Head Wins (for now)

 

I was in my Sis’s kitchen twenty minutes or so before my nephew’s first day of 5th grade. Knowing that I’d be over to witness the event, Sis had a hot cup of strong, perfect coffee ready for me. As I take my first sips I watch as she gathers lunch items for her son’s lunchbox.  She finishes by nestling a sweet note under his sandwich.  I think about the days eons ago when I did the same thing for my kids.

I joke with my nephew saying, “So…what’s up with a yellow bus in the neighborhood?”

He rolls his eyes.  He’s not ready for summer to end.

Truth is, I feel the same.  Honestly, my entire being is still back at the beach.  My toes are in the sand and the book I brought but never open is cast off to the side as I gaze out at the ocean.

Apparently, some of the kids I queried while standing less than a half hour later at the bus stop with my nephew feel the same.  They aren’t ready for what seems like an abrupt end to summer.  “It’s not even labor day and we are back in school,” says one youngster.   There were seven or eight kids all with new backpacks, lunchboxes, and noticeably of course, new shoes, along with their parents waiting for the bus.  It’s not yet 8:15 and we’re all sweating as we stand waiting with the kids.  The Poodle had plopped himself down on the sidewalk and is panting too from the heat.  The humidity level is already high for what will be another scorcher of a day.  For one little one it would be her first time on a yellow school bus.  Wearing a blue dress with pretty pink shoes she was, understandably, a very nervous kindergartener.  Both mom and dad were witnessing this milestone day for their daughter.  Mom carried her little pink backpack while dad did his best to reassure.  It helped that her big brother would also be on the same bus.

As the kids broke off into their own circle the parents stood together and chatted about their summers.  Most everyone went to a beach over the summer.

Ocracoke morning

“We went to Ocracoke,” I say to one dad.

“Where is that?” he asks. I was not surprised at the question as it isn’t necessarily a hot Outer Banks destination.

So off I went only too happy to babble on for a good five minutes about our beach week in rustic Ocracoke.

“…and at one point,” I continued, ” I could look as far as the eye could see on my right and again to my left…and as God is my witness…I was the only person on the beach!  I felt like I had been deposited on uninhabited island!”

“Really?”

“Yes, really! There are no houses or high-rises on the beach.  In fact, there are no high-rises anywhere on the island.  The only structure you’ll see on the beach is a small wood lifeguard stand” I replied.

“Wow, I’ll have to check that out for next year,” he said clearly interested.

Later back at the house over my second cup of coffee and a delicious banana muffin that my nephew had made the day before, I thought about our first beach evening just two weeks ago.  At the time, we were dining at the Ocracoke Oyster Company, one of the larger restaurants on the island.  As we sipped on wine, Sis and I had our wheels seriously turning and our heads high in the clouds about ditching city life for Ocracoke Island living.

Hmm.  We’d add five to the population of roughly 591, eight if you count the pets,” I say wistfully.  “But where would we shop?  I don’t even see a real grocery store around.  I mean, there is an elementary school and at least one church but I don’t see any non-tourist stores here.”

At that moment our young server comes with our appetizers.  Oysters, calamari, and a basket of onion rings.   Without a pause I begin peppering her with questions (something I’m more bold at doing now that I am in my 60’s).  She is happy to answer our questions as she refills our water glasses.  Coming from New York, she answered a help-wanted ad for Ocracoke and left on the spot.  She’s been living on the island for most of the summer.  She’s not sure of her future plans but she’s having a blast so far.

Sis and I marvel at her fearlessness.  Oh to be young again….

“So, where on earth do you shop for stuff?” I ask.  “I mean, it’s not like you can order from Amazon all the way out here.”

“Actually, I order stuff all the time from Amazon,” she replied.

“Seriously?”  Seriously.

I asked another person, an older guy, who has lived on the island for twenty years.  He confirmed that he gets most of what he needs from Amazon.  He even joked that being a Prime member doesn’t help the Ocracokers much as purchases obviously don’t arrive next day.  I imagine a UPS truck on the ferry and think that must be one uberly cool route for that driver.

