Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

A gift from a friend given the night before we left. It became a good luck charm of sorts and hasn't left my wrist since.

...and just like that, we're here. I had high hopes of blogging from the battlefield known as I-94. I'm a dreamer, you see, and a dreamer actually believes that it is totally reasonable and within her capability to write and edit a blog post in the wee hours of the morning after driving the better part of a whole day. If I had it to do over again, I'd still think I could do it (and I don't particularly want to do it again). 

So before I write about the new house and life thus far on another coast, I want to properly wrap up the journey that got us here. Because, dude, it wasn't insignificant. Road warriors were we. And that man of mine. Oh, that man. Every single moment of those 3000+ miles was spent driving that truck. Going 30mph max on mountain passes that went on forever... eating food from places solely based on the pull-through capability of their parking lot... gas station coffee... stopping at truck stops every 300 miles to fill up. again. We worked for this move.  

Despite the inherent challenges that arise when moving yourselves across the country, after Day 1 we established an easy rapport with the road. Towns and cities came and went and the miles melted away. I listened my way through The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Wheat Belly, and the better part of Faithful Place. When Kiddo rode with me, we listened to Shadow and Bone. Not bad for 6 days; it would be months (or more) before I ever got around to reading them in print. 

The cat and dog rode in my backseat and all that went fairly smoothly. Except for the meltdown on Day 5 that involved both yowling and howling that culminated in a screeching halt before the Welcome to Idaho sign in order to separate them. From then on the cat got the front seat and the dog shared the back with the cooler. Both held it together and not another peep was made.

In the first few days I stayed behind the truck, ever its faithful follower. I didn't want Mario and Kiddo out of my sight, which likely stemmed from irrational fear and the need to feel stable and in control despite the general lack of stability. But as the days passed and my anxiety relaxed, I began making stops here and there. Then I could set the cruise control at normal highway speed and play catch up. Kiddo, Jack and I hiked Pompey's Pillar in eastern Montana. I made a quick detour and drove by the apartment we lived in when Kiddo was just a tiny little thing. I stopped occasionally for coffee breaks and miscellaneous Target runs and short walks with the dog. (We were pretty well prepared for the drive, but I have to admit that I accidentally boxed up all but two pairs of shorts for Kiddo. Oops. Target to the rescue.)

Somewhere among those thousands of miles I let go of the fuss and stress and general ick that came with leaving the old. The goodbyes and the cleaning and the house selling and the packing. All of it seemed to melt into the past where it has stayed ever since. In many ways that arduous journey across the U.S. was the best thing for us. Because upon arriving, we were ready. To start over. To embrace a new life and all that entails. There has been no sadness or homesickness or malaise associated with this move. Likely because we spent six days processing all of it. Our emotional junk is all over middle America. Mine, anyway. 

And now here we are. The hard stuff is behind us and the rest is pretty darn good. The house is coming together and familiarity is setting in. It's weird: the moment we moved all of our stuff in, our old life literally felt 3000 miles away. Despite almost seven years in that area, and just shy of one week in this one, I scarcely remember our day-to-day life. There is no attachment or personal connection anymore. I remember it, but as someone looking in from the outside... as if I was never an active participant in my own life. It's a rather weird head space, but not unpleasant. This natural tendency to look forward, and never back, seems like yet another assurance that we made the right choice.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On the move.

A truer fortune could not have been read.

And just like that, we are neither here nor there. The first half of yesterday was spent packing up those last things... the things that are placed in boxes marked "miscellaneous". The night before had been spent with the best kind of friends, laughing and breaking bread one last time before we left for good. Though does anyone really leave for good these days with airplanes and social media and such? Anyway, we had aimed to head out by mid-morning, but you know how these things go. We had several rooms left to clean and mattresses to get on the truck and last minute this and thats. We were exhausted and overwhelmed... it felt as if we were wading through molasses.

I have cried twice throughout this process: once on Sunday while having a farewell lunch with my beloved CrossFit coach who has also become a dear friend. In trying to tell her what both her and CrossFit have meant to me, I broke a little. Then there was that time yesterday. I had stubbed my toe and painfully broken my pinky toenail. Kiddo spilled his breakfast juice, spraying it across the floor. And what lay between me and the open road was what seemed like an insurmountable amount of work still left to do. So I put my face in my hands and sobbed for a good 15 seconds. And just as quickly as the tears had come, they left. Because although moving away from an old life and all that it entails is an inherently difficult process, it's also joyous. Otherwise no one would ever attempt such a feat.

