Ritual: Cation House

One of my favorite weeks of the year is coming right up: our annual trip to the Cation House. I originally wrote this post for my friend Cara Meredith‘s blog during her 2015 guest post series on rituals (please go check out her blog – great stuff happening over there!). I can’t wait for another week of beach-y rest, relaxation, and walking down Memory Lane even as we create new memories.Cation House

Writ large on the walls of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pablo Neruda’s words strike a chord in my soul: “I spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the sea.”

My life has felt like constant spinning, waves of joy and laughter, wash of chaos and drama, waves of peaceful beauty. My parents’ lives spun on disorder and turmoil until they spun into each other and, quickly, marriage. They attempted to overcome the tidal pull of established patterns; they did their best to remain upright in swirling waters. Still, my Airline Captain father flew in and out of our lives on air currents rather than water.

While I attended college my parents purchased a Time Share blocks from a NorCal beach (we lived a short drive from SoCal beaches). Recently I asked my mom, “Why?”

“To create family memories, to have a place we could come back to year after year.”

My parents, siblings and I never spent a week there as a family. My family, however–my mom and nephew, my husband and sons–has spent a week there every summer since Teen was two years old. We call it the “Cation House.”

We look forward to the Cation House all year, one of our most significant shared family rituals. The three kids have each created school essays and projects about the Cation House. Each generation swimming against currents of the past, I asked my boys which traditions, rituals, have meant the most to them in our family life: Cation House!, their unequivocal shared response.

When we all lived in SoCal, we rented a minivan and made the ten-hour journey a road trip. Now that four of us live in NorCal, the others fly up and extend their stay on either end for a longer vacation.

Each vacation is the same. We go to the same beaches (Lovers’ Point, Asilomar). We walk the same streets (Lighthouse Ave and Ocean View Blvd). We take the same pictures (kids in wet suits, holding sea stars). We do the same things (“journal pages” before dinner, hiking at Point Lobos, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Farmers’ Market, beach, beach and More Beach!).

Each vacation is different. The kids grow (drat that, both blessing and curse). The toys change–Thomas the Tank Engine has been replaced by an inflatable kayak. Some years we paddle boat, others we maneuver a surrey-bike. Scheduling has gotten harder as kids get older, with more demands competing for their time. We have had to drive/fly the older two in late, allowing them to miss days without missing the whole experience (always a cost to us and to them, but the week is a priority and so we flex). Last year, surprisingly?, the boys could not only tolerate but enjoy a lecture on sea turtles by the American Cetacean Society, held at the Stanford Marine Research Center. How can we possibly have gotten here?

Rituals help us remember and reflect. Each year we remember years previous: the first trip when Teen and Nephew laughed “diapo” back and forth for the whole drive, their 2-year-old diaper “dirty joke”; the many times enthusiastic boys stripped naked and charged lapping waters before adults could grab suits and towels; the time boys slipped behind the bakery counter and helped themselves to cookies; the year boys felt sufficiently confident for Guy to take them kayaking.

Each year we reflect on who we have been, where we have been, how we have changed and where we are going. Kids have grown, demonstrating God-given gifts, strengths, aptitudes. So have adults. Several years Guy and I walked late at night, wondering if God would grant us only one child; other years we pondered job responsibilities and changes. During the years we’ve visited the Cation House, my dear dad and precious grandma have passed; siblings have married, cousins have been born; my family moved most of a long state away. Mom has cheered family in different directions while her big once-family-filled house has emptied, filled, emptied again.

Fifteen years ago, realizing my frazzled Mom needed a vacation, I queried: “Don’t you have a Time Share? Could we take the babies and go?” So we did, and It Was Good. We moved at kid-speed. We walked and played at beaches and play grounds. We prepared easy food. We relaxed and read and talked, good for our souls. We pondered, “Why don’t we do this again next year?”

Next Year became Every Year. What began as a vacation became a ritual. With The Kids we have created family memories, a place they can come back to year after year. These kids plan to come back, again and again, year after year, together and, eventually, with their own families. Undoubtedly, they will go to the same beaches, walk the same streets, take the same pictures, do the same things. Each year it will be the Same and Different. They will Remember and Reflect. They will spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the sea…and of family ritual.

