It’s hard to believe how much bigger the kids are since the last time we visited our friend Sara’s lakehouse 2 years ago. They seemed so little the previous years we’ve spent our Fourth of July here. So much has happened to both our families in the past year, but there’s nothing like sitting out on the dock in the first morning light, taking in all the sparks of light that reflect off the water’s surface. This year the girls were able to swim across the lake to the other side of the dock, with flotation devices of course, but still an accomplishment. They marked their names on the inside of the living room closet, adding their names to the list of family and friends who have completed that swim in past years (never mind that they technically cheated). They’re etched now into the history of the house.
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Can never underestimate the importance of travel, even if it’s just a 4 hour drive away. Sometimes you need to break away from your life to gain perspective on some decisions you’ve been wavering on. I’m always eager to see something new. Time spent with family is good too. As my cousins and I got older, our big extended family stopped getting together for various reasons that our parents never shared. Sometimes years went by. It takes effort to stay in touch, but when it happens you realize how important family can be, especially now that a younger generation is involved. The kids really do love to spend time with extended family. It’s often not “what are we doing” that gets asked at holidays, but “who are we spending it with?”
I also met a long time online friend for the first time this trip. I feel like I haven’t been doing this as much as I have in the past, maybe because I think there was a period of time when I was closing in, but sometimes these meetings just feel right, like picking up a conversation where you had left off in emails, but in person. My friend and I walked around Boston for miles and miles. She showed me some of her favorite streets including Commonwealth Avenue which reminded me of a prettier Eastern Parkway here in Brooklyn. The magnolias were in peak bloom all along the avenue and it felt good to be moving, talking, and enjoying the milder weather and sunshine.
I recently made a set of decisions that I’m unsure of. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I coast solely on my gut and not on careful examination of the pros and cons. Well, let me back up because I think you all know I tend to overthink things. In the end though, even after endless deliberation, I go with my gut. I’m waiting to see if they were the right choices. It can be nerve-wracking.
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We’re spending a few days on the Massachusetts Coast this Spring Break. It’s beautiful, but cold. We’re happy to be by the ocean again and see rocky shorelines and hunt for shells and treasures. We’ve missed it.
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Can’t seem to get rid of the snow. Not when you have a storm every single week. Because just when you think that maybe some of that week-old frozen ice of a snow pile is ever so slightly starting to melt, this happens:
And the very next morning after a storm, more of this:
But I have to say, when I walked the girls to school this morning with the sun shining so brightly that I had my sunglasses on because the sun reflecting off the snow was almost blinding, you couldn’t help but remark how beautiful it was, particularly since it was a balmy 35 degrees. I heard similar chatter all around me as parents walked their kids to school. “Hey, it’s not so bad out, it’s kinda warm!” Apparently, 40 is the new 60.
The girls are re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books and I was reminded of how much I loved “The Long Winter” in particular when I was a kid. Made me want to go grab it off the bookshelf and read it again, partly because we’ve become such a society of complainers and wimps. Let me read about real hardships! Not that I’m not happy I live in this century with modern comforts and all, but I am rather fascinated by how people lived and survived without all the things that we take for granted today.
I remember meeting a handful of various people from my travels around the country when I was young who did choose to “drop out” and live out in nature without the comforts of things like running water, heat or electricity. They were essentially squatting in the woods, building temporary shelters which often consisted of a raised wooden platform and a network of tarps to shield against rain and wind. Survivalists, hippies, I don’t know what you would call them if you had to put a label on them at all, but it was an eye-opener for this city-raised kid. I’ve camped out in much the same fashion, but only for weeks at a time, not months like some of the people I’ve met. On a few occasions I would spend a few days with them in their make-shift homes, strangers really, whom I would just meet rather randomly, but I guess we trusted our guts and instincts enough to know when a situation felt safe. Not once in my years of travel did I ever find myself in any kind of situation that was less than safe.
Were my friends and I just lucky? Did we have a guardian angel watching over us during our travels? I have no idea, but that trust we put in the world enabled us to cross paths with people I would not have normally met had I stayed in my little bubble in the city. Sometimes I think about some of those people and wonder what they’re doing now. Like this girl I met somewhere in Massachusetts who lived in the woods 6 months out of the year in a shelter made of scrap lumber and tarps – kind of like a treehouse, but on the ground. She had a futon on the side of shack that was protected under tarps, but she often slept on the other side under stars when the skies were clear. Her belongings were minimal – some books, a few change of clothes, dishware enough to cook and eat from, a notebook and some pencils, all neatly stacked on the side of her little dwelling next to a tree. When she needed more supplies she would run into town on a bicycle, picking up only what she needed for a week or two. And this is how we met. It’s funny, but I never questioned why she wanted to live this way, so isolated from everybody and everything. When I was with her for those few days, I just accepted it as what it was.
