who drove down from D.C. and spent dinner with another family whose father was running the 1/2 on Sunday. As soon as this guy found out that I was having trouble with shin splints he went to his house and brought back a foam roller for me to use. That and a pair of compression sleeves may have totally saved me (and my legs).
I got to bed early and fell asleep before I could finish reading my magazine! Me, the neurotic, anxious mommy! Fell asleep and slept through the night!
Race Day: I rolled out of bed at 4 and found coffee already made. This was a pleasant surprise, and I never figured out who had the foresight to set the coffee maker the night before. I couldn’t find the oatmeal, so I made a bowl of instant Cream of Wheat. I ended up with a solid breakfast of this, two cups of coffee with almond milk, a banana, a glass of water and a glass of Gatorade. I hadn’t eaten great the day before, so I hoped this would do the trick. I settled in with this little guy for some pre-race puppy and coffee time.
I planned on reading, but he was too cute not to play with. I was so homesick for my own puppies, who I found out later were having adventures of their own (read: porcupines).
Bud, Matt, Colby and I hit the road at a respectable 6:20ish (only a half hour or so past when we were supposed to leave) and made it to the parking lot in Fredricksburg just in time.
Still? No nerves. It was beautiful, all bright blue sky and cool gentle breezes.
My uncharacteristic calm left abruptly as we approached the finish line. The town crier, a special part of this race, came over the PA I knew it was almost go time. I noticed some sort of recumbent bikes going past us and asked Bud about them. He told me that they started first. They were injured veterans. The band began playing the National Anthem. Now here were the water works. I had spent so much time bitching about my inadequate training and injuries and etc. I had forgotten that it was such a blessing to have the ability and physiology to run this race. I had been so calm because I had convinced myself that this race, the 13.1 miles were nothing, no problem or celebration. Just a run. I was wrong, and it all hit me on the way to the tall green box of relief. The line to the porta-johns were long, but Bud had a plan that got us to empty ones pronto. Then, the gun went off and we entered the throng of people, eventually passing the start line and trying to find an open spot to begin running.
Miles 1-4: My legs were tight and scared. I was feeling guilty that my very fast brother was running with his very slow sister when he could be killing it out there.We stopped at every water station and the course was incredibly well supported. There was a Marine at every turn, handing out high-fives, smiles, and encouragement. We ran through a shady, slightly hilly, and beautiful residential neighborhood in Fredricksburg. The houses ranged from swanky estates to carefully preserved historical artifacts. I was so busy looking around (and talking, sorry Bud!) that I didn’t even really think about what I was doing.
Miles 5-9: The sweet spot. I don’t remember much of this, probably because I was talking so much. While this was an indicator that I wasn’t running at full capacity, I knew that I had a tough section coming up and I wanted to preserve as much of myself as I could for the truly tough section. I do remember feeling like I was clipping along, and wishing I had a Garmin to see what my pace was. I passed people! I smiled! I threw my arms up in celebration when I ran passed the course photographers. This, my dears, was a bit of bragging a bit too early.
Miles 10-12: Hospital Hill. This really, really sucked. I actually nailed the first half of the hill. I figured that’s what God gave me these short little legs and huge ass for: to climb hills. I was showing off. The course evened out for a bit, and I tried to recover for the next section of the hill without losing too much time. The rest of it just.sucked. I had to walk three or so minutes at the top of that hill, and that really pissed me off. I had been dizzy for a few spells earlier in the race, but I have unbelievably low blood pressure. I figured as long as I hydrated well I would be set. At the top of this hill though, I thought I was going down. I was either going to pass out, vomit, or both.
Miles 12ish-Finish: I didn’t want to tell my brother because I didn’t want him to lose any more time. I was having visions of his co-workers making fun of him at work for finishing so slowly, and I was the cause of it. Finally I said “Bud. I have to stop. I’m going to puke”. And he said “No. Keep running”. That was the way it went. When I was swearing, one long, deep, guttural *&%#$##, he gave me everything he had. “You’ve got this”, “This is nothing”, and my favorite “You could run five more miles if you wanted to”. Somehow, I made it to the home stretch. I was really hurting, fighting back waves of nausea and blinking away those blasted eye floaters you get when you are ready to hit the floor. I finally glanced Matt’s bright green t-shirt on the side of the road and Colby and the kids ran out to greet us. Imagine my surprise when Colby announced that he was going to run the rest of the way in with us! I wasn’t particularly impressed when he showered me with such truth nuggets as “Hey Mom! I’m running on 1/2 a cup of coffee and four donuts!” or “Hey Mom! Look! You’re running and I’m walking”. I crossed the finish line flanked by my brother and my son. Those boys carried me home.
I then devoured a handful of sweet, juicy and delicious orange slices. I’m not sure I have ever tasted anything so wonderful. Did I mention it was hot? And that I had so much crusted salt on my face that I had actual salt boogers under my nose. Alas, I was feeling too sick to cash in my free beer ticket from my bib. Maybe that’s my next goal. Finish, but feel well enough to drink a beer immediately after.