Lessons Tween Learned on Vacation

Shortcuts aren’t necessarily shorter.
Our 500-mile drive from San Francisco to San Diego comes in two parts: the long, fast leg between home and the Grapevine; and the shorter-by-distance long-by-traffic leg through Los Angeles. With no traffic on Leg 1, Tween and I stopped for a quick bite almost an hour ahead of schedule. So imagine my dismay when Google Maps reported that Leg 2 was going to take us, not two to three hours, but almost five. If you’ve driven through LA traffic, you understand this particular version of hell.

I called Guy who, checking his computer, confirmed that 5 South was a parking lot all the way down the coast and that the inland route was clear. I wish I had sucked it up and trudged ahead through the gross reality of traffic-induced time loss. Because I had to anyway as our shortcut became a long-cut: the inland route developed its own congestion by the time we got there and added an hour to the already-too-long trip. Typically it takes us seven to nine hours door-to-door; this time it took eleven. And we missed the coastal scenery.

Be earlier than you think you need to be.
Guy and Teen missed the long drive because Teen took the ACT that morning. They also missed their flight to San Diego. Guy got the time wrong in his head. BART ran late, and then they missed the shuttle bus connecting train station to airport. They dashed through security and ran through the airport to arrive as the airline shut the doors.

They got on the standby list for the next flight. After all passengers—including my guys—had boarded, a mechanical problem was detected with the plane and everyone had to disembark. There was some debate about whether they would shuttle passengers to another airport, but somehow the airline ‘found’ a plane and the flight was rescheduled only somewhat delayed from its original departure time.

They might have made their original flight if they had planned to arrive at the airport earlier. Or if they had planned more time for home-to-airport transportation. They arrived eventually, but too late to attend the party.TwMexBeach

Respect the elements.
In pairs of two, we raced to San Diego to celebrate our Nephew’s high school graduation. As a graduation gift, we rented a beach house in Mexico for a couple of days and took Nephew and Grandma on a short vacation—hence the need to have our van with sufficient seating plus room for luggage, food-stuffed cooler, drinking water, wet suits, and towels.

Just over an hour from Grandma’s house to beach house, we hit the beach mere minutes after unloading the car. The three boys sprinted ahead, stripping off shoes and socks as they ran along the sand.

Tween’s flip-flops took their own journey, presumably on the tide. He didn’t say anything as he walked barefoot back to the house; it’s just his style to keep quiet. When he and Guy went back later they faced the fact that, in not carefully placing them out of the way on some rocks, he hadn’t just misplaced them but given them as a gift to the ocean.

Be prepared.
Freshly bathed and in PJs after his ocean romp, Tween decided to light a fire in the gas fireplace. He turned on the gas and then turned around to get the lighter. He should have reversed that process, as he had turned the gas on much too high and allowed too much time. As he pulled the lighter’s trigger, a fireball exploded from the fireplace and momentarily engulfed him in flames. Thankfully Guy was close by and turned off the gas as Tween jumped backward and out of harm. Another shower revealed that Thank God the damage wasn’t worse: one singed eyebrow and his long blonde hair got an unanticipated trim.

Celebrate.
Though the initial drive was maddeningly long, Tween and I made the best of it as we deemed it “an adventure,” something to talk about for years to come. We celebrated with Nephew, family, and friends at his party. The next day we celebrated with his church. We celebrated in Mexico, giving the gift of experience that will last in memories rather than more stuff. We relaxed at the beach, we chuckled at the donkey and dogs who temporarily escaped their home to cavort on the sand, and we savored traditional food and drink. We played games and made conversation. We laughed.

Vacation may not always be easy. Tween remarked, “I’m sure learning a lot considering school is out.” He learned lessons on this trip better to learn at 12 than 40+. But time together, even bored in a car on I-5, is worth it. And what a way to kick off summer!

