long drive home


A friend graciously let us stay at their place in the mountains for Spring Break. My husband loves the mountains and has the facial hair and 4 wheel drive to prove it. I love adventure.  And I like the mountains, but to be honest would pick the fruity drink in my hand and sand in between my toes.
My husband is much happier when he gets to breathe in that low oxygen mountain air at least once a year. So we headed north. The home we stayed at was literally up the mountain. Several winding, icy, muddy unpaved roads up. Not everyone’s vehicle could make it to the house. Since our car had 4 wheel drive I was often the shuttle, from their cars parked near the highway to the few miles up. Straight up. 

I hardly minded, because every time I turned a corner (which was every few seconds) there was a view more majestic than the next.  I mean how could you not be impressed. The snow. The aspens. The mountains. Maybe it was the thin mountain air, but day after day it didn’t fail to take my breath away. Occasionally I even hung my camera out the window and took a few pictures.  (which may not be something I’d recommend doing while you are driving up tight winding mountain roads).
I made that trip several times a day, each time praying I wouldn’t get lost or stuck in the snow or the mud…but I swear…I mostly just rolled down my windows even though it was freezing outside and wondered if the people who live there ever get used to the view. How could they? If I lived here I would never get anything done or watch TV or read books. I’d just drive around staring out my windows.

I wondered if seeing that kind of amazing day after day, on the way home from a long day at work. Or making a run to the store because you forgot the milk. If you stopped seeing it.
If the beauty ever got old. Or so mundane that you stopped noticing.

And then. Just like that.
I felt this nudge. This questioning in my heart that was asking what kind of beauty was I missing every day. What kind of amazing breath taking things have I gotten used to?
The freckles across my daughter’s nose.
The intense brown of my son’s eyes.
The sound of my husband’s light snoring as he sleeps and ability to fix most things broken. Including from time to time my own heart.
My dog barking to be let in. Again.
The pink and purple sky as I get to watch the sun sneak over the horizon on my way too early morning drive on my way to work.
Sometimes I see these things of course, but 90% of the time I look straight past them.

We are headed home as I type this from the front seat.
My daughter has asked to stop at every single McDonalds we have passed and fought with her brother over the ipad. My husband has taken over the radio.
My son has gas that could clear a room in 2 seconds flat.
The mountains have long since left our rear view mirror.
I have spent very little time staring out my windows because the landscape is brown and flat with the occasional windmill. 
The punch of reality hit with each encroaching mile.
The mundane of work, bills, to do lists and forgetting to buy the milk at the grocery store.

It is a long drive from the mountains, with a time change not in our favor. 
So even though we left early in the morning while every one else was still in their pjs scrambling around the kitchen for a cup of coffee or breakfast, we did not exactly make it home before the sun.
Right as we hit the city the sun started to sink just below the horizon.
Pink and orange and all kinds of pretty.
Thankfully I wasn’t driving because all I could do was stare out my window.
Taking in the beauty in front of me. In my own zip code.
Wondering, if the people who live here ever get used to this view.
Deciding right then and there to do my best not to.


up the wallis

I posted this a few year's ago on Father's Day, but today my father turns 70 and I figured it was an appropriate repost. 

My father taught me many things. Some on purpose. Some on accident.
How to tie a tie. How to tie a cleat hitch. How to put away a dozen raw oysters. And that you should only eat them in months that have r in them. That black dress socks pulled up to the knee with white slip on Keds is not a good look for anyone. Bellies and bald heads sun burn first. That change adds up. That nothing is free. That life is anything but fair. That Bs aren’t good enough. How to order a beer in at least a half dozen languages. The way to Eldorado. (gaily bedight this gallant knight in sunshine and in shadow.) How to pour a drink. How to throw a cowpatty. (yes, you read that correctly). How to drive a boat. How to properly taste wine, although it involves something called clucking, and I think looks ridiculous. And should never be tried with whiskey. To tip well. To never run out of gas. To play a mean game of ping pong. That strawberries stain. That you get what you pay for. To let your meat rest. When you play poker to be prepared to lose. Real money. That there is always room for dessert. To two step and jitterbug. (well, techinically, I learned this is cotillion class – but my parents did a much better job in the living room) A few choice words. That people can always tell when you do something half ass. To have good insurance, and a decent retirement, and some emergency cash in your wallet. (in case you need to call a cab, or a wrecker or in my case purchase your first tattoo). The difference between port and starboard. The difference between port and merlot. The name of at last a dozen different cheeses. To appreciate new kinds of food, new people and new places. That a 16 year old doesn't need a new car or name brand jeans. (it is probably true at 36 too). Quality is always better than quantity. To bait my own hook. To make friends with important people: like the guy at the gas station, someone at the bank and anyone who can cook. To sing loudly. Even if you are off key. How to get out a decent wine stain. How to properly pull a weed. To shoot a gun. To tell a joke. Especially, slightly off color ones.

