In Awe

Before we see the Grand Canyon, we spend an afternoon in search of wildlife at Bearizona, a tucked away park that cares for rescued animals in Williams, AZ.  We weren’t sure what this safari park would have, but from all five of us, this park delivered.  From close encounters to watching animals in a near lifelike habitat, we felt we experienced more in our two hours here than we have in the wild.  It provides all of the fun but none of the danger.  Let’s be clear as a mama, that’s important.  From burros to wolves and bison to bears, we had our glory taking in the sheer power of each animal up close.

 

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In some ways we all want to be rescued and live our best life so I’m glad they have created this great place where you can recover, rest and heal and live into the way you were meant to be, scars and all.

After high-fiving how we came into Arizona, with a little Memphis celebrated out here too, we wake rested to take on one of the many wonders we came to see. IMG_1673It’s hard to even describe the Grand Canyon and all of its massiveness.  The approach into the South Rim is something quite hidden and nondescript. IMG_3181You can drive down the infamous Route 66 with all of its relics captured in time. IMG_3075
You pass small Western towns, beckoning for one last walk down memory lane of things that once made people smile.  You see the train tracks that conquered the West before cars even did.  Then, you take your own walk up to the rim and you almost have to catch your breath.IMG_3194

We are limited in how we can even take in the view.  It is so expansive and so grand. IMG_3214We soak in the day walking along the South Rim and have our own small celebrations about seeing this for the first time.  We get the necessary souvenirs.  It’s a centennial year for the Grand Canyon and we are happy to splurge on the National Park passport, the sticker for the airstream, and the t-shirts to represent.  Money well spent.IMG_3220

When you take in a day like we did, you have to expect the crash.   We spend our time over dinner reflecting.  We heard about the fears each of our kids have over dinner – fear of dinosaurs, until we shared they no longer exist, so it switched to pythons.  Then we heard about the fear of squirrels and the fear of planes.

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We listen and we give in.  And when faced with wonder and standing in awe, sometimes you just have to lay down, give in and let the moment wash over you. . .sweet dreams until tomorrow.IMG_3225IMG_2979

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Blue Skies Ahead

IMG_2916IMG_3061Road trips and summer have become synonymous to our family.  Summer brings a sense of time and togetherness, despite the hurdles of capturing the most of it between summer camps, sleeping in and football workouts.  We have kept our two week stretch of time together sacred.  This year is no different, although it feels even more necessary now.  The two week time we capitalize on is oddly enough called dead period in the football world where everything, everyone must stop and just be.

IMG_2943If you understand the climate in Memphis right now, tempers are rising around injustice and senseless deaths.  It’s heartbreaking. I can’t help but think about the lives of the people I’ve known – Glenn, Terrence, Marcus, Xaviar, and Susan – all who died in just this past year.  Their lives were taken too soon by the unsteady hands of cowards holding guns.  It is all so unnecessary.  Yet, it’s the truth we have to sit in as a community and we have to figure out how to move forward.

It makes me want to bring the people I love closer in and hold on tight as if I can somehow protect them.  It’s why I love packing our family of 5 into our 30 ft airstream trailer even more.  Sadly,  I remember a summer all too well nearly 17 years ago where my life could have been taken too by a young teenager holding a gun against my pregnant belly.  As I enter into this summer, I have struggled with the blues.   This music city continues to sing some of the saddest songs on repeat.  As I navigate the next two weeks of dead week, I will reflect on a lot, but I plan to hit the road looking for blue skies ahead.IMG_2920

That’s the hope isn’t it?  That behind every cloud is a silver lining?  It’s quite something that my little silver lining has become life on the road in our silver bullet, however short or long the travel may be. It’s the perfect place of peace, comfort and reflection.  There will always be clouds hovering, but my faith reminds me the sun burns bright wherever I might be.  IMG_3012Today is the present we must open.  I’ll likely unwrap each day with some caution, but I expect to find healing in the space of just being.

In living in the extremes of my thoughts, I’m excited that the trip we have planned for this summer is about going big.  We will see some of the grandest sights in the world, including the Grand Canyon, the Sequoias, and El Capitan, a giant monolith in Yosemite.  We will check the box on seeing 5 National Parks.  We will enter every campground blaring some version of AC/DC and rocking life together.  IMG_3066

We will live boldly as we see more of God’s creation than we have all seen. We will love big and laugh hard.  We won’t be singing the blues these next two weeks if all of our plans fall into place. . .because this trip is all about getting our kicks on Route 66.IMG_1676

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Shedding Weight

I’ve spent a lot of time carrying around unwanted burdens. I often feel like I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders as I navigate my own life experience and come up against the stories of suffering in others. This can create a deep sadness in me. I can feel alone and often wish I was wired differently.