But here’s the thing:  I’m not sure about my Sis but after four days on the island, as charming as it was, my island-living dreams lessened considerably.  I asked any local that would spare two minutes how they liked living year-round on tiny Ocracoke.  While most folks were very upbeat it was unanimous that winters were particularly brutal.  “It takes a special someone to like our winters,” said one.  “Winters are downright dead with nothing to do,” said another.   One spirited woman that worked in a tiny gallery summed-up what most people said: “It’s freaking bleak here in the winter plus, I’d be as big as a barn eating non-stop and watching Netflix 24-7.”  She added that she leaves the island every winter spending a month or two away, traveling to exotic locales.  Last year it was Thailand.  This year it will be somewhere in Europe.

Though we enjoyed, unexpectedly, an Italian white wine from Venice during one of our nights, I start to dwell on the remoteness of Ocracoke island living not to mention the memory of that terrifying lightening and thunder storm which sounded to me as if the world was coming to an end.

Wine from our neck of the woods in Italy!

Ocracoke has its unpleasant side then.  Dramatic weather, bitterly cold winters, dreary, depressing, and dead for months on end.  Ah…Reality bites.  My romantic bubble has burst.  Sigh.

So yeah…realistically, I don’t have the luxury of the peripatetic life of a twenty-year-old and truthfully, even when I was that age I didn’t live free and footloose.  My heart says one thing…my head says another.  And yes, often –admittedly, perhaps too oftenmy head wins.

Though I am not ready for the proverbial rocking chair just yet, as boring as it may sound, my head now is all about quick access to a good hospital, preferably by car or ambulance and not by helicopter.  And I need the fun of a zoo, lots of museums and the promise of attending concerts, cultural events, wine tastings, and so much more.  Plus, I like touching and feeling stuff before I buy.  How would I manage without Target (weekly), REI (frequently) and Nordstrom’s (once in a blue moon)? Not to mention reliable internet access!

Yes, my head wins, for now.  All is good.  As I sit here with my heart at the beach I acknowledge that it will just have to be enough.  At any moment I can sit back, relax, and close my eyes and…with a slow and steady breath…the ocean is right before me.  I can hear the crash of waves on the shore and the gentle peeps of Sanderlings skittering about looking for food….

My only Ocracoke shells

It will do, I think… until next time. 

And there will be a next time.

There is bliss in that.

 

Blissed-out (mostly) on Ocracoke

It’s been a little more than a week since returning from our second summer adventure yet it feels more like months ago.  I’m lamenting already but hopeful that more adventures will spring up in the fall and winter.  For now, though I am still tackling the sand in the car, memories of a lovely week with my sis and family will have to calm the itch to pack another bag and be off somewhere….anywhere.

I’m listless and finding it hard to get back into the groove after truly doing nothing. The beach does that to me every time.

This time our destination was a bit more rustic than other beach trips: Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.  We’re no strangers to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. We’ve done a fair amount of vacationing there, mostly on the northern part of the barrier chain in Duck and Corolla. Admittedly, we haven’t really explored a lot of the 130 miles of the thin strip of these barrier islands; we tend to drop beach chairs down into the sand and veg for the duration of a week.  We hadn’t for example, ever driven beyond Nags Head and Roanoke Island, the very spot where I married Rocket-man years ago. Yep… The Lost Colony island of Roanoke.

Sis is the one who suggested this particular beach destination.  She and her husband, on a whim, spent an overnight on Ocracoke last year when returning from a beach stay near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  They were immediately smitten with its rustic charm.

“How do you get there,” I had asked at the time.   “Isn’t it the most remote island in the Outer Banks?”

“You take your car and ferry over,” she said.  “It takes about an hour.”

Away we go to Ocracoke!

“Wow…you put your car on a ferry?” I said in wonder.  I’ve taken ferries before.  It’s not that I don’t know the concept of vehicles on a ferry it’s just I’ve just never put my car on one.

Before heading to our Ocracoke (pronounces just as you see it: like the vegetable Okra and the soft drink Coke) adventure we made a pit stop in Manteo, on Roanoke Island. Sis and I wanted to see our great-aunt, family historian, Auntie Lou and her husband, our Uncle Jack. Auntie is in her 80’s and now needs a cane to get around but her mind is still pretty much sharp as a tack. Uncle Jack sat mostly quiet as sis and I peppered auntie with questions. It was lovely to spend a couple of hours catching up on life and listening to some family-tree stories. 

After we said our goodbyes we explored the area a bit, shopped, and decided on an early dinner as we planned an zero-dark-thirty departure for the Hatteras ferry the next morning.