Although that house never quite felt like home, it provided shelter through a pretty profound period of our lives. Kiddo finished elementary school, then middle school. Countless nights were spent poring over textbooks and writing papers at the kitchen table, which earned me a college degree. Husband's career has seen its fair share of changes, too. The woman that walked out of that house for the last time yesterday scarcely resembles the one that first stepped foot in it almost 7 years ago. In only the best ways. I'll look back on this period and see a lot of hardships. But there was a lot of good stuff, too; though it's often hard to keep that sort of perspective when you're in the midst of all the fuss. As I walked through all the empty rooms, not once, but two or three times, I chose to remember only the good stuff.

All of our earthly possessions are nestled inside a 26' truck. It was no easy feat, let me tell you. And while I'm on the subject of loading said beast, I have to take a moment to mention my husband. Because, gosh, he's something pretty amazing. I have one of those men. He heaved impossible loads onto his back, single-handedly hitched a trailer to a moving truck then secured an SUV to the trailer. He held down the fort and plugged away so I could say some last goodbyes to friends over lunch and complete one last CrossFit workout. Scraped elbows and sweat-drenched shirts be damned. He worked through exhaustion and frustration and didn't quit for a second. Just when I think it's impossible to love him more, to be more proud of him, he shines even brighter.

As the last square foot of floor was mopped, we closed the door on our old life and drove away. And have been doing so ever since. The days are long, but time becomes rather fluid when facing the open road. And I can think of no better place to ponder one's thoughts on life, love and blogging. The truck devours diesel, necessitating regular stops, so we never quite reach a point of intolerance. A gas guzzling engine would normally get under my skin, but I have decided that this is most certainly not the time or place to dwell on one's carbon footprint. Road trips are also chock full of wild behavior like Starbucks stops at 9p and the reckless consumption of audiobooks. My iPod is chock full of literature I'd probably never read in paper form... I can already feel my mind being broadened.

We have found a steady rhythm. New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and now Illinois. Tomorrow we will see more of what The States have to offer. And in a few short days, we start our lives anew.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reclaiming my youth and other thoughts.

In my late teens/early twenties, I went through a rebellious phase of sorts. Admittedly, a very vanilla rebellion. While my peers boozed it up at parties, I pierced. And although one by one most of my piercings have been abandoned and left to close up, every so often I start to contemplate my coolness and try to stick a post through. As if somehow my youth is tied to their ability to reopen. In that gratifying moment when a post goes all the way through, I know that 19-year-old Sarah is still in there somewhere. Alive and kicking. I like her. She was fun. (If I could mash her with this wiser, more centered version of myself, I might be closer to finding the ideal me.)

My piercings remind me that I'm still hip. (Though the fact that I'm still using the term "hip" is no doubt proof that I am decidedly un-hip.) I've noticed that I re-pierce during times of change or when I'm feeling particularly boxed in. They remind me that an individual is still in there; a way to separate myself from the roles of mom and wife.

Last month I got the itch. Most summers I slip in a tiny nose ring, but the rest of the time I typically wear just diamond studs in my first piercing (19-year-old Sarah just yawned and rolled her eyes at this admission). That day, I set out to see if I could wear the first three. I was all in. Only, my third piercing on the left wouldn't budge. And believe me, I tried. And tried. And tried again. The less it gave in, the more determined I became to regain my youth. That same week Natalie touched on this very issue; I'm still convinced that paragraph was written just for me. (I clicked on the "again" and was also feeling her previous post on the matter.)

Taking matters into my own hands clearly wasn't working, so I sought out a professional. There is a piercing/tattoo parlor in our quaint little downtown, and I often walk by the sign. That day, I walked in and looked up an impossibly steep set of stairs. The parlor is located on the second floor of an old, historic building; the one open door in an otherwise abandoned-looking hallway straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Butterflies now flittering around my gut, I passed through the threshold. Behind the desk was a rather intimidating woman with every imaginable facial piercing. And chest tattoos, which I find to be incredibly hardcore because they certainly aren't for the faint of heart says me. I sat on a wooden bench, hands in lap like a schoolgirl while she chatted on the phone. For an uncomfortably long period of time before turning to me with an abrupt Can I help you? that set my butterflies even more aflutter. I reconsidered my desire to be cool many times over in those long moments.

After explaining my predicament, she agreed to give it a go. Mid discussion, a rather worn looking young man walked through the door. I remember him being very, well, beige. His hair and clothes and skin were all coated in a dusting of dirt which made him seem entirely the same color. He got an even more curt Yeeeees?