Eventually I got my beer, and a steak and a pile of the cheesiest and gooiest mashed potatoes. We capped off our weekend with lots of family time, and as I walked my nephew to his bus my heart broke in the same exact spot it always does when I leave him and his sister. I know that the next time I see them he may not be content to play zombie babies with us. His sister may not say, at every turn, “Tia Heather, when you are done (insert activity), then can we go play babies?”. Luckily, I take enough pictures so I can blackmail them into playing with me at any turn.
We’ve been out to camp, in an obscure town full of streams, ponds, and glacially decorated boulders. I have worm guts on the jeans I have been wearing for three days, I smell like wood smoke, and my hair is greasily matted in the strangest places.
I am a happy girl.
While my homebody nature prefers to be at home, surrounded by my most precious and familiar beings and things, camp is a state that exists as an extension of; minus the bills, nagging housework and chores, work, and the responsibility inextricably connected to home.
We set up camp late Friday night, and Matt woke early saturday to make breakfast and coffee while I snuggled with the dogs. Life is so hard sometimes. We didn’t have any luck fishing that morning, but we trailed along the river for a bit, stopped to have a snack on a moss-covered boulder, and headed back to camp. After lunch, camp coffee and a nap we headed out (dogs towing us) to walk a three or four mile loop up and down a hill. We followed the tracks (and scat) of a moose the entire time. Poor Sammie was very excited when we came upon a porcupine crossing the road. Luckily, that was the most excitement we encountered.
Upon return I took my reading spot while Matt made supper (see why I like it out here so much?!). We visited, snuggled with the dogs and…relaxed. It’s a weird feeling for us. I went to bed so early that I was the first one awake!
But now, it’s time to go. We’ve had a dance party, cleaned camp, and watched the dogs swim. I’m sitting in the car charging my phone and talking to you while I watch the sun dance off the pond. And while I’m reluctant to go home, I actually feel rested enough to take on another week. Happy Sunday, friends.
Life is good, people. Over the last few weeks I’ve recovered from an injury, read books (for fun), kicked my training in the arse (5 weeks out!), run a 5k with Colby and my friend Jane, visited with an old and dear friend, and ate a sit-down meal with Matt. Lots of fun and not-so-fun work stuff in between.
But now, it is April vacation. No other vacation compares to this, because we are close enough to see the end of the year AND no major holidays impede the pace of all things vacation. I could break into song at any moment.
I’ve spent the week embodying that line “every day I’m shufflin”. Two positions have given me comfort; one in which I’m lying propped up on pillows, the other I’m walking around with my right arm tucked up in an invisible sling. While my body has been screaming, my spirit has been buoyed by the unexpected warmth and sunshine. This makes be happy.
Because I am uncharacteristically happy and because I’m sure Oprah has trademarked the phrase “my favorite things”, here is a look at some stuff that makes me happy.
Also: Amazon shopping, this book, Central Street Yoga, new running shoes, peanut butter ice cream, and the general feeling that I can thrive in chaos.
Life is crazy, I’m not going to lie. Last year we were so busy traveling that I never really had a chance to stop and think. This year is still the same busy-ness that so many of you live: work, kids, dog(s), grad school, family, house care… The list goes on and on and on. The biggest change has been moving, of course. I left my single-mama home, a space that Colby and I had to ourselves, with the luxury of not having to accommodate the needs of others. I left my support network of friends and family. I am no big fan of change, and it’s no secret that I would usually prefer to stick with “the Devil I know” than to enter into a new situation.
I wasn’t nice to my kid. I wasn’t nice to my partner. I reserved all my kindness and spent it at school, and some days I didn’t even have enough for them. I stomped through life, demanding that everyone Follow Me! Right now! Hurry up, I’m going to be late! The furrows in my forehead were dangerously close to becoming a permanent fixture on my face. This shit was not good.
I knew this was not the kind of parent, or person, I had set out to be. I’m the first to embrace the humanity of mistakes, but I needed to make some changes. Thinking back to my early years of parenting, and how I made peace with the incredibly difficult situation I was in, I remembered. I ran, I cooked, I went to yoga.
I’ve been running for over a year now. That was a step.
I moved through three rounds of purposely clean eating to re-center how I needed food and family to converge.
Then, I went to yoga. Which, judging by the length of this post, is another story (Matt says I tend to talk too much, get distracted too easily, but who cannot see that this all is a story about the exact same thing!? Sheesh). But anyway. After a mad dash down Central Street, I finally made it.
I want to stay there forever. People tell me what to do, when to breathe in, and out. It smells like Nag Champa. It’s sunny and warm. No one cares if have pigtails.
Do any of you feel like somehow, some way, you resemble one of those dollar-store puzzles where all of the tiles are there, but you have to use your fingernails to pry the tiles apart and move them back into alignment, only to realize that you’re never actually going to be able to finish the puzzle? That’ where I am. And while I’ll never get the perfect balance, and I’ll probably break a nail along the way, at least I have the edges finished.