The early morning sun shined happy as we drove through the little towns and quaint villages along the thin strip of land flanked by the Atlantic ocean on one side and the Pamlico Sound on the other.  I was excited to pass through the tiny town of Rodanthe, the locale featured in Nicholas Sparks 2002 tear-jerker Nights in Rodanthe, which was adapted into a film starring Richard GereWe also inched out way through Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, and Frisco finally arriving to Hatteras where we would take the ferry over to Ocracoke Island.  I was positively energized with excitement as we pulled into the Hatteras ferry station.  As we queued-up behind a long line of cars sis stepped out of hers which was several cars ahead of us. I thought for sure we’d be the first ones here given that we woke up before the roosters.

How long is this going to take?” I asked sis.  “There seem to be so many cars!”

“The line moves pretty quickly,” she said.  “You’ll see…maybe a half-hour, tops.  We’re just waiting for another ferry-boat to pull in.  Don’t worry…this is going to be fun,” she added as she hopped back into the car.

Ah.  She caught that hint of nervousness in my voice.

And fun it was! I was amazed that some folks stayed in their cars for the ride. The weather couldn’t be more perfect with the wind calm enough to be gentle on the hair…and yet there are people, sitting in their cars, sleeping or on their devices. I had to catch my myself in that moment of judgement: who am I to critique these folks?  Perhaps they make the ferry trip often enough that the novelty of it all has worn off.

Standing at the front of the boat, rows of cars behind me, I inhaled the experience into memory. I breathed in deeply, feeling the subtlety salty ocean air far to my left and the Pamlico sound air directly to my right. As I strained to see land I caught sight of flying fish which makes all of us watching ooh and aah at the spectacle. Before an hour is up we are slowly pulling into the Ocracoke ferry dock.

At sixteen miles long, and at its widest point, three miles across, Ocracoke is barely five feet above sea level so flooding is always an issue.  In fact, it rained two of the four days of our stay and large pools and lakes of water sprouted everywhere. There are no high rises or beach mansions so it’s mighty rustic as beach towns go.  As of 2014, an estimated 591 people live on the island year-round.  This “sand bar” of a place has some interesting history too.  For example, It was, understandably due to its remoteness, a favorite hang-out for pirates back in the day.  Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, frequently anchored just off the island.  Apparently it was his favorite anchorage spot and it’s where he ultimately met his demise in 1718.

Vowing not to let rain spoil our time, we managed to get to the beach everyday.   We frolicked a fair amount of time in the water on day two of our stay. My nephew had oodles of fun body surfing with his father and Zio “Luigi.”  I also spent more time than usual in the water thanks to the peace of mind of my newly purchased Sharkbanz, a device intended to deter sharks by way of upsetting their electroreception.  On advice by my dear friend, Miss Cookie who used the product during her beach week, I purchased one literally three days before our trip with only a quick perusal of the official website and a couple of YouTube videos. You can check out their site here: https://www.sharkbanz.com/pages/how-it-works

I had my Sharkbanz strapped to my ankle which, at first glance, could easily be mistaken for an ankle bracelet monitoring device for someone on parole or under house arrest.  “HA….let’s give ’em something to talk about!” I thought as onlookers noted my accessory as I played in the water on my boogie board.

Of course, it was only after my trip that I delved into more YouTube videos to see that on occasion the device doesn’t work!  Miss Cookie, had warned that Great Whites appear to be unaffected by the strong magnet device.  They stalk from a distance and then purposefully aggressively strike to kill. Still, Ignorance is bliss, I say. Even if it was but a placebo effect, my “fashion” accessory allowed me to spend hours in the water without worrying much about what lurked below the surface.  Later that night as I tossed and turned in the motel bed to the loud drone of the window unit air conditioner, I thought about my Starkbanz safely back in its proper box for storage.  How about similar devices to deter snakes…and spiders…and frogs that fall atop one’s head?!   Alas, sleep eluded all of us that night as powerful thunder and lightning tormented the tiny island for what seemed like hours.

Foggy-brained in the morning due to lack of sleep, we were all dragging just a bit.  At a quaint coffee shop around the corner, the Ocracoke Coffee Co., people were all a-twitter about the terrific storm of the night and all the rain that came with it.  As I stood in line for my java fix I caught bits and pieces of conversation from folks coming and going.

“What a night, eh?” said one guy who looked to be in his fifties.

