Welcome Home

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All my life I’ve been traveling.  I was born in Maine and at one and a half, moved to Beirut, Lebanon.  Another country, another culture, another climate.  At four, in the middle of winter, my mother and I left the Meditteranean and moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, newly divorced in the late 60’s.  At eight, my mother re-married and we moved to Oberlin, OH where academia coexisted with rural poverty and racial tensions of the early 70’s.  After two years, we moved to Lake Forest, IL,  listed in the “Preppie Handbook” as one of the 10 preppiest towns in the United States.  I moved from place to place feeling like an alien.  This is a pattern that has repeated itself my entire life.  Always moving, trying on the new customs, reinventing myself.

One of the things I have always loved about traveling to India is the feeling that I am so far from anything familiar that it forces me to let go of any outward identity my ego may cling to to define myself:  parent, wife, hospice volunteer, runner, home owner, etc.  The only thing I have in India is the over-arching requirement to stay present.

I read somewhere that gold fish grow to the size of their bowl.  If they’re swimming around in a tiny glass, they will stay that size, if they’re put in an aquarium, they will grow larger.  The Bay Area is a much bigger fish bowl than the the one I’ve been living in.    And I feel…free.  I feel anonymous.  I feel alive with possibility.

The past several days have been jam-packed with moving and arriving and storing and unpacking.  It’s been exhausting.  Yesterday was the first day I had a glimpse of the ocean.  I forced myself to drive in afternoon traffic and when I got out of the car, the wind whipped my hat off.  I stood at the shore, turned off my music and consciously welcomed myself home.  In that moment, I knew that this land isn’t home.  I know it’s cliche, but still I want to share.  I am home.  I am my home.  Wherever I choose to go,  I will always be home.

That said, I also had the realization (for ME) that 16 years is too long to yearn to be somewhere else.  I feel a peaceful joy to be back, this multi-cultured holy land where I am both completely unknown and deeply loved.

My kids are having some last adventures with family this month and in September we will all meet up and take my daughter to college and then Harlan and I will begin Road School 2017 for the fall semester.  Just like a blank canvas can inspire the painter, the open road calls to my soul – it always has. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler,  I look forward to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” me, mile by mile.

 

Road School 2017

This Spring, my son announced that he had two life goals: quitting school and living in a van.  His love of learning has been with him from infancy, but ever since 6th grade, he’s slowly and progressively been losing interest in school. Over the past four years, I’ve watched the light go out of his eyes while in the traditional educational system.

By April, things had spiraled rapidly downward; my son was depressed, uninspired and feeling powerless to change his life.  Uncharacteristically, he wasn’t getting up in the morning, he was isolating from friends and was refusing to go to school.  I had no idea what to do or how to help him.  Finally, at a crisis point, Harlan opened up to me.  What I heard more than anything was that he really and truly doesn’t want to go back to school and wants to “drop out”.

As I listened to him, I had an “Aha!” moment.  What if we “Dropped In” and hit the road?  What if we took this Fall Semester of 2017 and he got to live and learn in real time, in the real world, seeing life through the eyes of a traveler?  As a mother, I knew I needed to act quickly to come up with a creative solution that might serve to inspire my son into not giving up.  Since nothing traditional has worked (and we’ve tried it all), I wanted to come up with an out-of-the-box learning opportunity that would spark his innate curiosity.

Without knowing exactly how I could pull it off, I proposed the idea of living on the road this Fall to Harlan.   Almost instantly, like pumping a bicycle tire with air, I watched him come back to life.  He became motivated and finished 9th grade.  He joined a gym and is working out daily.  He’s working with an inspiring mentor who is teaching him about meditation and healthy living.  We’re training for our first Sprint Triathlon in October.  He has a summer job and is saving money for the trip.  We’re working with an educational consultant to design a personalized curriculum for Harlan.

We’re plotting our itinerary on the map:

Vancouver to Baja from September through December.

Along this route, we will be researching people and places that inspire us, in order to learn from these interactions. Together with an educational consultant, we will design a curriculum that Harlan resonates with; creating projects that involve writing, music, photography, and natural science – all with the rich backdrop of the Pacific West to support his education.

Since I have announced our decision to hit the road this August, miracles are happening.  People are reaching out with places to stay, well wishers are offering words of support, and we are packing up and moving out of our home on July 31!  Finances are an issue.  I’m a single mom navigating work, life, and parenting two teenagers, the oldest of which is heading off to college in September.

I’m a grief counselor. I work with people who have lost a loved one and are navigating life without the person they love. I have teenagers. I know angst. I have lost family members to suicide. I have close relatives that struggle with clinical depression. I know life is short. And mysterious and powerful and awe-inspiring. I know that I love my son with all my heart and will do anything within my power – anything – to help him get the light back in his beautiful brown eyes.  And yes, that means even asking for money, something I’ve been raised never to do.  I’ve started a Go Fund Me Campaign, called Road School 2017, to help with our costs.

Donations will go toward:

  • Online Educational Consultant
  • Used laptop
  • School Supplies
  • Educational Experiences (e.g. Museums, State Parks)
  • Gas
  • Campgrounds

NOTE:  5% of what we receive in donations will go to Pacific Sands Academy, a program that offers an accredited, interest-led, passion-driven independent studies program for teens.  This money will help families afford an alternative choice for children who may be struggling with the traditional educational system.

