Sunsets, Sunrises, and Sprinkles of Enjoyment

19 Aug

I wanted to watch the sunset and feel that moment of exhale marking the end of the day.  I wanted to see the sun in the early morning and feel the tranquility of the quiet among the warmth and nature.

And the Grand Canyon gave it to me in the best way.

After our little adventure in Radiator Springs we took the train to the Grand Canyon and that was the second part of our adventure. The kids hadn’t ridden the train before and it was a great way for them to travel and see the landscape. Now there was a mix-up with the reservations, and in truth, that burned me out. They gave us the wrong car, when we had actually paid more to be in a different car, but the kids didn’t seem to mind, and in the end we were reimbursed and our reservations on the return trip were secured. Those small details were just that … small. The kids were busy enjoying the ride itself, the thought of being on vacation,  on a train, and the adventure of travel.

And so to break away from the mood, I looked out the window and got lost in the scenery. It’s a good way to travel, especially with kids, and especially after the long drive to across state lines.

 

When the train pulled up to the station and we walked onto the platform being there, knowing that we had made it, felt good. We roamed around a bit before heading toward a viewpoint … an amazingly breathtaking viewpoint cast with clouds and shadows and the cool sprinkles of monsoon season.

Experiencing the Canyon during rain and lightning is a pretty amazing way to meet nature. It was a welcomed change from the 100-degree heat I was experiencing.  So I was one of the few people standing out in the rain, letting the drops hit me, checking out the Canyon, and breathing in the fresh air.

Now when the lightning began to pick up every few minutes, I thought it would be safer to catch that show from the safety of the bus, as did my kids, and the rest of the family. We cruised through the Rim of the Canyon and made it to the cabin to relax a bit before dinner and sunset watch. The rain was only supposed to last few hours so the sunset would still be an awesome moment for us.

And I don’t know what it is about sunsets that makes me find Zen in them, they happen every day. Maybe it’s the fact that all kinds of pinks, purples, and orange shades fill the sky and enhance your surroundings. It’s a call for the end of the day and for things to wind down. It’s a call to remember that the day is done, and now you take a moment for gratitude.

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Just amazing…

So we sat there at the edge, overlooking the Canyon, watching the sun go down, taking our pictures and having a moment worthy of the Awesome Jar. We walked through the trail to the outdoor amphitheater and listened to one of the Nightly Nature Ranger Talks. That night we learned about the amazing vertical leap and long jump capabilities of the the Mountain Lion. Even if you think you’re far enough or high enough … you’re not. That Mountain Lion will catch you if it wants to … luckily most times it doesn’t want to.

Now I really enjoyed the sunset and evening lecture, but I was looking forward to the early morning run along the Rim. Being up that early, surrounded by the quiet, and awesomeness of the Canyon filled me with peace and awe. It was the kind of morning where nature and the Great Outdoors affects you, where if you’re feeling a little lost you manage to find your way, where you realize things are possible.  It tells you that today was no accident, today there was a purpose.

I found gratitude during moments of sunset and sunrise and that helped set the tone for the rest of the adventure. The days were filled with hikes, fossil walks, Native American Dancing, visiting landmarks, getting Junior Ranger badges, purchasing souvenirs, and exploring the rest of The Canyon.

It was a good adventure, the kind of good you needed because it was missing for a little bit, the kind of good you still feel after you’ve left someplace because that someplace still gives you peace during chaos, the kind of good that leaves sprinkles of enjoyment throughout the rest of the month when you close your eyes and remember.

Buen Camino, my friends.

 

 

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I Found Radiator Springs On The Way To The Grand Canyon

5 Aug

Staycations are my jam.

With two kids active in sports throughout the school year, the summer budget for Destination Vacations Extraordinaire often become limited. But this year I decided to find an adventure, either road tripping or checking out the scene from an airplane above, this was the year we took a mini-vacation and explored something awesome that was not in our neighborhood.

I also thought it would be a good present for all of us seeing how July was full of birthdays and we didn’t have a grand celebration, travel and adventure would be our gift.

So … we took on The Grand Canyon. But I decided to make it more than just a driving road trip … we’d take the train too. The Grand Canyon deserved that.