“I know, amazing right? I just love lightning storms!” gushed the barista gal behind the counter. She sported Shamrock green braids gathered into a loose bun at the base of her neck. While I don’t have green hair I think I am stylin’ with my well-worn Chacos and Lululemon capris.  Still, I feel like a fossil in that moment as the general consensus of the morning chatter in the coffee-house was just how “freaking cool” that lightning show was.

Am I the only one on the planet who doesn’t find it particularly soothing to be squarely under a thunder and lightning storm?  As a side note, By chance I happened to read that last week severe lightning damaged the steeple of the Ocracoke Methodist church.  It took out the wooden cross.

Ocracoke Methodist Church – now missing part of its steeple and it’s cross.

 

Ponder on the meaning of that weirdness whilst I think of more Ocracoke tidbits to share….

A Roanoke relic in the brackish marsh….

Roadtrip!

A clock on the wall ticks rhythmically. It’s the only sound I hear in the otherwise quiet of this early morning.

I’ve got a cup of coffee in my hands as I take in the unfamiliar space around me. The silence is remarkable, not a peep even from a bird.

How is it that I am awake before the birds this morning?

The Poodle is curled up into a tight ball in front of the kitchen door. He is not home yet still he slumbers completely at ease as if it’s been his spot for years.  He has joined me on this last-minute get-away to visit Miss Cookie, my friend of more than forty-some years.

As I sip my coffee in the darkness of Miss Cookie’s comforting kitchen I rewind to some mornings ago when I decided on my impromptu adventure….

“….and I know you’ve got work and can’t take off so I’m gonna manage it solo,” I told Rocket-man as I laid out my plan.

“What about The Poodle?”  He asked.

“Well of course he is coming with me,” I answered.  Of course he’d be useless as my navigator but perhaps he’d help me stay awake.

The next day The Poodle knew something was afoot. He didn’t let me out of his sight as I went about the business of packing my sweet-green Patagonia duffel bag. Then, when he saw me bring up his travel bag from the basement, he was jazzed beyond measure.

Yee-haw are we going somewhere? his entire body asked as his feather-duster of a tail wagged excitedly.

The Poodle is literally busting with energy as he jumps on me, pawing me with questioning eyes: Where, oh where, oh where are we going?!

Little does he know that it’s not going to be a quick jaunt. He’s in for a five-hour car ride to North Carolina with his nervous ninny upright navigating solo.

I load my bag into the car along with The Poodle’s bag which contains his food and water dish and other canine necessities.  I didn’t even have to say “Go Car,”…he jumped into the backseat before I barely had time to situate his travel blanket.

“How funny you are my poodle-love, I remarked as I took stock of our travel gear.  “You jumped up with the swiftness of a puppy and yet you move like an ancient when I want you to go out for a walk!”

With hugs and kisses to hubby and promises from him that he would keep his cell phone glued to his hip and the ringer set to full volume during my trip The Poodle and I set off on our little adventure.

The drive down was fairly uneventful until two hours in, around Richmond, at which point the heavens opened up.  Heavy rain intermittently followed me for most of another three hours virtually until the turn into Miss Cookie’s neighborhood when the sun returned through a cloudy haze.

I let out a long, slow breath as I pulled into her driveway.  I did it! Praise be to technology; without a good navigation system there’s no telling where The Poodle and I would have ended up.

It was lovely to spend time with Miss Cookie and her husband Steve.  He’s a gem of a guy with the added plus that he rocks a bow-tie for business attire better than any GQ man I’ve seen.  For three days I was wined and dined as well as chauffeured to parts around the area.  For one, I was in search of dinner plates that I’ve had on my mind for a couple of years so we visited ten or more pottery studios around Seagrove, North Carolina, whose claim to fame is being “The Handmade Pottery Capital of the United States.” It’s a must-see stop.

You can see for yourself via this link:  http://www.heartofnorthcarolina.com/cities-and-towns/seagrove.htm

It was both curious and fascinating to meet talented potters living out in the country.

Lily Pond at one potter’s home in Seagrove, NC

One potter had the most amazing lily pond in front of her shop and another young woman with sparkling eyes and a happy glow about her had her dog Lola as her sidekick in her quaint shop.  I purchased a small decorative plate from her that caught my eye because the colors screamed happy to me.

My Happy Plate: Pottery by Dean & Martin, Seagrove, NC

 

We also made a pit stop to an Art center in town.  After a lunch of mixed greens adorned with grilled chicken Miss Cookie took me on a quick tour of a pottery classroom.  I knew that she had recently taken up pottery but didn’t know her husband has also been attending classes.