Daydream Painter

Today’s guest post comes from a friend I met when he was in a high school youth group we led. He and his friends formed this motley crew of fantastic off-beat guys who to this day lovingly remind me of The Outsiders. They made me laugh, asked the best questions, and kept me on my toes and–the joys of social media–seeing the men they have become and their continued friendships with one another still makes me smile. I didn’t know Matt as an artist back then; each of his creations jolts my senses with exuberant and joyful color. He seems able to capture his ocean bliss and translate it through paint onto canvas, whether traditional canvas or skate deck or surf board. I always look forward to pictures of Matt’s paintings, and I know you will enjoy them as well.

Create Challenge #19: Matt “Cheeks” Hoag

I grew up in Southern California surfing and skating with friends. Briefly I lived in Wyoming to attend Wyoming Tech as a mechanic before returning to North County San Diego. My true passion is painting as meditation inspired by the ocean. Besides being inspired by the ocean, my trademark is clean lines and psychedelic colors.

My interest in art began with the help of my middle school art teacher, Jeremy “Jerm” Wright. After middle school I didn’t take any other art classes. Why? Not sure. Just doodled all the time instead of paying attention. I met Jim Moriarty through a church youth group in Solana Beach. He introduced me to Posca Pens, an acrylic-based paint pen, while on a surf trip down in Erendira, MX. I only use paint pens with each piece I create. Thanks to Jim, I picked up painting once again!

Creativity for me is turning off my mind of the negativity and letting my hands do the work. Let my body relax to music, and let everything flow into each painting. Each piece is thought through, but doesn’t always turn out how I think. Everything starts as an idea. That is half the fun, though.

Here are some of my works of art. Hope you enjoy!Hoag pelican

I chose to paint a pelican one day while sitting on the bluffs in Del Mar. I watched them pass by in the air, and I have watched them many times while in the water surf perfectly. They are awesome birds, great fishers and great surfers! To me a pelican is born ready to shred the waves. This one resembles a surfer watching the waves from an outlook. Watching and studying the waves as they crash.Hoag mermaid

This one here is one of my favorites that I have done so far. The tail grabs my attention the most. Looks like a stained glass sunset.Hoag bw

One of the details I like to add to each of my paintings is this type of style. Just black lines, dots, and swirls to bring out and show detail. On this one I decided I wanted no color, and only line work.Hoag octopus

Aliens and ocean? Why not paint an octopus which relates on those terms? These amazing creatures stride through the water with grace.Hoag wave

This wave was one of the first I did with this style. Many colors with many black lines, swirls, and dots.Hoag Stained Glass Wave (1)

When I was done with outlining the different colors it created a stained glass effect. I call this one “Stained Glass Wave.”Hoag rock

I work as an Aviation Technician in El Cajon, CA. When I am not painting or working, I enjoy being outside in nature, hanging out with my dog Roxy, an American Staffordshire-Bull Terrier-Boxer with tons of energy. She brings me joy every day. Waking up and seeing her in the morning reminds me to stay sober. It has been 3 years and 4 months, and every day is a new beginning. A new day. I enjoy listening to music which soothes my mind, anything from Classical to Jazz, from Blues to Classic Rock, from Reggae to Punk. At the moment I don’t have a website, but you can email me: daydreampainter@gmail.com.

Thankful Thursday – A New Year

NYE15

I haven’t posted a Thankful Thursday in a while. I also cannot believe we are three weeks into 2016. And yet, I’m already planning for spring, and summer, and fall, and I’m not even sure what happened to Christmas except that it was, in surprising ways, quiet, lovely and crazy, relaxing and somehow just what we needed.

I’m thankful.

I am always thankful for our small NorCal town, and the beauties of small-town living.

I am thankful for a Dear One who invited us to our small town Awesome College basketball game on New Year’s Eve – for fun, friends and family cheering together as we encouraged the team and welcomed a new year. And then the goofiness of allowing Tween to stay up until midnight, drinking too much apple cider while snuggling pooch and watching Ryan Seacrest’s (lacking) NYE show.NYEQI
I am thankful for my beloved Guy, and his birthday, and a family excursion to Marin to walk a beautiful wintry beach with my loves.marin dog marin shell marin
I am thankful for opportunities to buy and cook beautiful California in-season produce in enticing ways, to savor flavors and feed my family healthy food.broccoli
I am thankful for new creative projects that challenge, excite, and sometimes scare me just enough.

