Power Down & Play

“Wow, you really need to get away!” said Co-worker as she realized I had missed something squarely in my easy-peasy realm of responsibility.

I worked frenetically up until fifteen minutes before our car drove away. While I did pull out my phone a few times on the drive, I also made a concerted effort not to talk work with Guy–not to plan, discuss, vent. I put work on a back shelf with fun straight ahead.

About fifteen minutes before we arrived, we lost cell reception. On a different carrier, the friends we were with had reception and those who might need to knew how to reach them. I tucked my phone in my purse and didn’t reach for it again until we headed home. It took the whole homeward drive and then some to power back up.

I’d forgotten how blissful it feels to be completely untethered. 48 hours without calls, texts, email, or media.

Without distraction we talked and talked until the clock announced a new day. We relished the beauty of a frozen lake, of snow flakes melting on our cheeks, of a bald eagle flying overhead. We threw snowballs to a dog happy to catch them in her mouth. We drank thick, sweet hot chocolate and nibbled our way from one snack to another. We read and shared stories. We laughed through old movies. We lit candles and donned headlamps when the power went out. We played games, we learned new games, and we discovered who’s good at what kind of thinking. We slipped into satisfying naps and slept deeply through the night.pinecrest-grp

We woke late. We hiked, and sank, in deep snow. We squeaked in laughter each time a foot broke through ice and we landed on our knees (at least I did!). We enjoyed time together, and we enjoyed every minute.

Before we left home I didn’t know, couldn’t recognize, how much I needed this get-away. In the humdrum of everyday life, we forget that our bodies and souls need to play. We need rest daily–sleep, and a little something fun, like exercise or reading or creativity of whatever sort refuels us. We also need rest seasonally–a quick get-away, like the one we enjoyed this weekend, or something longer, a true vacation.

If we can’t get away, then we at least need to unplug. And when we do get away, we definitely ought to unplug. Funny, isn’t it?, that machines need to plug in for power while human beings find restoration by unplugging from the very devices we expect to make our lives easier.pinecrest

Thankful Thursday – Kickin’ the Door Shut & a Happy Dance!

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By 12:20pm tomorrow, both our boys will be done with this school year.

Hallelujah!

This has been a particularly rough year for a variety of reasons. Junior year for Teen, filled to the brim with cultural stress even when our immediate little family wasn’t topped to our own stress limit. Unfortunately for all of us, his school counselor didn’t take time to look up at the student sitting before her when she advised he take certain classes (he shouldn’t have taken) and absolutely wouldn’t allow others (completely in his wheelhouse). All year long we have been paying for the mistake of not standing up to a school administrator while there was time. What a painful lesson we have learned…

Sixth grade for Tween, which means we now have one year of middle school under our belts. You’d think “experienced parents” might have this down but different kids transition differently, which makes for a different experience all ’round. We used to say that Teen leaped through 6th grade like a series of belly flops–fun in the air, painful on impact, everyone gets splashed. Tween has been way less adventurous and more consistently bewildered by the new demands on his life. A’s for effort, though, as this kid has been diligent in his hard work, sometimes doing two to six hours of homework per night (yes, WAY too much, and darn that slow processing!)…and then forgetting to turn it all in, or losing it (in his backpack) for weeks. Sigh.

But tonight I am truly grateful. Grateful we are done, mostly. I have been ready to kick the door shut on this year for, oh honestly, months. At least weeks. And yet I am also grateful for the free and fantastic education in our competitive small town. Grateful for the collateral lessons of organization, communication, self-advocacy, assertiveness, creativity, persistence, and more.

I am grateful for my children, these beautiful, amazing, creative gifts from God, each their very own unique human being. And I am grateful that for the next ten weeks we will not argue about homework. I will not have to wake them earlier than their bodies want to rush them out the door. I will not have to hurry them off to bed to get enough rest for the big day, big test/project, the next day’s measurement of their (supposed) worth.

I am grateful for summer and its lazy days slower pace. I am grateful for the adventures that await us individually and as a family–trips to San Diego and Mexico, Oregon and Monterey/Carmel as a family; Boy Scout camp for both boys; high adventure risk-taking for the Eagle Scout-Teen.

I am grateful for summer’s organic learning. Books to read just for fun. Scout badges that will precipitate new experiences and open their minds to new discoveries. Time to hike and climb and explore…just because.

I am grateful for a season of rest. I am grateful for friends we enjoy all year long, friends who have done this year with us, and who will now stretch out into this rest with us. For field trips and day trips ahead. For bowling and roller coasters and movies and beach days and swimming. For glasses of wine and laughter. For concerts and picnics in the park. For worship with our church family.