Thanks to my brother in law, I’ve discovered rucking. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it involves walking with a weighted back pack. Choosing my weights, I can carry whatever load I’m up for. I pick how heavy my burden is for the day and if I do say so myself, I’m becoming one mother rucker.

If only choosing our burdens were that simple. If only we could rise up in the morning and decide what was worth carrying around then take off the weighted emotions when we were ready. It may not be we can accomplish this exactly, but as I come to know myself even better, I know some burdens just aren’t mine to carry.

I know certain paths to take to help keep my head clear. I choose not to watch dark movies that highlight the worst of human nature. I avoid the news and have learned the right type of news will land in my space without searching for it.

I live in such a way where I’m constantly aware of the tracks I leave behind, mindful others might be paying attention to my actions. Our tracks can tell people who and what we are, even where we are headed. I have never wanted to add to someone’s burden if I can live with discipline and thoughtfulness. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying harder to let go of the weight in healthier ways.

Some people can place things in our path to disrupt our harmony, to add to our burden or to make us change our course. It’s even more important to me now to know myself well enough to know what I can carry so I can be the best I can to those who need me most.

I’m watching my weight.

This time, no scale is necessary. I can pack on the pounds I choose . . . and ruck on.

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Tick Tock

Despite the smiles on our faces, there were tears on the day we drove the kids back to school. This is the first year I have ever cried. On any other given year, my head has been flooded with meetings and appointments and ideas related to my work. I was not focused on my kids’ smooth transition into the next grade. I did not have all of the school supplies or papers signed in advance. Sadly, I was typically focused on the clock, wondering if I’d be late for the first appointment I had scheduled. What I like to refer to as my former life, even though I was in charge of my schedule, I crammed as much as I could do in the amount of hours I had to work. Every minute mattered in a way that was total chaos to my brain, and on most days to my family. I literally ran to every appointment and I often bumped into people on my way out the door or up the elevator. The clock haunted me because I could never catch up.

But this day, this year I feel totally present. I’m looking in the rear view mirror on the first day of school, reflecting on how in the world did we create these three distinct beings who fill this car, who fill our lives, with so much laughter and drama all at once.

All of the imprints we have made on each other all summer will now be replaced by others who will become the influencers in our kids day. That’s why the summer meant so much and why I feel a tiny bit scared to drop them off.

We locked in critical time together over the summer and now I wish I could just push child lock and keep us all locked in the car a little bit longer. For the first time, I needed the clock to stop.

So, I was crying for several reasons. I was crying for the summer being gone. I was crying with recognition that this is the first year all five of us have been in the same car together for a school drop off I believe…ever. I was crying at the fact that I have never ever cried at drop off. Ever. It had always seemed so silly to me before. And, I was crying because my babies just didn’t look like babies anymore.

Freshman in high school, Fifth grader and Senior Kindergarten are all big milestone years at the school we chose.

I’m ever aware of the clock but I’ve chosen to not let the time (or lack there of) drive me mad. I’m here in the second week of school and today pull up to drop the first two of three off in carpool line and discover my youngest never put on shoes. We had driven all the way with not one of us noticing. Two years ago this would have wrecked my day. I would have had to cancel my first meeting or pushed all of my meetings to run late and I would have felt behind all day. Somehow I would have blamed the little guy for not being focused enough to do what is needed instead of accepting I was moving too fast to help a 5 year old out the door. This time, I could laugh. I found the humor in how he did everything else to get ready but put on his shoes. I did have to circle the city to bring his shoes back to him, but I’m hoping he learned the lesson on his own without me making him feel any worse.

I can’t freeze these moments with my kids nor can I make more time, but I can sure do my best finding my way to live in such a way that the tick tick of the clock helps me keep the exact pace of time lived out in the present. It is the ultimate gift.

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Brake Lights

Brakes are meant for stopping. Brake lights let those following too close behind know to slow down. As we wind down our summer and enter the pace of the city, I want the brake lights to serve as a reminder to me to move with caution.

There are plenty of distractions all around to keep me moving fast. Sign up genius is being circulated at a break neck speed. Sports schedules are demanding. School supply shopping is pressing. Grocery needs are building to keep the lunches stocked for the school season.

Even though the fall season will bask in the glow of Friday night lights for our little family of five, I know the speed of living this life will be challenging.

In less than two weeks, we will have another driver in the house. It is more important than ever to think about driving at the right speed.

Time has one pace. Our perception is what makes us believe it is moving too fast or moving too slow. It's how we schedule our time that makes us feel like there isn't enough time in a day to do all we said we would. So here's hoping I can keep my foot on the brakes. Here's to keep the day moving a just the right speed to take in what's right around me.