I am thankful for new books that fulfill my craving to learn through story.Jan16 bks
I am thankful for our moms’ group at church, for the leadership team who pray and lead with love; for the larger group who share their struggles and joys in prayer so we can hope and be encouraged together; and especially for my table group of women with whom we cry and laugh and share in life as we grow in faith and friendship.

I am thankful for snuggly pets.phoebe
I am thankful for my gals who take me as I am, even when I arrive with wet hair because I showered last-minute because I just wasn’t sure I was up to a night out. And yet our friendships light up my life and I need them more than they know.jan gals
I am thankful Finals Week = Almost Over for Teen. I am thankful Teen allowed Guy and me to participate in a coloring project with him (coloring = one of the “school tasks” I’m always willing to do, since no one should truly be graded on coloring), reminiscent of my own mom working on high school projects late into the night with me, cherished memories I hope my son will also have of his mom.C color

Being thankful makes me happy. What are you thankful for so far in 2016?

Meatless Monday – Getting Saucy

The best part of a veggie Thanksgiving meal? Not spending All Day Long cooking a turkey! We keep the menu fairly simple and mostly traditional – mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad, veggies, biscuits – and add some baked salmon with oranges, cranberries and rosemary for the fish-eaters and a small turkey breast for the carnivores. We divvy up the dishes and nothing takes too long.

Which leaves time for this:beach boys

We took kids and dogs, some more excited than others, to the beach. Too cold for swimming, the people bundled up and the dogs jumped in the frigid water anyway, barking and chasing and playing until they flopped in exhaustion. Our dog met her younger blonde twin, also a rescue, and we couldn’t get them to stay still long enough to take any really good pictures.
dog twins

Beach time was the perfect way to spend Thanksgiving morning, and even our once-reluctant kid-companions agreed. We put out some while-the-grown ups-cook nibbles, sauteed and mashed and baked the afternoon away, and ate dinner at a comfortable 6pm.

My always-favorite bite of the Thanksgiving meal? Cranberry sauce. Adapted from a recipe I found on Epicurious many moons ago, this one = YUM! And my new discovery this year? The easiest ever, scrumptious vegan gravy adapted from Tablespoon, just as much a hit with the carnivores as the vegetarians. It may seem a little late now, but the holiday season has only just arrived and more of us will be making celebratory meals for family and friends. Get saucy, friends!cranberry sauce

Cranberry and Orange Relish
Makes 3 1/2-4 cups (recipe can be cut in half)

2  Tbsp plant-based spread (Earth Balance)
2  Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2  c dark brown sugar
1  c orange juice
16  oz cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 c orange marmalade

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the Earth Balance. Add ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add sugar, orange juice, and cranberries. Cook until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in the marmalade to taste (depending on desired sweetness). Turn off heat. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Can be prepared up to 5 days in advance. Also good w/ cranberry juice and raspberry jam in place of orange juice and orange marmalade.

Easy Vegan Gravy

1 Tbsp plant-based spread (Earth Balance)
1/4 c all-purpose flour
3 c vegetable broth
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a sauce pan melt Earth Balance, then add flour and stir. When smooth slowly add vegetable broth. Add remaining ingredients. Whisk until desired thickness is achieved. Serve warm.
Note: This recipe looks like it will make a lot of gravy, but the broth reduces and thickens on the stove top. I didn’t measure the results, but it made just enough for our table of seven with no leftovers. I’ll double it next time.

Rituals: Cation House

Cation House

Writ large on the walls of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pablo Neruda’s words strike a chord in my soul: “I spin on the circle of wave upon wave of the sea.”

My life has felt like constant spinning, waves of joy and laughter, wash of chaos and drama, waves of peaceful beauty. My parents’ lives spun on disorder and turmoil until they spun into each other and, quickly, marriage. They attempted to overcome the tidal pull of established patterns; they did their best to remain upright in swirling waters. Still, my Airline Captain father flew in and out of our lives on air currents rather than water.

While I attended college my parents purchased a Time Share blocks from a NorCal beach (we lived a short drive from SoCal beaches). Recently I asked my mom, “Why?”
“To create family memories, to have a place we could come back to year after year.”