I'd like a tattoo.
Of what?
A stack of pancakes. With butter.
Uh, okay. Where?
On my upper arm. 
How big?
Forty dollars big.

Just like that he was out the door with an appointment for later that same day. The lovely lady turned to me with a rather mystified expression and said Oh. My. God. He has a mullet. And, in that moment, I realized the absurdity of the situation: here I was trying to reclaim my youth through a third ear piercing, feeling very vulnerable and childlike; not at all resembling the brazen young adult I was aiming for. Then, in this seedy tattoo parlor, a man walks in and requests a stack of pancakes on his bicep. With butter. Never mind his vagrant status or unwashed smell or the fact that perhaps he should be spending his last forty bucks on an actual stack of pancakes. All she noticed was his mullet (which somehow looked sexy on MacGyver?). Needless to say the ridiculousness of my predicament became quite clear to me.

In the end, she got me re-pierced. It took some finagling on her part and mild discomfort on mine, but it's in there. It turns out she and I became unlikely friends and chatted rather effortlessly throughout the ordeal. I walked out the door with a cherry red ear and a renewed sense of self. Though I'm not rooting for the fourth hole any time soon. Baby steps.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer has officially begun.

Summer vacation: Day 1
In an attempt to stave off summer regression (academic and motivational), I've been making Kiddo follow a schedule. Much to his initial dislike. But keeping life as normal as possible has been to the benefit of the whole family. No wandering around in our pajamas at 2p. Not that days like that aren't wonderfully lazy... but for us they should be few and far between, which makes us relish them more when they do happen. Anyway, our usual let's lay around attitude has been all but eliminated. And with only a few proper summer vacation days under our belt, I'm proud to say we wake before our alarms. We get up, get going, and are out and about. Kiddo is even volunteering for activities. Trust me that it's really quite miraculous. 

On Thursday Mario had an all-day online class for work followed by a business dinner. Kiddo and I got out of his hair and made something of ourselves. He came along to CrossFit with me, then we decided to venture out into the world (also known as Vermont). 

You know how kids are innately aware of their bodies and how to move them? They don't think about it, they just do it. No one ever taught Kiddo how to properly climb a rope. Or do a chin-up. He just can. There are dozens of tutorials on how to position your feet and place your hands... and he needs not a one. I've lost that ability, a common occurrence among adults, I think, and now spend several days a week trying to retrain my brain and muscles to lift and pull and jump in ways it natural could in childhood. (Though I'm not convinced I ever really had it, at least not to the degree my child does.) I hope Jared never loses the sense of fun and adventure he garners from moving his body. 

After I wiped off the sweat and regained my composure, we hopped in the car, queued up a Harry Potter audiobook, and drove. It was time for one last visit to our favorite bookstore. Along the way we passed a roadside sign for a pick-your-own strawberry farm. Because we are in the throes of summer and in the mood to be fancy free, we stopped. We picked. Stained fingers and a touch of sun on our cheeks. He still finds joy in impromptu berry-picking dates, so I'm taking what I can while I have it. Because gosh that kid is pretty much the best thing I can imagine. With him, I look at the world through strawberry-colored glasses.

We spent a good deal of time enveloped in the literary world. What's more, I found a common thread among the books that caught my eye and begged me to read their synapses: Biology. And for the first time in six months, I became acutely aware that my brain misses academia. Not the homework and papers and deadlines and all nighters. Not those aspects, for sure. But I miss learning new things. Expanding my knowledge. I'm ready to work that gray matter again after taking a hiatus.

And now we have things like strawberry toaster waffle towers to show for our mother-son day out.

Other thoughts:

// Summer hair. I'm getting there, I think. It's a two steps forward one step back kind of thing. You see, I was never one to easily master hair and makeup related things. Those girls I knew growing up that braided their friends' hair and had already mastered the smoky eye? Oh, how I envied them. Now in my thirties, I still flail when it comes to figuring out the mop on my head. How to deal with my hair type. How to throw it up and make it look chic. It's the bane of my existence, my hair. Some days, some days, there appears a glimmer of hope. I would understand if I got kicked out of some sort of girl club. I'm a mess.