I am grateful, and so I have been doing my own crazy happy dance all day. Psalm 149:3 says, “Praise his name with dancing…” God has held us close during this chaotic year. He has gotten us through, and He has provided rest just ahead. Want to happy dance this joy with me?

Checking In

Do you know what it is to feel the light of love inside you?
And all the darkness falls away
If you feel the way I feel then I believe we have the answer
I’ve been searching for tonight
–Dave Matthews, “Shake Me Like a Monkey”

Mendo

He took me to the coast, this Guy who knows and loves me well.

Teen and Tween are at Scout camp this week. Both kids, same camp, all week long – miss them but, woo hoo!

Guy didn’t need to book a Mendocino ocean-front B&B. We could have enjoyed our very own quiet house. We could’ve made happy progress on cleaning out the garage or finally sprucing up the backyard (seriously, we’re stoked on these projects). We could have made dinner together and rented a DVD, or gone out to dinner and a movie sans kid-consideration.

But he knows that the sun-streaked blue-and-tan view of ocean-meets-sand, the salty-musky beach smell, the crash-and-slick of waves, the salt-sticky whip of my hair in sea-breeze and crunch of sand between my toes, they heal my little cracks and fill me up with peace, with joy.

As we dashed out the door I grabbed a new-to-me book: John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Recommended to me by friends, I’ll say this: if you are married, go right now and order this book! I’d read the first four chapters on my own, but each of the seven principles chapters includes exercises to do/discuss. As Guy drove I peppered him with questions – some we answered about each other (“I think the current stressors in your life are…”) and others we answered for ourselves (“I am most proud of xyz accomplishments in my life”). We talked about childhood and adulthood, life before and after marriage and kids, our worries and joys and hopes. We laughed and reminisced and got serious on things that matter. Talk about checking in with each other, whew, this was Marriage Intensive 101 and, thank-God-hallelujah, 20+ years of marriage and we still pass with beautiful flying colors.

About an hour into the almost four-hour drive, we stopped at Russian River Brewing Co, my brother’s favorite and a place we’d never been. The gal seated next to me at the bar instantly struck up conversation and I’m so glad she did! While we sipped and waited for food, this East Coast darling confessed that she and her husband travel to California at least once a year for their favorite beer. The chatter wound leisurely this way and that, surprising in its ease, and we happily exchanged contact info before we departed.

At last we checked in at the Sandpiper House Inn in Elk, California. Our host Craig pointed us to our room and back out to the beach, where we delightedly drenched ourselves in late afternoon sun. As we walked north to beach end, and then south again, stepping over and around the bull kelp curlicuing the beach, we thought we heard music, maybe horns. Until we spotted a trio of young adults, two men and a woman, who had industriously turned the bull kelp into musical instruments, like shofars calling us to our beach-side Sabbath rest. Later we saw them kelp-jump-roping – Sabbath is also laughter and fun.

seaweed

Dinner: we talked with Craig, scanned the local paper, drove through heritage-town Mendo, and finally landed at The Ravens, a vegan restaurant at The Stanford Inn (no kidding, spooky-populated with a conspiracy of ravens as we drove in). If you like veggie/vegan food, this restaurant is for you. If you think you don’t, won’t, never will like veggie/vegan food, this restaurant is a MUST! Oh. My. Word! The ceviche might be the most surprising bite we’ve ever eaten – so tangy-tequila tasty, crafted from cauliflower and mushrooms instead of seafood. And the warm bread served with cauliflower-basil-cilantro “butter” – mouth watering. This will go down in our history as a milestone meal.

I awoke early to glorious light, sun-on-water on the Most Amazing View reflecting on pale-blue-turned-bright-white wallpaper. Guy slept in. He never sleeps in, a testament to restorative sea air, a comfortable bed, and his need to unwind. I soaked in the view. Gradually the fog crawled its way across the water, dampened the light, and I got up.

Early coffee service and, wouldn’t you know it?, the Inn had one of our very own 20+-years-of-marriage china tea cups which I filled chock-to-the-brim with hot, black coffee. We walked down to the cliffs, pausing to pet the twin Tabby rescue cats (one of which was hell-bent on guarding a gopher hole), admiring hummingbirds buzzing amidst garden along the path. Craig made a crazy-good breakfast of French toast with blueberries, accompanied by classic 70’s rock. We chatted with another Bay Area couple as we watched Turkey Vultures soaring over the cliffs. Did you know that, unlike most birds, Turkey Vultures have a keen sense of smell and can smell fresh carrion up to a mile away? Google over breakfast – sometimes a good thing.