My parents, siblings and I never spent a week there as a family. My family, however – my mom and nephew, my husband and sons – has spent a week there every summer since Teen was two years old. We call it the “Cation House.”

******

Friends! The rest of today’s post appears on the blog of a dear one, Cara Meredith, aka Be.Mama.Be. I can’t wait for you to finish this story, so significant to my life, AND meet Cara – energetic, amazing, So Much Fun with the Best Laugh Ever! We laughed ourselves silly through The Great Snowpocalypse of 2010 following the National Prayer Breakfast. We prayed together and then got stranded together in the gorgeous hip-deep snow we waded through to enjoy DC monuments and distract ourselves from Where We Were Supposed To BE. Good times, y’all!CaraMac

Moms’ and Kids’ End-of-Summer Camp Out

A queue of 40 email responses filled my inbox before I saw Email #1 inviting me to participate in an end-of-summer overnight camp out with moms and kids, and by then the sites had been booked. Besides, I expected (hoped!) to be just returning from a sixteen-day family camping trip, so the timing wouldn’t work for us.

However, the family trip never materialized, the gals had space for two more, and I come with a 10-person tent. So Tween and I went camping, part of my continuing resolution this year to “put myself in the way of beauty.”

Gatherings of women + kids always carry potential for drama. Between five moms and nine children, some of us…
…have more and less experience.
…were more and less prepared.
…felt more and less anxiety (and for different reasons).
…are more and less high maintenance.
…tend to be more and less accident prone.
…have more and less energy.
…are more and less organized.
…feel more and less easily overwhelmed.
…enjoy more and less spontaneity.

Most of us had never traveled together, although collectively we’ve known each other well and socialized regularly for a number of years. To boot, I’ve never been camping as an adult without Guy who does all the heavy lifting.

This trip was worth any risk! We packed a lot of fun and laughter into two short days.

We caravaned to Drakes Beach where we picnicked and played. Kids found shells, sand dollars, and crabs.shell crabThey also learned that crabs, even small ones, bite hard.crab 1 crab 2Kids ran and danced and played chicken with waves and of course got soaked. It never takes long at the beach before children who swore they wouldn’t get wet and had been warned by moms not to get wet in fact get wet and by necessity start stripping off various layers of clothing. Kids also dug in sand and in sandstone cliffs. Best yet, we encountered a sea lion taking a siesta on the shore.sea lionWe camped at Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Sans Dad-assistance, we learned to set up tents. I am particularly proud that, despite a temporary break in my Drama Dam, I coordinated kids and set up a new-to-me 10-person tent. It might not have been perfect, but it stayed up.tent 1tent 2

Kids rode bikes and scooters and, when they got tired, worked together to create lanyards while moms brought out excessive amounts of food and drink – chips and dips, salad, perfectly grilled veggies, and quesadillas and burritos made to order. One mom taught us to make a new camping dessert: s’mores in a cone! Fill a sugar cone with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, wrap completely in aluminum foil, then set on a grill rack, turning occasionally, until ooey-gooey. Yum!

After a warmer-than-anticipated night’s sleep, wherein some of us slept more and less well, we feasted yet again on beer pancakes, melon, and a goulash of scrambled eggs and veggies. In the absence of a coffee maker, one mom improvised by using a hair elastic to secure a napkin-turned-filter to the mouth of a coffee cup before filling it with Peet’s Coffee grounds and adding boiling water. Creativity + Determination = Voila!

We packed up the cars, then biked/scootered/walked to a watering hole where kids skipped rocks.moms walkrock skippingthistleHalf of us set off for home, while the rest went to Point Reyes Station to stroll through cute shops (including a fun art exhibit, The Box Show) and get lunch and soft serve ice cream made from buffalo milk.ice cream

Last night while dinner cooked, the Moms gathered around the table for a glass of wine. Feeling grateful, I raised my glass and said, “Cheers, Moms! Parenting is hard. We are all different with different kids and we may do this parenting thing differently, but I am so glad to be parenting in such good company.”

And today as we packed up, Tween gave me a quick side-grab hug and thanked me for taking him camping. We made happy memories together, my kid and I, and my friends and I, and my heart is full.

camping cheers