There is no training manual for what Harlan and I will are about to embark on, but there is a road map – the one he and I will follow along the highway.  As a parent, my job is not to mold him into a smaller, younger version of myself, but to hold a safe container large enough for him to expand his wings.  To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I want to introduce my son to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” him.   Stay tuned, Road School starts late August 2017!  #roadschool2017

 

hOMe is where the heart is

hOMe sweet hOMe
hOMe sweet hOMe

I once heard a woman say that as soon as she sat on her yoga mat, she was home.  I will go one step further and say, when I sit and connect to my heart, I am home.  There’s a lot going on right now for me around the concept of  ‘home.’  For years I have prayed to be a “Citizen of the World” living the life of a gypsy, meeting people from different countries and learning about their cultures.  I imagined I would have a home base somewhere (Colorado?  California?) but most of the time I would be off having adventures – sometimes by myself, sometimes with Andy and sometimes with the kids.  As I write this, I think it sounds like the musings of a young girl and perhaps sounds immature.  Yet, these “adventures” I’m referring to stem from a deep desire to be of service, to connect from the heart with humanity, to experience the “oneness” in all things and to show this world to my kids.  To expand my boundaries into the unfamiliar, because in doing so, I get out of my ‘self’ with a small ‘s’ and see that I am a drop of water in a vast beautiful ocean.

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I once went to a homeopathist for a consultation.  After several hours of questions, she gave me my personal remedy – not for an ailment, but for who I am:  Falco peregrinus.

Know what that is?  Falcon.  Peregrin Falcon.  I looked it up.  Falco Peregrinus is Latin for Falcon Wanderer.  Yup.  Sounds about right.  I’ve lived in 2 countries and 11 states, and moved over 23 times.  In some Native American culture, Falcon is referred to as “The Stranger.”  I can relate.

Andy and I drove out to California this summer on our 3rd annual road trip.  Just us.  No cell phone service, no computers.  Just the two of us, a great playlist and a lot of sky.

Big Sky (somewhere in Utah)
Big Sky (somewhere in Utah)

Want to know what’s living for your partner?  Sit in a car with them for 2 days.  And listen, really listen, to what they have to say.  Turns out, sweetie has been phoning it in on our daily life.  (I knew it!)  I’ve been extra busy with kids, India, death work while he’s been busy with work but with a growing dissatisfaction with his time off.  This is a guy who is feeling his mortality, a man who loves the ocean and has never lived near one.  A man nearing retirement who has never had the luxury of time to himself.  I’m all about freedom (falcon, remember?) I never want to feel trapped and sure as hell don’t want my partner to feel trapped.

For the next hour, somewhere in Utah, under the vast expanse of sky, I listened to my husband talk about how unhappy he was in his daily life.  How he longs to live near the ocean before he gets too old to appreciate it.  How he’s lived in Boulder for the past 28 years and how he’s ready to leave.  A life lived for others…wives, companies, children – and now maybe it’s his turn…

The blessing of this talk was that I heard – really heard – him.  I took it seriously.  I love him and want him to be happy.  I want us to both feel free, never trapped.  Andy’s conclusion was that he could never live in CA because I wasn’t ready to make a permanent move – yet.  And so, he was trapped.  Stuck.  Grounded.

Long story short…we signed a year lease on a beach cottage in Santa Cruz.  Over the next year, Andy will live there two thirds time.  I’ll be there at least a third of the year.  This means we will be spending some time apart.  This means that sometimes I will be living in Boulder without Andy.   As much as I consider myself a free spirit, I have been surprisingly challenged by this new arrangement.  My beliefs around home, marriage and parenting are crumbling and there is no manual for this!  Where is my manual!!!  (shaking fist!)  Once again, I am pioneering a different vision of what is “normal” (I don’t think there is a normal per se) and I can’t find the “how to” manual.

Home Sweet Home in Santa Cruz
Home Sweet Home in Santa Cruz

When I am in Santa Cruz, I feel suspended in amber – like I have stepped out of my “real” life into a fantasy life I have dreamed up for myself.   I have a beautiufl yoga practice in Santa Cruz with an amazing community that has welcomed me.  I ride my bike everywhere.  I have a beach house where every thing in it has been carefully chosen by Andy and me.   I sit at the harbor and watch dolphins (yes, dolphins) play in the surf.  I surf!  I paddleboard.  I am going to learn the ukelele and paddle the outrigger canoe with other women on Thursday mornings.

When I’m in Santa Cruz, on a long weekend with Andy, I miss my kids.  half of my heart longs to be with them.  When Andy and I are apart, I am loving that he is filling up at the beach, giving himself the gift of being near the ocean and I am missing him and looking forward to the time we will be back together.  When I am in India, skyping from outer space, nothing could be more poignant that calling my children and getting the answering machine.  It’s rare that we are ALL together and when it happens, I cherish it.  Heart overflowing.

“There is nothing from outside. Try to understand that. All is in you. You are the storehouse of your totality.”

-Yogi Bhajan