It’s one of the most amazing forces of nature I’ve witnessed and thought it would be a great way to explore the outdoors and appreciate a little corner of our country that the kids had yet to discover. We had a couple of crashers joining us, as my family came into town and decided to see The Canyon too. I had no idea they hadn’t experienced it. Seeing how I’d been there and gone white water rafting before I had kids, I felt like I had a good sense of where we could go. But seeing how it was family and multiple personalities vary at times, we thought it best for everyone’s sanity and comfort that we take two separate vehicles and travel with plenty of leg room in caravan fashion. Best. Decision. Ever.

The road trip began with 80s and 70s songs, as well as the kids’ feel-good songs from current artists. Goodbye Stranger by Supertramp, followed by Funkytown, Earth Wind and Fire, and Duran Duran were some of the highlights that pumped us up while sitting in traffic. I feel that the Car DJ’s biggest responsibility is ensuring the mood in the car remains at a steady I-Woke-Up-Today-and-I-Feel-Good-Like-Saturday-Morning Cartoons-When-I-Was-A-Kid-Good kind of feeling.  You need a good car DJ until the radio gives out on you and all you hear is static. It’s about that time that movies come out on the road trip … Kung Fu Panda and Cars were in the possible in-transit movies for the day, and then an awesome podcast for the adults in my car. I had no idea what type of hangry was going on in the other car, but I imagine everyone had a different road trip routine to keep the journey fun.

But I didn’t think of the heat.

The fact that it was 114 degrees the day we left worried me a little. There was a fire right off the highway and a detour needed to be taken. The Arizona climate will be hotter than this I thought … I was grateful for over packing gallons of water and sunscreen. Adventure awaits in heat or rain, the journey is there.

But I had no idea Arizona, or The Canyon, had something called monsoon season. It was a sweet 86 degrees when we arrived at our first overnight pit stop. Williams, Arizona.

 

 

I felt like a tourist walking around in the evening through town and at peace when I woke up for my early morning run.

 

 

We stayed at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. The rooms and staff at our hotel were very welcoming and pleasant.

 

 

Everyone in our caravan was satisfied with the place, and that definitely says something. There are a lot of strong opinions in this travel posse, so the fact that everyone enjoyed the hotel after a long drive was a bonus.

Stopping by this little Radiator Springs kind of town made me feel like Huell Howser. I loved Huell Howser and his travel programs. If you don’t know Huell Howser you need to look him up … you probably have someone like that in your neck of the woods. He enjoyed uncovering hidden gems, exploring all parts of California, and inspiring others to get to know the awesomeness of their state. It definitely brought some needed energy, and curiosity zest for the journey.

I was enjoying the vacation me … and this was only the pit stop.

Stay tuned …

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

 

Shark Week Welcomes 43

29 Jul

I don’t know how you could forget, but apparently it happens.

I didn’t do anything extraordinary on the last day of 42, wish I had but it sort of snuck up on me … I wasn’t paying attention to time and before I knew it, there it was … the last 24 hours of being 42. Even though I didn’t wine and dine myself, I did take a moment to pause at the end of the night and breathe in moments of gratitude throughout the day. Hanging out with a friend who made me smile … that was something to be grateful for and binge watching episodes of Shark Week? Dude. C’mon! The fact that Shark Week landed on the week of my birthday?! That was adventure enough.

I love Shark Week. It infuses a great sense of curiosity and admiration for all the great whites, hammerheads, tiger sharks, blue sharks, makos … all of them out there. It’s an appreciation for the adventurous marine biologists, shark experts, and camera people swimming out in the deep trying to capture the breach or tag and track and discover other amazing facts about this animal.  I love the excitement of it all and the intensity of the powerful and beautiful shark.

Plus I always love the metaphor about life that often comes during this time …

 

 

I enjoy hanging out and watching this every year with my kids. So on the eve of my birthday I sharked out! The next morning we took a staycation to the beach and checked off another bucket list adventure. My kids and I had been wanting to do for a while and seeing how it was Shark Week, I felt it was totally fitting in with the theme. Plus can’t go wrong going to the beach during Shark Week. It’s definitely meant to happen.

Standup Paddleboarding.