“Wow, I’m mighty impressed,” I tell my friend with sincere awe. The large classroom was both neat and messy at the same time. Rows of bowls, cups and other items in various stages of completion lined floor-to-ceiling shelves. I learned that potters are extremely generous folks. The Seagrove potters donate thousands to charity. And in this particular pottery studio/classroom in nearby Greensboro, many of tables filled with soup bowls that had already been fired will be donated to soup kitchens.

I watched a woman who looked to be in her late 60’s as she sat etching a pattern onto a mug.  “That’s lovely, I say, adding “the only thing I’ve ever created are two kids.”

“Oh, this…this is just doodling.  You can do this too,” she said looking up at me matter-of-factually. Well I know my sis would be a natural at this….but could I….ever? I wondered.

Later that night Steve managed to grill us up some delicious steaks in between bouts of pouring rain while Miss Cookie prepared veggies and a dessert to die for. In fact, days later, I’m still dreaming of Miss Cookie’s delightfully decadent chocolate Texas sheet cake.   A three-mile walk the next morning didn’t make much of a dent in the calories I consumed, but honestly, I cared not; I’d go face-down in that chocolate dream every night if I could!

I tagged along one morning when Miss Cookie had to keep a vet appointment for her cat Diego who had recently undergone surgery.  The doctor was pleased that Diego was recovering quiet nicely.  He also talked and talked….and talked (in fact, I think he may well be still talking).

There were interesting sights as well on the day before my return home as we spent a lovely afternoon visiting historic Old Salem, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The town is rich in history and one afternoon was not enough time to soak it all in.  For lunch we stopped at The Tavern in Old Salem. The family restaurant was built in 1816 as an annex to the 1784 Tavern. It is still a family owned restaurant today with a menu inspired by the Moravian families that lived in Salem in the 19th century.  I made a mental note to read up about the Moravians and the symbol of their church, the Moravian Star.  It is my limited understanding that the Moravian religion developed as breakaway protestant religion out of Germany and it’s been around for some five-hundred years.

Moravian Star

For lunch at The Tavern I stepped out of my usual fare and ordered grilled bratwurst over mashed potatoes with a side of sauerkraut.  Rocket-man scratched his head over this to be sure; I’ve always been emphatic about my disdain for that sour cabbage, but it wasn’t bad. I fell in love though with the spicy wasabi mustard; it provided a terrific explosion of flavor that was a wonderful compliment to the wurst.  I left feeling wonderfully satisfied, not to mention proud that I had enough restraint to skip on the pie that was screaming my name from the kitchen below. After lunch, as we walked through more of the historic district I knew that I’d have to make a second trip to this little town.

The drive back home was nail-biting.  Miss Cookie now has a second moniker to her name: “WC”, as in Weather Channel.  The Poodle kept one eye open from the back seat while I drove white knuckled through practically a non-stop deluge of rain.  I missed a turn in the confusion of consecutive eighteen-wheeler trucks passing me causing a moment of near blinding conditions as water splashed the windshield. At one point, I nearly threw in the towel as a voice in my head shouted “Go Back!” because there was so much water on the road. I kept my hazard lights on because visibility was that poor.  WC called several times, keeping me posted on the constant torrent of rain hammering the area.  As I neared Fredericksburg, VA things were definitely better with bright spots of blue sky amongst the heavy gray and only an occasional drizzle to give notice to.  I was feeling mighty fine about everything until WC called once again.  “Where are you,” she asked without preamble.

“Oh, I’m doing just fine,” I answered.  It’s not raining; the worst is thankfully behind me.”

“Are you near Fredericksburg?” she asked.

Hmm.  Is she tracking my car?

“As a matter of fact, I am.”

“What exit are you close to?” she pushes further.

“I’ve no idea.  I just know I’m within five or so miles.”

“Listen, I’ve been watching The Weather Channel and there is a tornado about ready to cross I-95 in Fredericksburg.”

Oh good grief!

I look to my left and see that westward is indeed not a pretty sight.

How is it I’m just noticing how deathly menacing the sky looks?!

WC’s voice cuts through my thoughts.  “They say it is going to cross somewhere around exit 142,” she says.  “Where are you?!”

“Oh lovely….I’ve just passed exit 138!  So…Okay then: instead of Dorothy and Toto, it’s CC and The Poodle flying off to Kansas,” I tell her trying to keep fear out of my voice.