// I'm in a handbag rut. Which happens ever now and then. I'm not the type to keep a collection of bags at the ready. Instead, I'll use it until it falls apart and buy a new one. The other day I saw Emma's bag on A Beautiful Mess and decided it must be mine. I tried everything to find its birthplace: going so far as to employ Google Images to track it down. Nothing. Despair! Then, in my search for objects meeting the description black + white + ethnic + brown leather trim + handbag, I came across THE BAG. In fact, I like it even better. Which meant express shipping it so it doesn't arrive to an empty house. Mario said it reminds him of the tapestries his aunt, who's decades older than I am, brings home from Habitat trips around the world. ("But I understand that tribal things are back in style these days." Okay then.) There are worse things to be compared to.

// An article in last week's issue of Time magazine that I read from beginning to end. It has since been sitting on my nightstand. Food for thought. 

// A brand spanking new Ulta store opened up in town yesterday and I see this eyeliner in my near future. Oh to master the perfect cat eye!

Tonight we are off to Maleficent. Have you seen it? I opted out of Transformers (another one? really?) and instead of going sans Sarah, they let me choose the film. Those boys, I tell you.

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change;

at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.

Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

Yesterday a great friend of ours scoped out our new house for us. We came upon this particular house after finding THE school for Kiddo and it all felt like fate. The stars aligned and I felt certain we were meant to dwell in this particular abode. We will be renting for the foreseeable future, as we are unsure what life will look like post-kiddo and post-grad school, and in general we need a break from home ownership. The house was occupied while we were visiting and we weren't able to see the inside, so we took a leap of faith and put down a deposit anyway. Sometimes you just have to believe in the dream, you know? 

A series of events still largely unknown to us took place and it has just become available for viewing in the last few days. Only, those pesky 3000 miles between us and our new house complicate things. Luckily, we have the best kind of friends nearby and our buddy Troy met with the property manager on our behalf and snapped some photos. We weren't overly concerned, as the house is fairly new, bigger than our current residence, and the location is spot on.

As I looked at the photos and began to loosely understand the floor plan, a special brand of anxiety creeped in. It doesn't look like what I'd imagined. The setup is vastly different, in fact. And although it's not bad at all, it's different. I wasn't prepared for different. The life changes are becoming all too real in the days leading up to our departure and change + different = funky head space. Then I spiraled. What if it's wrong? All of it? What if we are making the wrong leap? What if we start fresh and everything ends up the same? The fears were nonspecific, just an abstract swirling of wrong, wrong, wrong around my brain.

I realized, in those anxious moments, that things have finally gotten real real and I'm grasping for the familiar. Our house now, though it never felt quite like home, is familiar. As I laid next to Mario last night, watching our usual television show, the desire to conserve what we have was profound. Not the house or the things or the lifestyle; they have little sway in my life. 

I'm nervous something could change between us. Our dynamic. Our routines and the ways in which we show our love for each other. What if more than just our location shifts in the process? That's what really terrifies me.

You see, I want things to change. But not every thing. I want a fresh start with new surroundings, new opportunities, and a shiny new future. Things we could not achieve so successfully living where we are now. Fundamentally, I want our lives to stay the same. So I'm scared of rocking the boat. What if the routines I do love aren't the same? That would devastate me! Which oozes into self doubt. Because I'll only have myself to blame if we lose something along the way. 

This morning brought a new day and a new perspective. And although I'm still feeling a bit rattled by the realness of all of it, I realize that change is inevitable. Kiddo isn't going to stay a kid forever. Our house is going to look and feel different; perhaps by accident it will come to feel like home in a way this house never could. A new job and grad school and living with a growing, evolving teenager while evolving myself will make things different. Husband has some evolving of his own to do, too. You can't freeze time no matter how hard you wish it were true. It's important to come to one's senses in moments of irrational fear and realize that time marches on and so do people and we have no say in the matter. So I suppose I could hunker down here and live a rather stagnant, mundane life, one where I don't get to pursue my dreams, just for the sake of stability. But then fear wins. And fear should never win. 

So on this fine day I'm going to take a breath. I'm going to enjoy family time with those two gentlemen I share a life with. I'm going to stop the spiral. At the end of day, we are doing something amazing. Something brave. We are taking control of our futures and doing what many wouldn't dare to do: start over. Despite the stress and uncertainty and agonizing that goes along with such a venture. Staying would be safe, yes, but it would be all wrong. 

What I want more than to tame the fear and all the emotional junk, is a future I can be proud of. To open the door and see what's on the other side. To be able to look back when I'm 80 and say with certainty that I lived the heck out of life. Even if things don't look like I think they should.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The value of marriage is not that adults produce children,

but that children produce adults.