Considering that it’s been in the 100-degree-heat range in my neck of the woods, the early morning cool cloudy vibe at the beach was a welcomed site. But I just didn’t want to relax and hit the boogie board, I wanted a little something extra and so I booked a little hour and change adventure that even my daughter would enjoy. Standup Paddleboarding was something my son and I always wanted to try, but we just never got around to it, or my daughter quickly vetoed the idea.

But we found a way to make it happen this year and it was a good way to start the birthday morning. The fact that the waters were calm and we saw two giant seals swimming alongside made for an even better outing. We couldn’t believe how close we were to these huge animals and the thought of them bumping the board or flipping over didn’t occur to me until my daughter mentioned it. But I assured her that they were on their way and we were on ours and everybody would be fine. Everyone’s just enjoying the ocean. There was balance.

And finding balance was key that day, and I was glad that we made it out to the ocean that day, glad that my feet felt the cool water on the board and I wiggled my toes, glad that I found peace in a cloudy morning, glad for my kids mastering that boogie board in the afternoon, glad for the Happy Birthday song my kids sang to me, glad for the crunchy fish tacos for dinner, glad for the awesome DJ skills I had and the feel-good-songs that infused me with positivity and nostalgia on the long drive home, and glad for the chocolate cupcakes I baked for myself and the birthday wish that went along with it. Glad that I found the moments that day, moments that made me live like it was Shark Week. 43 …  Shark Week welcomes 43.

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Nice view on a birthday during Shark Week …

 

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

10 … It’s A Moment

22 Jul

I saw him, still asleep in his Star Wars pant pajamas and green Pokemon shirt. His bedhead hair looking like the best Flock-of-Seagulls-Billy-Idol masterpiece in desperate need of a haircut. But as he puts it … I’m on vacation mom.

It had been a decade and I couldn’t believe it. I knew it was gonna happen, I mean with science and time and all that, I knew 10 would be coming. It comes for everyone if you’re lucky. Every birthday matters, but this one sat with me a little longer.

I was in the moment. I stopped and looked at him for a bit before his sister came in ready to hug and squeeze and squish the birthday boy until smiles and laughter filled the room.

I was trying to stop time with my Jedi mom mind powers. Just for a moment …

He woke up to hugs, smiles, and our annual birthday song, courtesy of the Beatles. The day had officially begun and years 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, were gone. He was in double digit territory now, but that didn’t mean the years were lost. They were still there sitting beneath the surface, nestled in his heart … 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 with all the memories they created.

The chocolate cakes with the chocolate frosting, the love for jumping in the pool and the power of the cannonball and it’s amazing splash potential, the fun in water slide adventures, the love for Word World, Wonder Pets, Sesame Street, and Mighty Machines, and how that turned into a love for America Ninja Warrior, Running Wild with Bear Grylls, Forged in Fire, Shark Week and anything involving STAR WARS, Superheros DC or Avengers. The enjoyment of those plastic golf clubs and baseball bats and how that developed into hockey, tennis, and anything where you get to hit a something.

10 brings up hundreds of books and night time reading favorites. 10 brings memories of his laughter that starts as a giggle and then turns into a full blown crack up. 10 brings memories of his early-riser pleasant nature, nothing grouchy about this kid in the morning, and his love of morning cartoons. 10 brings memories of meeting his baby sister in the hospital and being excited to see her. 10 brings memories of all the feel-good songs he used to get his day started and pump himself up, of the awesome dance moves that came with those songs. From One Direction, One Republic, Maroon 5, Cold Play, Michael Jackson and U2, to Aerosmith, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Earth, Wind and Fire, and The Beatles. 10 reminds me of all the Famous Amos and Oreo cookies gobbled up after pizza, pasta, tacos, or burritos, of the chocolate chip pancakes in the morning, and grilled cheese sandwiches or In-and-Out burgers at lunch. 10 reminds me that something special just happened and I better hold on to the rest of this ride … it’s gonna be an epic.

And we created a new memory, a Sandbucket List Adventure to celebrate double digits.

After morning celebrations and birthday present unwrapping, we headed off to the Go Kart race track where my speed machine revved his very first engine.