She tells me to be careful and we say our goodbyes.  I step on the gas pedal and throw caution to the wind setting cruise control to nine miles over the speed limit.  “Let’s outrun this!” I say to The Poodle as I change the car radio channel from Sirius XM’s The Bridge to Symphony Hall.

Ah yes.  How about Franz Joseph Haydn to get me through the rest of the drive.

Before I roll into the driveway carrying another deluge with me straight into the garage, I get not one but two more calls from Rocket-man providing “doomsday” weather updates.  Between sis, Miss Cookie/WC and Rocket-man, how lucky I am to have people who care for my safety! 

A good five minutes later, after a welcome back hug from hubby and settling The Poodle with a bowl of fresh water I was out on the screened-in porch with a glass of wine in hand.  As I began to relax from the long drive I called Miss Cookie to let her know I had made it through the crazy weather and to thank her once again for a lovely visit.  Moments later she texted a picture of the downward slope just beyond her back yard.  The non-stop rain had turned the area into quite a lake.  Wowza!

Next adventure you ask?

The beach.

Bliss.  Am I right?  Oh yeah!

Raining Blue

No one saves us but ourselves.  No one can and no one may.  We ourselves must walk the path. –   Buddha

The morning air was as heavy as my heart as I listened to the music of Philip Glass while walking The Poodle.  The ground is still saturated from days of nearly non-stop pouring rain. We’ve finally had a break in the weather and with any luck from Mother Nature we won’t have any more rain through the weekend.  As I walk up the street towards my house I feel like I am pulling myself up out of a hole of quicksand.  I awaken from my thoughts to note that indeed, I am walking ever so s-l-o-w-l-y.

This is not my usual pace, I think.  Wow. Is my mood raining this kind of blue?! 

Let’s blame it on The Poodle.  He’s like a slug behind me though I think he’s happy for the slow pace, for once.  His snout has disappeared into a laurel bush just off the sidewalk.

“Come on,” I say as I pull on my stubborn love.   Out comes his head and along with it a snout covered in dirt.

We both drag on into the house.

Later I’m on the yoga mat trying to get into the rhythm of a practice that I had selected on Yogaglo.  I’ve been barely ten minutes on the mat when The Poodle decides to plop down, between my legs, smack dab onto the middle of my mat.

“Really dog!?” I say in exasperation as I nearly fall out of warrior II pose.

The sun shines warm through the window in front of us.  I can see that it is bathing my poodle in light and a comforting warmth. He looks content beyond measure.  I don’t have it in me to break up his happy place so I abandon the practice and instead reach for my little red pillow.

Now I opt to sit with Headspace Andy’s gentle voice.  I choose a twenty-minute guided meditation on managing stress as The poodle sleeps soundly by my side.

It was not easy to connect with my breath.  The “video” of two days ago is like an infinite slow-motion loop through my head-space.

So the “soft” kick-out took place.  My basement is empty once again.  Fortunately the day went without drama. No shouting nor expletives…no blaming or shaming.

Kind readers I am sure you’re scratching your heads over my blue mood.  After ten months of many purple minion moments you’d think I’d be doing cartwheels of joy across the living-room floor.

You’d be wrong.

My daughter calls to check-in.  She asks if we’re happy to have our basement back again.

“There is no joy in any of this,” I tell her with sadness coloring every part of my being the darkest blue.

My son has left in a position much like he arrived in.  He’s gone back to Pennsylvania.  He’s barely got enough to pay one month’s rent for a room that is smaller than the little study from which I write. And, his head is still stubbornly on backwards.

Sigh.

My efforts to make a difference seem to have been fruitless.  The bullet points of my plan (less than five to be exact) to help him help himself seems to have failed miserably.

I’m crushed. We have all been in the trenches with this soul for ten months and nothing worked.

I know, I know, I know….

Not my fault.

But still.….

I am the mom.

After the last item of what little he owned was loaded I hug him and tell him to be careful driving in the rain.

“You have it within you son to figure it all out and while you do so, never ever forget that I love you… to the moon and back and beyond.”

My thoughts inexplicably go to the ocean.  I see my eight year-old boy playing in the water.  He’s on a skimboard and he’s lost in the wonder of “skating” on sand and water.

The memory makes my heart swell.

There is bliss in that….