Peter De Vries

And just like that, I'm the parent of a middle school graduate. In a few months I'll have to say high schooler. Parent of a high schooler. I keep thinking I'm not old enough. I don't think I am. Nor am I mentally prepared for such a realization. I got a jump on the whole child-rearing thing in my very early twenties, and now I find myself mothering a young man. Who alternates between seeming like a man one moment and just a child the next. 

I still get hugs. And boy are they good. Goooooood good. I seldom embarrass him. I can still impress him. (Sometimes he reads my blog over my shoulder as we sit in our favorite coffee shop on Wednesday afternoons and he'll say, in an offhand way, "Hmmm. Well written." Gosh that's pretty much all I ever want to hear. His praise is the hardest earned and the most rewarding.) He talks to me and asks me questions. And not just "What's for dinner?". Real discussion about life and love and things most kids his age would find horribly embarrassing to discuss with their parent(s). I hope with all my being that he comes to me about things that are really embarrassing... the things that are usually really important. I hope I always have sage advice and a level head.

My post-parenting years seem exciting, when I dare to dream about them. The day we send Jared off to college will be the hardest day of my life. But also freeing in some ways. An opportunity to experience adulthood from a much different perspective. To re-connect with my individuality. To feel free to go through life making myself the priority. To be my husband's girlfriend again. Oh, to date that man with abandon! I still crush on him, like a school girl writing a boy's name in her journal over and over and over again. With little hearts over the i's. (Note to self: Buy a journal. A pink one with Hello Kitty. Let's do this right.) I still have a few years before this whole alternative life comes to be, and I'm going to parent the hell out of the next four years. Because that little dude is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I owe him everything. Still, a girl can dream about date nights with her ruggedly handsome man.

Our weekend was mellow. There was the loveliest of graduation ceremonies, of course, but also boxes and packing tape and prying possessions out of my husband's hands while stomping my foot and acting like an evil dictator who Will not move this across the country! I won't! Because I have a rational but also not totally rational fear of being buried under piles of crap when we're old. Hoarding frightens the pants off of me. Poor man. I owe him a lot of dates. He gets to pick the movie for the next 20 years. 

There are boxes galore! And nights spent watching The Good Wife. If we weren't responsible for another life, we might binge watch while eating dry ramen noodles so we don't have to walk away for even a second. Instead, we have water balloon fights with the kid. Where I make up way too many rules and think it's totally appropriate to stay bone dry throughout the game. (Me, not them. I also believe they shouldn't run away from me so I don't have a moving target to contend with. I'm a blast to play with, as you can imagine.) 

Berries are in season and I'm delighted. For the first time in ages, we are chock full of antioxidants. We are practicing astonishing self discipline these days and going sorbet all the way. A particularly annoying bout of eczema (me) and a smattering of other symptoms (kiddo) reminded us that frozen yogurt is still dairy and we need to clean up our act. Just say no to the cow juice! I declared. A man after my own heart, Kiddo orders his as if it were ice cream... on a cone with Nerds candy on top. We are not easily deterred, you see, and I'm proud to say Kiddo inherited my willful determination. Except when his will opposes mine. Oh the standoffs we can have.

Today marks the last day of school. We are free as birds! Except for the whole moving across the country thing. Two weeks from today. Eep! Until then, no waking up at the crack of dawn. Time spent together. Regimented water balloon fights. Good books. And the viewing of Harry Potter movies, I hope. Perhaps a marathon!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.

Oscar Wilde
It's official: I have a 5K under my belt. And while it wasn't timed, parts of the course weren't novice runner friendly, and all sorts of shenanigans took place, I'm calling it legit. This particular run was held on a large farm just outside of Boston where we wove our way through grass fields. It was pretty idyllic. 

I still have aspirations to one day run a more serious 5K, for no other reason than to say I did. But if you want to get started in the wide world of putting one foot in front of the other for sport, a Rad run is a good place to start. There is one being held in Portland in September, and I think it will be fun to run it, too. A way to get to know the area, maybe meet people, and to keep me on my toes (or off them, as it were) in the running department.

Mario played house photographer and all of these photos can and must be credited to him. I was busy getting coated in colored corn starch. Kiddo also came along for the ride and grinned his way through the whole experience. He scored a seemingly endless supply of color bombs and made sure we were good and colored. (A bonafide color bomb hacker was he.) I will definitely run it with him in the fall, if for no other reason than to see that grin. Devilishly charming, that kid of mine. 

A shout out to my girl Angy. She's the bestest.
Bicep bulge courtesy of CrossFit. I was a like whoa! when I saw this pick.