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Even though I was a little nervous seeing him up against teenagers and preteens and the speed in which they zigged and zagged, I didn’t have that crazy mom moment. I just smiled and said good luck, and remember the red lever is the brake. He only crashed four times on the hairpin turn in his first race but still managed to come in third place. His competitive nature propelled him forward in his other races. He inched his way to first place in his last two races. Four races in all and he felt awesome after each one.

And I was glad to have witnessed it.

Year 10 was filled with Go Kart Driving adventures, XBox challenges on NHL 17, and dinner at our favorite Italian place. Chocolate gelato included.

The birthday wish was saved for the chocolate cupcake at home. The birthday song was just like every year, loud and happy, but this chocolate frosting felt a little more chocolatey.

10 …. it’s a moment.

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

 

 

Celebrating With Napoleon-Dynamite-Soul-Train-Solid-Gold Dances on Cloudy Days

15 Jul

So I stood there with my chocolate cupcake and chocolate frosting stopping time. Thinking about a day filed with tropical fish, jelly fish, penguins and sharks thinking about the seven years this amazing person has been in my life, mixed in with the eight-year anniversary of an awesome person leaving.

My daughter’s 7th birthday and my Dad’s passing.

It’s not a fun thing to feel a twinge of sadness on a day marked for happiness. It helped to remember that he liked to celebrate life on birthdays. My Dad enjoyed the sweetness of chocolate cake and frosting. He battled depression, but enjoyed laughing and feeling good. He didn’t like sadness and wanted to feel good, so he did what he could to make that happen. And that hard. He had his ups and downs, but he tried and succeeded on most days. Any chance at smiling he took it.

And so … on my daughter’s 7th birthday I did just that.

Any chance for smile and I took it.

Turning seven … that was something to smile about. The adventures of this little Ninja Warrior take me beyond smiles and go deep into laughter. She’s been the Rainbow Brite of my life during cloudy days.

On the last day of being six she mastered the blue and green water slides at the pool and cannon-balled her way to the 4 1/2 feet section of the pool.

“You don’t need to catch me,” she says.

On the last day of being six I didn’t catch her. But on the first day of being seven, I gave her the squishiest hug and the funkiest dance as we listened to the Beatles sing Today is Your Birthday.

I celebrated her contagious laughter and her impromptu Napoleon-Dynamite-Soul-Train-Solid-Gold Dancer caliber happy dances after something good happens to her. I celebrated the awesome softball player she grew into. I celebrated the love she has for art, painting, drawing, coloring, and anything in the Bob Ross world. I celebrated her love for Multi-Grain Cheerios as her favorite breakfast meal, Mortadella and Salami sandwiches as her favorite snack, and black beans any time of day. I celebrate her enjoyment of baking cakes, cookies, and cupcakes, and laugh when she doesn’t want to eat them and just taste the frosting. I celebrated her adventurous spirit and willingness to give any kind of rollercoaster a try, as long as she meets the height requirement. I celebrated her love for hugs, that part I think was passed down to her from my Dad. I celebrated her love for the If You Give A Mouse a Cookie series of books and TV show. I celebrated her for being a caring sister who loves her brother so much that sometimes she bursts his personal space bubble. I celebrate her for being smart, strong, and sensitive at the same time. I celebrated her love for penguins at the aquarium and her first time touching baby sharks.

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We celebrated turning seven with a Napoleon-Dynamite-Soul-Train-Solid-Gold Dancer caliber happy dance and that made any twinge of sadness disappear. I laughed and felt joy and I knew if my Dad was watching that day he would be cracking up too and feeling joy. His spirit still lives in me and in his granddaughter.

 

Buen Camino my friends!

 

 

 

 

Mixed Tape Moments

6 Jul

I’m getting the hang of these moments … you know the ones you want to capture … like an awesome mixed tape. I found me some this week, just hanging out with my kids and going on our little day adventures.

I’ve made it a habit to stop time and just appreciate the little moment on the couch during movie night, or reading the newest title from the library, or laying in bed in the dark and just feeling the cool side of the pillow on my face and being thankful for the comfort it brings me.

With everyone I know having so much success in their life, and having all the dots connect, I’ve learned not to pay attention to their race or their place in it. I’m happy for them, but I’ve finally learned that I’m running on a different course, so I shouldn’t feel less because my I’m still walking the trail, while they’re at the finish line. I learned to pick up the moments. And I learned that everyday has some, I just have to remember to catch them. That’s what’s gonna mess me up. Paying attention to others and not catching my own moments can spiral into a crappy day.