Flop 2.0

Kind readers, Parenthood 2.0 hasn’t been all that swell. Actually, It’s been an abysmal flop. I had hopes, though not high nor lofty….just hopes, that the second time at it, so to speak, would work out better…smoother. Alas, that was pie-in-the-sky dreaming.

Ten months ago my son showed up on my doorstep, penniless and homeless.  I told him to come, of course, when the call came from out of the blue.  I can remember that night as if it were yesterday.  After the call I had a hundred things swirling around in my head.  A do-over might be just the thing to break the estrangement …one that he initiated, I might add.

He rolled in around midnight looking nothing like the son I saw some four years prior. He said “Hi Mom. I’m tired….I need to sleep.”  Not even ten minutes later he was in the basement.  It’s been his cocoon since.

My bullet point plan to help him get back on track has been met with both stubborn resistance and absolute refusal every step of the way from day one of his arrival.   What was I thinking? I should have known I could never break through, after all he’ll be 36 once summer is over.

It is what it is now.

I seethe that his father enabled him financially for fifteen years.  His idea of showing love was not to get down into the trenches but to throw money from afar.   If our son would have been forced to fall on his face at 21 it would have been much easier to break bad habits, form new ones, LISTEN to sage advice, LEARN from mistakes…and so on and so forth.  In other words….GROW UP.

Of course that is just my humble opinion.  But, what do I know?  I’m just the mom.

I’m split into: one part of me knows unequivocally that I did everything in my power.   But the other part of me?  I feel like a complete failure.

I’m done, inside and out.

Once again I am showing him the door.

Once again he is nowhere near a path that will help him flourish…

It’s a cliché…but ever so true in our situation: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” 

My heart aches.

Tears dot my cheeks as I listen to music by Ludovico Einaudi.

Blue thoughts swirl around me as his soulful, contemplative notes linger in the afternoon air…

Will I ever be able to sleep without profound worry again?

Let it go! ….says a voice from somewhere.

Sigh.

Yes.  It’s all I can do in this moment.

Do I dare continue to have hope for him? 

Of course I do.  I will go to my grave taking hope with me…

I’m the mom.

My Love is infinite…To the moon and back and beyond…for both my son and daughter.

I’m reminded of a Tweet just this morning from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh

Nourish Yourself: The Buddha advises us to create the feeling of joy and happiness in order to nourish ourselves before we deal with the painful feelings.

I like that sentiment.  It’s just what I need now.

I think a walk with The Poodle is in order….

then perhaps a dip in the neighborhood pool.

Nothing like water –whether it’s from a swimming pool or the ocean–to wash the blues away.

There is bliss in that.

Breath of Fresh Air – White

I whacked my Dammit Doll on the counter so hard yesterday that I thought for sure it’s red-yarn tufted head would burst into a stream of its cotton-ball filling. The Poodle sat still as a statue nearby. I could feel his steely gaze, as if in judgement, as I let the moment of frustration wash over me.

“What’s got your knickers in a knot,” he’d say if only he could.

In a blink my outburst was over though it was followed by quiet tears.

I’m just so over all this man-child-in-my-basement drama.  Yet another time I’ve failed miserably to reach inside my son’s head and heart and get both headed in a better, healthier direction.

I’m thinking of his words as he walked out the door.  “Well if you want me to leave you should give me money.”

Talk to the hand son: Not going to happen.

I fix myself a cup of coffee and sweeten the moment with a cookie to soothe the ache in my heart. As I take a sip I realize that all the recent drama has clouded my head and heart with negativity and blue moods.

I look at my new kitchen…yes, NEW kitchen…and my spirit instantly brightens.

So, it’s been in the works for exactly a month. Our lives were in understandable chaos with a gutted kitchen and extremely limited means to create reasonably healthy meals.  Not to mention the constant presence of workers and The Poodle barking (A LOT!).   The inconvenience (and ear-splitting noise) of it all felt like years but in reality, the month has flown and we finally have a fully functional kitchen once again. With the exception of a few odds and ends that need finishing, we are absolutely thrilled with our breath-of-fresh-air new look.

Gratitude seems like a word over-used lately–in particular, without honest conviction– but honestly (and I know, kind readers, you all know it too), it’s a word that should be relevant every hour of the day.   Thankfully, I’ve become immensely better at practicing heartfelt gratitude especially when I find myself starting to wallow into a negative spiral of emotions.  Often, it’s just a long, deep breath that I need to get myself back to center.