I don't really need time to slow down.

I need to slow down.

We love our new nephew…Welcome to the world Brant!

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Different than Me

FullSizeRender 3My daughter sees the world different than me. I’d like to think she’s a chip off of the old block, but I see her individual spirit rise, especially in these photos she took of our time together.  She sees the world with more emotion, more intensity, and more beauty than I do at times.  Here she takes in a twig for the color burst it brings to the dirt background …I see a branch dying.

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She sees the beauty in everything. I’ve  had enough experience to feel cautious and cynical.  She takes in the world around her at face value.  She makes time to stop.  She not only sees, but she lingers.  She savors the flowers bursting into their full glory on every hike we take.

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She is extremely hopeful.  She has big ideas.  She sees a horizon and makes plans to go beyond it.  Just because the sun is setting here, it is rising somewhere else.

 

She is as pure as this dandelion unblown.

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But as soon as she learns the other side of a moment, she can wither quick and go to a dark place because she is afraid.  She is afraid of storms, mostly because she can’t see the view above the clouds. Yet, she is always searching for the silver lining to help raise her own spirits.

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She is afraid of why bad things happen and why people have to hurt. We do our best to point her in the right direction, but she has her own perspective.  We can’t explain it all because not everything makes perfect sense.

We can reassure her with our love for her.  We can help her pay attention to the things that make her feel happy and secure.

IMG_1295We can provide her with our time and our  presence to get through a tough moment.

She is taking in the world from a different angle and I want to pay close attention to what moves her. IMG_1268I want her life to explode with good things but it will require me to not be moving so fast that I miss the moment where I might be needed most.

She is different than me.  She is carved out of me, but she stands on her own.  She will always be her own person and we may not always share the same view, but I will love her regardless.

She is independent in every way…and then I remind myself, aren’t we all?

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(Note:  All pictures taken by Wilson except the one I took of her before blowing the dandelion:)

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Smile

97091042-7CF0-4E9F-876E-419CA848A857Smiling is something we all have the ability to do, but some smiles are more natural than others. We have threatened many a kid with a forced grin, but what strikes me as I look back across our two weeks out together is how genuine their smiles are.

Each and everyone of my peeps are grinning from ear to ear.  Virtually every photo we took, even in the outtakes, our family was looking pretty happy.  Having logged many an hour in our truck, our kids and our new puppy keep smiling.

This tells me a couple of things:

Its easy to tell a forced smile from a genuine smile.

And secondly, a genuine smile from someone can turn any bad day around.

I will always have these pictures to go by.  I have no memory on my own, sadly, so I document my memories with photographs.  I’ll have a collection of pictures to remind me how happy we were this year on this trip.

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How happy we were that we took a week away from scheduled football training to make a bonding trip happen between a father and a son.  Even this picture below tells me the tiny bit of nervousness my oldest is feeling about this adventure …the smile tells me he is a bit unsure.

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But when I compare it to the end of the trip. . .I’m more than confident he figured out that we knew what we were doing all along.  We earned his respect along the way.

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Weights were brought along in the back truck bed to keep up with the workouts and to be sure no time was really lost, but I cannot say the same if we had stayed in town and ditched this road trip.

This trip meant a lot to me.  Having a rising 9th grader, close to tweenager,  and a Senior Kindergartener, I just knew that we needed this summer to lock in a few more family moments before we let our kids loose to experience the big world on their own.

I’m home now and all I have is this memory of a trip to look back on.   I can promise you this:  these smiles can turn my bad day around in a heartbeat.

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All is Quiet

613A71DF-B533-43EC-95E7-156CB2306516Quiet. Being a mother of three, my acceptance of noise has raised a decibel or two. (Yes, we resorted to plastic handcuffs to keep the little one from pestering the others and he thought it hilarious).  It takes a lot to get my attention.

Parents in general seem to learn their own children’s squeals and ear piercing shrills so on a playground, it sounds like nothing to me.  Unless my kid gets injured and I can quickly recognize that voice.

I learned to function in my former career on conference calls shuttling kids from school to practices with up to six kids in the car, while ordering through a drive thru, only to unmute and try and sound intelligent. I have an uncanny ability to tune out unwanted noise.

So on this trip, in the absence of noise, I realized how much I genuinely love the quiet. Not the quiet I’ve tolerated, but the quiet that comes with nature. Water rushing to reach the lake below is awe-inspiring. Knowing all of its momentum lands into the quiet abyss of water pooled  is nothing short of a miracle.

Hearing my breath on a bike ride becomes the beautiful beat of the pattern the mallard ducks fly across the elk refuge.