But I think I’m getting the hang of it.

Just this week I caught one. Hanging out in the Great Outdoors and I just looked up and caught it. I snapped the shot and thought … yeah … this moment deserves it’s own mixed tape.

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I looked up from the cave and it just stood there.

The possibility.

The twists and turns of the day. The moment where everything can get sidetracked or move a step in the right direction. It stood there. The possibility.

The someday.

That someday was caught, and I caught it. Someday thoughts are what make memorable moments. Someday thoughts are the springboards of dreams. Someday moments light a fire under you so that you can start chasing it, and then it no longer becomes someday because you catch up to it and it becomes today.

The someday I found. I captured it.

I marked it with a picture on my broken down iPhone 0 and remembered. I may not have the house. I may not have the corner office with an assistant outside my door. I may not have pictures posted on a Facebook feed detailing the awesomeness of my universe and all its adventures. But I got the substance of a good life, the kind that deserves a mixed tape.

Buen Camino, my friends …

 

 

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A New Discovery

24 Jun

All or Nothing.

It sat there on my list for a while and then in the middle of a Thursday night I decided to hit the play button.

Remarkable.

The amount of intensity, drive, and humility surprised me. I heard of it, but had never watched it before. The All Blacks changed everything.

The Haka alone is a mesmerizing part of their tradition. A moment of connecting to their past, to their culture, and to their present The Haka is a hallmark of New Zealand rugby.

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The All Blacks performing The Haka

And the thing is they don’t do it for the cameras, or for the show, they do it for themselves, as a way to connect and prepare for the battle that is about to take place. I appreciated the connection and tradition.

I had no idea what rugby was about, but this series schooled me.

As far as sports documentaries go, this one changed my perspective. Rugby is a brutal sport, asking athletes to be warriors on the field, yet demanding that teamwork , heart, and unity be at the top of the list. What’s best for the team is a mentality that drives them all. Talented and humble. These are values I try to instill in my son and values I found among the All Blacks Rugby team from New Zealand.

Now I know there are rugby teams all over the world and they may share these values as well, but it was something about the All Blacks that drew me in. Just as the championship eras of the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and New York Yankees, the All Blacks seem to have  fierce following across New Zealand and the globe.

And I’ve just discovered them.

Now it wasn’t so much their domination of the sport, but the added down to Earth characteristic of these players and their heart that stood out. They’re there to win, no doubt about that, but what drives them is not letting their teammates down, not letting their families down. The unselfish play is necessary.

I wish they had more of that value present in other sports. I mean I know there are a lot of unselfish players out there in every sport, but the light rarely shines on them. It’s given to the players with flash. The click-bait.

I appreciated that talent, hard work, perseverance and team unity were central to this series. That even though it is an extremely intense, physically and mentally demanding sport, that character and team matter most. It’s give it your all. Leave it out there on the field. With The All Blacks it really is All or Nothing. There’s no in-between because you only got one shot to wear the jersey on game day.

I’ve only just scratched the surface and can’t wait what else I discover.

Buen Camino, my friends!

 

 

 

 

Alternate Universes with The Wire on Father’s Day

17 Jun

I haven’t been able to perfect the superpower of fending off jackasses with magic bracelets or a golden lasso. I’m not on the Wonder Woman level yet.

But I get plenty of practice without asking.

I knew Father’s Day was going to be hard, but it was a rough one today. On all levels from the early morning, until the moment I started typing this post. It’s been a day I wish would end. And the sad thing is I actually practiced some positive thinking and positive vibes this morning, but the universe sent me different energy.

Apparently I needed to brush up on those superhero skills. But instead all I felt was anger, frustration, and emotional exhaustion.

Random strangers being complete jackasses at the cemetery, the cemetery of all places! I thought at the very least since we’re all grieving people would respect the sanctity of the cemetery. But instead it ended up in a cage match battle of words with a no-holds-barred level of intensity and aggression. Then on top of that, people close to you just say the ugliest things that bring you down, knowing full well that this is a tough day.  I mean it’s no wonder we’re distant, friendship suffering and all. The toxic level is so high that I just can’t go through that again and I’m on the verge of just giving up on them.