And yes…sometimes it takes a prop….like my Dammit Doll.  Judge not until you try it: It really is a terrific stress-buster.

Inexplicably, my mind is a whirlwind of thoughts.  As I sit in my kitchen that has been transformed from darkness to a breath of fresh air, I’m filled with hope and a deep appreciation for every thing. From things large and small, happy and sad, the good, bad and the ugly, I’m grateful for everything that has colored my life so far.  Yes, It seems like such a cliché… but I am better for it all.

….Yes, even for the father that beat me and the ex-husband that stifled growth and joy because of fear and insecurity.

Holy Cow: It’s amazing what a white kitchen will do for you!

Before

 

 

After: A breath of fresh air!

In this moment, feeling blissful…

Clearly Commando

I stood at the spot for a good ten minutes. I was hoping she would return.  Perhaps I should give her another five minutes …maybe she’ll emerge from around the bend at which point I could wave her down…..

I thought of walking in the direction she went but given the myriad of paths she could have taken I’d be wasting my efforts not to mention that it was turning out to be another scorcher of a day.  The Poodle was already panting heavily from the short distance we’d covered so far.

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” I say to The Poodle as I bag my good intention and we continue towards home. “I’m sure she would have wanted to know that little piece of information.”

As I walk home I think about my preference and the flak I sometimes receive from going against the grain as it were.  I’m okay with that but it’s interesting how my preference irks folks.  I suppose It’s all about them wanting to show how “right” they are.

Okay, I am SURE you’re scratching your heads…..as in….Where in the world is she going with this?

So as I walked The Poodle this morning I spotted a woman out cycling.  She had just turned the corner not far in front of me.  I’ll admit to feeling wistful in that moment.  I haven’t been in the saddle (cycling) for a year now.  Between the move, family issues, and all the home repairs  going on (not to mention feeling just a wee bit depressed over being miserably out-of-shape) there just hasn’t been a good time.

As she cycles by I turn to look at her and it’s then that I see….

Oh my! That is particularly bad. In fact, the worst I have ever seen.

She should know.  How could she not know?!

Someone needs to tell her.

Which is why I stood for over ten minutes hoping she’d be cycling back in my direction.

Alas, I did not see her again.

Perhaps some of you die-hard cycling folks know what I’m referring to.  In fact, I’ll bet my next paycheck (Oh…wait…I’m not working now)….well, you get my drift.

So for those not in the know…..

Her cycling shorts were COMPLETELY threadbare in the back.  And yes, the material was so worn thin that you could see her derrière, bare as the day she was born.

In a nutshell:  The cycling world is somewhat divided on the issue of wearing undies under cycling shorts.  Those in the “commando” camp assert that its more hygienic to go sans underwear since there is a chamois pad that fits close to the body which is specifically designed to absorb sweat. It’s thought that wearing underwear doesn’t allow for sweat absorption, which may increase one’s chances of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI).    But really, their most compelling reason is to prevent chafing in the nether regions.   While I can absolutely attest to the merits of these arguments, the other camp–those who do wear undies– mostly women, simply feel more comfortable, modesty-wise.  If rides are short, wearing undies is more convenient when changing from bike shorts to other attire if, for example, you’re heading into the office.  In addition, that extra layer keeps bike shorts cleaner which means fewer trips to the washing machine, with an added bonus that your bike shorts lasts longer.

I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit to know….

Which camp am I in?

Suffice it so say that I’ve tried it both ways–from 100 miles in the saddle to ten, and I still feel more at ease with undies on.  With all the miles I have put in the saddle, I have never had a UTI.  Saddle sores?  Well…of course, but who hasn’t?!  Still, chafing is entirely manageable since I use plenty of Butt Butter (yes…folks, that’s what it’s called).  Multiple and generous applications of butt butter definitely helps keep the chafing down.

Butter to prevent chafing in one’s nether regions….

 

And why, might you ask, don’t I prefer the favored commando approach?

My personal preference is to strike a balance between modesty and function.  Obviously, I could have plenty of pairs of cycling shorts/pants in my cycle drawer and I could (and do) closely inspect them for wear before putting them on.  Still, I’ve seen far too many butts due to thread-bare cycling shorts.   I honestly don’t want the unintended consequence of barring my buttocks–as lovely as Rocket-man thinks it is– to the world.

 

 

An unintended consequence of going commando…..