I don’t remember her name, or the names of most of the other people I briefly met crossing paths. But on certain days like this snowy one, I think about how we traveled and learned from people like the girl who lived in the woods, that you don’t really need all this stuff to live a happy life. Isn’t this true? The snow reminds me that at times I feel like I live in a snowglobe, all insulated and small. Those encounters were like blips in my life from a past that I sometimes wonder was really mine, and I may not be the same person as I was years ago, but I keep those life lessons learned through travels tucked away deep inside and I know that it informs the way I live my life now.
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A quick trip to Portland a few weeks back. Breakfast at Tasty n Sons. A visit to Schoolhouse Electric.
When we were tossing around ideas for our day in Portland, our friend Jen got a laugh when Mia suggested we “drink coffee and complain about how much our backs hurt”. Because from her perspective that’s the only thing adults ever seemed to do, but it was all in the delivery that made it so funny. Somebody is starting to understand sarcasm, I see. Later that morning, Jen let her sneak some sips from her iced coffee. She’s like the aunt who says yes to all the nos that we dish out (total tangent: what the hell is the plural of no? Nos? Noes?? No’s???).
We discussed childhood schoolyard games over breakfast the next morning and was sort of flabbergasted when Mia told us that in gym they played dodgeball with bean bags. WHUT?! Not only that but you’re only allowed to toss them at your opponent’s feet, not anywhere else. Oh man, that made us laugh so hard. Somehow a little part of me couldn’t help but feel a little cheated that kids these days didn’t have to go through the ritual of childhood gym torture like we did. I mean I hated dodgeball with a passion when I was a kid and always dreaded hearing that game called during gym (I did like Steal the Bacon and SPUD though). What a stupid game. So maybe a part of me wasn’t really that surprised at this wussified version of the game that the kids play nowadays (at least at their school), but sheesh. I mean, bean bags. We obviously had to tell her how dodgeball was properly played, with balls that hurt so bad because you could basically throw them as hard as you could and no body parts were off limits.
And this, of course, reminded me of one of the greatest scenes to ever air on television – the dodgeball scene on the pilot episode of Freaks and Greeks. The girls weren’t so amused when I showed them the clip; they didn’t think it was all that funny (how?!) I guess nostalgia really does play a huge part here because personally, I think this episode is one of the funniest things ever. But I guess you had to be there.
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The first time Mark and I traveled to Victoria, we were in our early 20s and we took a road trip with our roommates, driving from Portland all the way to Vancouver. On a whim, we decided to take the ferry to Victoria on a day trip while we were up north. I remember that trip well because it was such a good bonding vacation with the roommates at a time when household dynamics weren’t always comfortable. We took a lot of photos too as I recall, posing on the ferry and the hotel balcony with beer and cigarettes. You know, stupid youthful pictures that I’m sure would have ended up on Facebook had it existed back in ancient times (and man, I’m so glad that wasn’t around in the 90s).
I remember thinking how pretty Victoria was and it’s still as pretty as I remembered it. It’s bustling too, with plenty of pubs and outdoor cafes, street performers and outdoor markets. One of things we wanted to do while in Victoria was have dimsum in Chinatown, not because the dimsum was supposed to be that much more amazing than what we can get here in NY, but because dimsum is one of those things that we always keep meaning to do back home, but manage to only have once or twice a year. Mia loves dimsum and it might be her favorite meal ever, but Miss C has never taken a liking to it and it was always a challenge to find even one thing off the cart or menu that she wanted to eat. When we told her our plan of having a dimsum brunch on Sunday, she groaned.
But something happened and she was more open to trying a few things. Maybe we can chalk it up to being on vacation and somewhere new, but she kept trying new dishes and eating and finally exclaiming how yummy everything tasted, particularly the Chinese greens. The verdict? She’s a fan of dimsum now which means that when we go out to dimsum again we won’t have to bring along a container of apples and cheddar bunnies to tide her over until we can find something for her elsewhere.
As we were leaving the restaurant, she turned to me, hugged my arm and thanked me for giving her a new happy place.
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