All this negative energy and nastiness leaves me feeling teary-eyed about all the ugliness I went through today. I mean, I’m too old for this crap.

And of course, the worst part … it’s Father’s Day and I know that my day would have been completely different if my pops were here. I know it. I’m stuck in an alternate universe and have to keep figuring out how this ride is gonna end up without him here. I guess it’s the unfinished life and all the missed opportunities that really bother me. That feeling always increases on holidays like this.

In an effort to keep him around this week, I had a Season I and Season II binge-watching session of The Wire just to remember  what it was like hanging out with him, his commentary on Omar, McNulty, and Lester. I still think about him often, but days like this, my thoughts are extra heavy. You see about eight years ago on Father’s Day was the last time we spoke. I mean I talked to him every day in the hospital when I was on night shift, but Father’s Day was the last time we had a conversation.

It wasn’t a life talk, or lessons he had yet to teach me, or anything like that. It was about how he was feeling. And about The World Cup, that’s something that really had him excited. His prediction and his favorite teams. He had me record some games, so he could catch up when he got out. It was a to-be-continued conversation, really. Not a good-bye, more like a see you later. You see I didn’t think he was gonna die, I just didn’t. Not my Dad. But he did. So I was left with about a month-long of one-sided late-night conversations. Him listening to me, but not being able to respond. Those were the heartfelt life talks, for sure. So much was said, and I was glad I said it. And the thing is, I never wondered whether or not he heard me, I knew he heard me as I held his hand night after night.

And so I find it so difficult to get passed these days without him by side. I have no regrets because I told him everything I needed to, but I definitely wish he was still here. I wouldn’t need superhero power training and all, to fend off bad guys at the cemetery if he were around.

But he’s not.

So I keep things that he enjoyed close by and I hear his voice when I can … and so now I’m off to dreamland to dream a dream I hope he is in. Maybe we’re having a cup of coffee and talking about life, me drinking tea of course, him with his coffee, black two sugars. Or maybe we’re just watching the The Wire. I’ll let you know how it pans out.

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Happy Father’s Day everyone.

Buen Camino …

 

 

 

Hugs and Moments of Silence

10 Jun

He never knew who Michael Jordan was, but learned more about him this week.

You see, my son had to once again learn a life lesson, but this time it came through the world of sports.

Now not everyone is a superstar, but everyone has something to bring to the table. Some are offense, some defense. Everyone thrives in a different environment. But hearts can be broken no matter what side of the ball you’re on.

He loves hockey and baseball, and does really well in both. In fact, he often practices during the off-season, and while the big selection process took place this week, he’d been practicing his drills, skating, and watching videos online.

He was ready. He felt ready. He took the ice, just like Andre Agassi would take the court. A monster on defense. Now as a parent, I know many inflate their kids’ achievements and spread it on pretty thick. However, I know my kid. I know he’s not Wayne Gretzky  … he’s still a work in progress. But he falls in the upper levels of the spectrum there. So when he was not selected to the top shelf team and was chosen for what was considered the JV Squad, it was a serious burn. His spirit deflated, and his confidence crushed. He had worked so hard.

It was difficult to watch  …

I had to step up my parent game. This was when I needed my cape and superpowers in tact.

Keeping your head up when disappointment punches you in the stomach is hard. I’ve felt it plenty of times in life, so I knew what he was going through. I put my arm around his shoulder and we just sat there for a minute.

I had to bust out my best Friday Night Lights Coach Taylor Speech. But I waited until we  left.

I’m proud of you. I think you gave it everything you had and I saw it. Your old coach saw it. You saw it yourself. You walked off the ice knowing you had no regrets. And that’s how it should always be no matter what. You’re  a good hockey player.  And you’re an even more amazing person. Sometimes we just have to work a little harder because people don’t see what we see. They missed it. You know who Michael Jordan is, right? …”

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Everyone had this amazing picture made into a poster up on their wall … I was still  Magic Johnson fan. Always. But for the purposes of this story I needed Jordan.