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Unnatural noises dissipate in the wild. There is an utter respect of quiet from the world of campers to create an environment of only natural sounds. We heard birds chirping, grass whistling in the wind and water rushing down creek beds. With sometimes more than 100 or so people at a campsite, we would walk out of the airstream and believe we might be the only ones on property. We often were the loudest, especially the night we played a family game of Simon Says one night in Montana, but the laughter was genuine and natural enough.

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On any hike we took, we would almost be startled by hikers walking at a quicker pace to pass us, especially when one had a big black dog resembling the size of a small black bear.

Our kids have commented several times across our trip…it is so quiet. There is a deep respect that builds across each day and by the end of this adventure we have all lowered our voices.  We have let being quiet become a practice.  We have learned to listen for the stillness.

Upon entering the Grand Tetons we take note of a sign blinking with bars of color and see they are performing a noise study.

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I can only hope our travel experience creates a natural meter in each of us to pay attention to the noise…or more importantly to give into the quiet that is all around us.

We are headed home. Four of us that is.

So the only noise I’m willing to crank up loud as we make our way to the airport is this…and it makes us all sing loud.

Thank you Keelan Donovan for creating this song, Love of Mine.  Our whole family sings along and takes in the absolute surprising beauty of the Tetons.   It never gets old, this view, and this song carried us into the mountains every morning on our family adventure.  It also prepared us for the quiet moments we experienced exploring the great places of the Pacific Northwest.  A little bit of this type of noise can take a family far.

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And thank you AC/DC for taking us the final stretch to the Jackson Hole airport like we did every campground.

I’ll take both…the right type of noise and the right type of quiet.  I’ll figure out how to balance both a little better now.

 

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Reflections

Mirrors are almost completely unnecessary when camping, but reflections are important.  For a week, I rarely saw myself as all that exists in our trailer is a makeup mirror…and there is no reason to apply makeup out in the wild, especially when there are hats and sunglasses.

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When I arrived here in Jackson Hole, I had a full length view of myself.  Even though we call it a bathroom vanity, I’m not feeling up to the name.  We have been hiking, biking and working out for almost two weeks.  I feel fierce.  (Photo taken at farthest point we reached by bike in our daily morning ride in Jackson Hole, WY)

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I don’t really want a mirror to reflect anything different.  Yet, I take in my reflection and let my inner voice say a few unkind things.  My attitude of fierceness has met its match and they both come from the same place.

Being on the road allows for a different type of reflection.  There is space and quiet to think as long as the road stretches in front of you.  I’m carving out time to be a better me and a better us before I wrap up this adventure.

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Several have told us we need to go to Jackson Lake to see the Grand Tetons reflecting in the water.  We have been a lot of places around this town, but we haven’t seen this.  I’ve seen images of it on postcards and t-shirts but not the real vision with my own eyes.

We love a more remote area where the beaver hustle their sticks back and forth to build their dams at the foot of the Tetons.  There is a murkier reflection here of the mountains because the water moves.   I’m looking at the actual Tetons but also a distorted image of them in the reflection.

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And here is where I gather a moment of confidence.  I am who I am and the reflection I see in any mirror I look into is a distorted view, only a copy of the real thing.  There is only one range of mountains called the Grand Tetons.  People come from all over the world to see them for themselves.

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There is only one me in this world and I have a handful of people who love me exactly the way they see me too.  While I take time to reflect on this, I decide I’m pretty happy with my view.

 

 

 

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Today I thought a lot about being equipped for the seasons.  We are in a place that makes its entire living on the 3 months of the summer and the 3 or so months of winter.  Biking and skiing.  Polar opposites in elements but equally intriguing to the traveler looking for a wide variety of adventure.

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As we biked through the National Elk Refuge, I thought how different this place looks in the winter.  We are swatting flies and slapping mosquitos but fast forward four months and they will both be nonexistent.   I have never seen this place in the winter, but according to th signs, the elk graze and roam with freedom all winter in the refuge area.

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Here we are struggling to find one elk or moose in the summer because the water rose out of its banks on the Gros Ventre and it is unseasonably warm.

I’m reminded in this moment we are all equipped to handle the season we are in.  Whether we shed our coat or build thicker skin to brace for the elements that hit us, we are built to survive the seasons we experience.

If all of the animals around us can make it through the winter months, where nourishment is sparse and the weather is bitter, so can we.  Here I am sweating the hottest day of July Jackson Hole has seen in a while, but every animal I cannot find is doing the same…surviving until the heat subsides or the cold melts. The day brings what the day brings and we make it to another day.  We take a water break or we hibernate.  That’s the goal:  to do whatever it takes to keep pushing forward.  IMG_2056

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