Tent Associations

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” – John Muir

When my daughter told my mom’s 83-year-old gentleman friend that we were going to camp out in the backyard this weekend, he turned to me and said, “After I got out of the army, I told myself I’d never spend another night in a tent.” It seemed like a reasonable vow for him.

My friend, Phil, who was the first American to climb the north side of Everest quips that bivouac is French for mistake. It isn’t – it’s derived from a French word that means “by guard” according to Merriam Webster but since Phil had to once bivouac high up on Everest, he’s earned the right to that joke.

My association with tents comes from the first time I spent an extended amount of time in them. It was 5-week trip through Ecuador I did in college with a group. We lugged the tents up there in our backpacks and then huddled in them to stave off the cold of the Andes. I remember one of my tentmates, Ted, retelling the entire movie of Dead Calm with no interruption since we had nothing else to do. Then we sweltered in the humidity of the Amazon jungle in tents where we squished ants and spiders and talked about our dreams of what we’d be when we were full-fledged adults. I can still replay my tentmate, Lisa, talking at length of how great an ice cube would feel sliding over her forehead. We’d take to our tents every afternoon on a beach near the Galapagos that had no shade and told stories about things we’d seen on the trip.

So for me, tents are not only a base for adventure but also a safe place to lie on your back and just listen. Listen to your tentmates, listen to the wind and the rain on the nylon, listen to your heart beat in a new place where nothing is familiar.  To me they smell like hard work, feel like closeness, look like a kaleidoscope view of the world outside them, taste like crappy food that you are just so grateful to be eating and sound like everything you can’t hear when you are too close to life as usual.

No wonder I’m excited about back yard camping with my little ones even though the ground feels a little harder than when I was young. It was hard to go to sleep with all the excitement and the steady rain on the tent and we only made it til 4:20am and the birds woke us up. And maybe they’ll need their own adventures before we’ll really know but I can’t wait to find out what they associate a tent with!

How about you – how do you feel about tents?

Life Lessons

Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending.” – unknown

The other evening on a clear night my kids and I were out riding bikes. As I pumped up a hill, my two-year-old son sitting on the back on my bike noticed the moon bright in the sky. He softly said, “I want to hold the moon.”

It’s a good thing parents and lovers aren’t omnipotent. I assume it would result in the moon being pulled out of the sky on a regular basis.

A few days later my 6-year-old daughter was excitedly awaiting a new clock to arrive from Amazon. She was so excited to have the very first clock that she picked out herself and could set the alarms on. I question why she’d want to start with alarms so early in life but keeping my opinion to myself, helped her track the package. On the day it was supposed to arrive, the status went from “out for delivery” to “undeliverable” right before bedtime.

My daughter was so disappointed. Rightly so and exacerbated by being tired. In that moment, I would have driven the Amazon truck myself to make sure there wasn’t a tired six-year-old lamenting about unpredictability.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m teaching my kids. Fortunately life partners with me so that I have plenty of opportunities to talk about what we dream about. I get to review what we can and cannot control. And I can demonstrate how we can to flex our muscles of patience and perspective when things don’t work the way we want.

Gratefully, I have the chance to assure my kids that we might not always get what we want but we always get what we need. And remind myself of the same along the way.

(featured photo from JOOINN)

Big, Scary Dreams

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I got this fortune cookie “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough” when I was waiting on the results of my first ultrasound for my 2nd child. Since I’d undertaken the whole parenting endeavor intentionally as a single person, I could definitely attest that I was scared.

I carried in my purse all through that pregnancy and now it’s taped to my cupboard. I know that I’m not the only parent to wonder now that I have kids, do I still have the right to dreams that scare me?

Dare to Dream

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I had three days this past week where both of my kids were at school/daycare. Do you know what I did? Nothing. Well, not nothing exactly.

I allowed myself to believe that we could start to find a regular routine for school and work.

I relaxed that core part of my body that has been holding me upright for 18 months as I’ve been afraid that if I didn’t stand tall my little family would crumble.

I breathed in to the space created by being able to give up the jobs of teacher, school janitor, lunch lady, PE coach, and school social coordinator for a 6-year-old.

I dared to dream that I might have some energy left for me to grow as we return to more normal days.

Like famed psychiatrist and author Dr. Scott Peck answered when asked how he gets so much done – “it’s because I spend two hours a day doing nothing.” I suspect doing nothing looks different for every person – meditating, reading, praying, playing but out of it comes a renewed spirit.

I think of all the hard times I’ve gone through – divorce, grief, sickness, this pandemic and how there’s an inflection point where all of a sudden I realize that I’m through it. Not that I believe that this pandemic is done, especially because my kids are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and not the day-to-day was bad. It’s just that I was holding back a little reserve in order to gut it out.

When I first started mountain climbing, a guide taught me how to pressure breathe. To breathe out so forcefully that all the stale air in the lungs is expelled and it is possible to take a full inhale. The last three days feel like one big pressure breath, an exhale so powerful that I feel invigorated by all the fresh air I was able to breathe in.

And all that extra energy reminded me that it’s been a long time since I believed that I could really dream about what else is possible in my life. That’s what I did for the last 3 days – dreamed big, audacious dreams.

Newfound Celebrity

Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” – Allen Ginsberg

On Tuesday night my daughter was on the news. It was a complete fluke. I rounded my kids up to go out for popsicles about 10 minutes from where we live instead of our go-to gelato place up the hill. The popsicle place was closed so we ended up going back to the usual place in our neighborhood. When we got there a camera crew was wanting to interview the gelato staff about how people are dealing with the upcoming heat wave. We were at the counter and they asked if they could interview us outside. I had no desire to be on camera but my soon to be 6-years-old daughter was excited so I said “yes” for her benefit.

They were so gentle and asked her lots of questions about how she plans on beating the heat. She said she was excited for it because, “Let’s see, I think I’d go to spray parks.” And whether she minded the heat and she answered she didn’t because it was special to eat ice cream in the heat because otherwise “It’s not so special because it’s not so hot.” Those were the quotes they used – she answered all their questions pretty darn well and when it was done she said. “It’s my dream come true to be on tv.” All before she is 6. 🙂

My toddler just got to sit at the table and eat his gelato which he did enthusiastically because I think he was happy to be able to just sit there without anyone messing with his portion. But as they zoomed in on his face, his sister’s spoon enters the frame and steals a bite so the encroachment that is his lot in life was well-documented on tv!

And they asked me questions too. I’ve done some public speaking and also a lot of training classes so I was surprised at how different it was to be interviewed. I felt this complete tunnel vision so that I couldn’t think independently of what they were asking me. And this was just a fluff piece! I felt so much sympathy for anyone being interviewed or questioned about anything serious. It made me sense how strongly we seek approval when we speak.

As they were wrapping up and we were finished with our ice cream, my daughter asked for the car keys. I told her no because there are good reasons to be on the news and bad reasons to be on the news. The camerawoman overheard this and laughed. My daughter asked what the bad reasons to be on the news were. As I ticked off because you’ve been in an accident or have done something wrong, I was glad to see that her newfound celebrity hadn’t pierced her curiosity and independent thinking in the least!