 

We sat on the bench, outside the pizza place, for a little while longer. He listened to Jordan’s origin story, and how when he was a kid he got cut from the team. He wasn’t even picked. But that didn’t stop him from making a monster comeback. He knew they had missed it.

There wasn’t much to say after that. Sometimes as a parent, I’ve learned that hugging works well during moments of silence.

Buen Camino my friends …

Finding A Way

3 Jun

It wasn’t intentional but it happened anyway. I stepped away for a minute.

Apparently I’d been carrying a heavy emotional workload and was unaware of this burden. It was emotionally draining and produced an unexpected writing sabbatical.

The last week of school happened and emotions were fully charged in everyone’s hearts.  Some fifth-grade moms in tears, some fourth-grade moms with emotional anxiety of what was to come next May. I overheard countless conversations about how these moms didn’t know how they were going to handle their kids graduating from elementary school, how their kids turned 10 this year and how fast that decade passed. This realization hit them as the school-year came to an end.

But this wasn’t something that made me sad.

The year hadn’t gone by fast at all. Our family had the power to stop time when life was good, with gratitude talks at night and notes in The Jar of Awesome. We also found a way to move ahead when life was crappy and things didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. The year moved at just the right roller-coaster speed.

But I was happy the school year had ended.

While it was an amazing year of triumph, growth, energy, and awesomeness for my daughter, it was a time of heartbreak, rough edges, disappointment, and life lessons for my son. This year was the most difficult for him and we haven’t even gotten to middle school.

That seemed to worry me.

I was happy for my daughter, but sad for my son. A tough spot to be in for a parent, but I imagine not the first time I’d be feeling this exact feeling. I imagine it happens often for parents. The ups and downs of family life.

And I know we’re supposed to go with the flow, but in truth I was relieved when the year ended. I was glad that my son didn’t have to deal with the harshness of friends who were no longer his friends, of eating alone during lunch because he didn’t know any of the kids in his new class, of kids who friends with him when they were in the same class, but who turned into acquaintances that sometimes said hello and sometimes didn’t because they no longer sat at the same table, or because he was into sports and they were into video games, or of being with a teacher who didn’t see his potential and wasn’t as inspirational as Stand and Deliver, but he still managed to find a way to get good grades make it to the end of the year.

The thing was he seemed all right. These social difficulties didn’t dent his spirit, as he’s always been independent. I’ve always tried to tell him not to follow the crowd, but to follow what makes him happy whether it lines up with what’s popular or not. He often played sports at lunch and got along well with the underclassmen. It was just difficult to see him have to find a way to get through the year instead of it just being a good year. It was the finding the way part … I thought that would happen when he was much older, but this lesson came early.

The year ended and relief set in and I had to take a moment.

As a parent I tend to worry a lot about what’s going on with my kid, is he doing all right, what happens at recess, how’s it going in science, why is this kid not your buddy anymore, how’s it going in class. All these questions pop up when I think about him, but when I was going to school, I don’t remember thinking any of these things myself as a student. I just went to school. I learned. I played tetherball and basketball. I studied. I don’t remember wanting to be cool or worrying about playing by myself. I always just played. I found a way to make it through school.

I had to remind myself of that. I had to remember that he’s a strong kid and that sometimes I worry more than I should about the ups and downs. And although there were times when chocolate ice cream and hugs needed to be there after school, most of the time fourth grade was all right. It wasn’t a spectacular year, but it was all right. He found a way, we found a way.

This year will still mark a decade of his life, but just part of it, the part filled with love of science and math, of playing America Ninja Warrior, soccer, and basketball at recess, of eating alone at lunch sometimes and being O.K. with it, of working on more book reports and oral presentations than any other class but being great at it, of knowing enjoying board games and Pokemon cards, of trips to the beach on Sundays, of watching Wild Kratts, Animal Planet, America Ninja Warrior, Star Wars, and Forged in Fire with his sister, of Boys Scouts, hockey games and baseball practice, of still letting me hug him before school and giving him my blessing, and of him charging me and hugging me tight everyday after school.

As we reached a milestone I was reminded of his innocence and resilience, of his heart and of his strength. As life didn’t turn out the way we expected this year, he found a way, (well together we found a way) turn things around. Hope you’re finding your way …

 

Buen Camino, my friends …