As for me, I put away my phone. I didn’t check email or social media for two days; I even resisted the temptation to review iPhone pictures lest I feel “the need” to post immediately. I’ve realized that, half-over, I’m not as relaxed as I’d hoped to be this summer. I’ve cut back my at-work schedule but frittered away too much in-between time on social media and nonsense instead of intention. I want to be Present, capital P on Purpose. Last summer in Costa Rica, new culture + shock, we had little choice but to live purposefully hour-to-hour, day-to-day. This summer, at-home-“usual,” it’s easy to let moments slip, let days slide into nothing-done, nothing-gained.

Sometimes a surprise is the *shock* one needs to reflect, remember, restore.

We hiked along foggy Point Arena, so mist-covered we couldn’t see the newly-named National Monument lighthouse and closest California point to Hawaii. Lanky golden grass shivered in the sea breeze, as did we. We drove north to Fort Bragg and dug deep in a festival of sea glass. We grabbed a quick sandwich lunch and headed home, our only regret that our getaway ended too soon.

seaglassWe could have stayed home. Instead we created memories. Guy made the better choice, and we are better for it. Thank you, my love!

Slow Down

An ordinary afternoon dog-walk around the neighborhood turned gruesome. A car passed just as I noticed a squirrel hunkered in the middle of the lane. Car 1 slowed down, paused until two cars were directly opposite in the other lane, and then blared its horn. Horn terrified Squirrel who leaped sideways under the tire of Car 2, followed by the wheels of Car 3. No kidding, I squeaked in horror.

All three cars drove on, while Dog and I had to continue our walk past twitching, then dead-still, squirrel. Because God loves all His creatures, I prayed for this little one.

I felt dirty, complicit for having witnessed this scene. It happened so quickly but it seemed Car 1 deliberately honked at exactly the wrong moment, that it could have honked earlier or later, or simply stopped for a moment. That the rush of life was just too much.

Last summer I read a book that referenced “the Gronk,” the driver behind you who honks incessantly the very second the red light turns green. Like the extra five seconds he might rush you to the gas pedal mean that much? Seriously, dude, chill!

A few days later Guy and I took Dog for another stroll. Same neighborhood, different street, equally gruesome: the smallest fawn I’ve ever seen lay in the roadside grass. At first we didn’t notice it as it was so out of place; someone driving too fast must have hit it hard to launch it out of the road and over the sidewalk; and then we saw it twitch. Morning commute had it out for this beauty.

All this during the first week of summer, and meanwhile my kids’ friends were too busy or too tired to play and their moms already seemed harried. Don’t get me wrong, we have a few things going on, too, but balanced with a big dose of summertime do-nothing. Because “Boredom = Opportunity.”

Summer is not a sprint. Honestly, it’s a gift, much like the Sabbath we so dutifully ignore. Long, hot days make our bodies and brains want to move slower, to float in the pool, to sip cool drinks over laughter-filled chats with friends, to play and rest – and work as necessary – in a different rhythm.

We slowed down with a week of family vacation. Leisurely strolls along the beach, hunting for beach glass, reading good books, eating and sleeping as much as needed and then a little more.

“Regular” life necessarily isn’t vacation, but we can bring elements of vacation, of rest, into “regular” life:
Turn off social media
Do something that stretches you beyond your comfort zone
Move your body playfully
Learn something new
Make dinner a family carpet picnic of kid-friendly finger foods
Schedule outings with friends
Create something; if that intimidates you, color in a coloring book
Turn off the TV and read a book
Play a board game
Pamper yourself
Do something you haven’t done since childhood and laugh yourself silly along the way

Yesterday I worked, and then I met a friend and her sweet daughter for a mani/pedi. I usually do my own nails, but after a week of beach walking my feet were a wreck. It felt terrific, and the time with these dear ones filled me up. During a brief conversational lull I glanced up at the large screen TV – mercifully playing without sound – to catch a glimpse of a road sign that read:

LIFE IS PRECIOUS
SLOW DOWN

Yes, that’s it! Perhaps we don’t even see the carnage we create as we race from Point A to B to Z, the lost life or lost opportunities or the children for whom we’ve scheduled too many activities when they truly only want more time with us, their parents.

What would it take for you to slow down? What can you do today, tomorrow, this week, this month, to intentionally stop the madness? Life is precious, and I don’t want to miss the beauty.

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