He has tried unsuccessfully to teach me how to do the following: Balance a checkbook. Drive. And pick up the living room or keep my car clean. But I assure you it wasn't for lack of trying.

Over the years my dad has had a myriad of hobbies and interests: sailing, gardening, country and western dancing, golf, photography, Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, Patsy Cline, tobacco and Robert E Lee. But there have been two constant topics of interest: as long as I can remember. Food. And family. And to me they go together. When I go home it isn’t what do you want to do, but what do you want to eat? And we always eat well. We have seconds. And occasionally thirds and the glasses keep getting refilled. On some occasions before a big family meal he prays first. And it is a long rambly mini sermon. But sometimes he sticks to his traditional toast. I’m not even sure exactly what it means except that it is always fitting. And even though it is no longer my name, I know that it is for me too.
"Up the Wallis"



the hard fun

A few weekends ago all four of us got bundled up, laced up our sneaks and headed to a local 5K. All of us run, well almost all of us. One of us doesn’t like to sweat. Or exert effort. Or clean her room. But the last time we left her behind she cried and said she wanted to run too, only because she hates nothing more than being left out.

Race day she was nervous and took a some convincing. She started out strong and started to fade only about two minutes in. I let her take quick breaks then told her to keep running. I passed a few people we knew and felt sorry for her dramatic panting and whining and offered to let her walk with them.  I quickly declined before she grabbed on to their legs and refused to let go.  She was going to run this race wether she wanted to or not. We finished the first mile with lots of sprinting, then walking, attempts at giving up and even a short stretch with me running while she was on my back. I know that lots of people think that running is punishment and not fun. 
But I disagree and have plenty of hardware on my wall to prove it.

I kept trying to encourage my daughter. Give her the right amount of praise, push and to sell this whole event as a good time.  She was not buying, despite taking her picture with the mascot, petting lots of dogs and getting her face painted. I asked her, “Isn’t this fun??” and with the honesty only a small child or a drunk adult can give she said very quickly, “This is not fun! It is hard!”
And I replied that the fact that it was hard was one of the very things that made it fun.
Completing something that is a struggle is rewarding. Especially when someone gives you a cup of gatorade and puts a medal around your neck afterwards. She said she preferred the kind of fun that involved ice cream, barbie dolls and minimal effort. Fun is supposed to be easy she told me.  I shook my head and hoped she would learn sooner rather than later that usually the exact opposite of that is true.

I like to make new friends. I have some great ones but am always a fan of getting to know new people and new perspectives. Sometimes when you get to know someone new they seem so much easier than the old ones you have programmed in your phone. You have no history with them. You have never had to apologize. They haven’t seen you at your worst. They haven’t heard all your best jokes and stories twice. Sometimes new is easy. Just because it is new. My oldest friends are occasionally difficult. There are busy calendars to navigate and they see straight through my cover ups and bad decisions and totally call me on it. So more than once, I have told someone new in my life how glad I am that they are easy. That other people in my life feel like work and they don’t and how refreshing that is. It took me awhile to figure it out but I finally stopped giving that same misdirected speech a few years ago…because I learned that the easy people in your life are never there when things get hard.

We spent the first part of our Spring Break in the mountains with three other families. And guess what living and planning with 16 people is hard. Sharing a bathroom, choosing a meal, attempting to sleep in and trying to get your homework done with a crowd is hard. Guess what isn’t hard -laughing until your stomach hurts, throwing snowballs off the balcony and sipping wine while you sit in front  of the fire.
Like running, community and friendship can be work. 
No one will put a medal around your neck for it, but the people you build it with are often the ones who will save yours.

Tess, is finally learning the lesson.
On our trip she was all about playing in the snow, having a pseudo little sister to boss around and tell the same knock knock joke to 247 times to — but like running she had zero interest in hitting the ski slopes. Owen and his dad could shut down the mountain each day but Tess was content to watch movies and eat fruit snacks by the fire.  On our last day, however, we suited her up and headed up the mountain. She was petrified. I was a little scared as well because it has been over a decade since I have skied, but hate missing out more than I care about my knees making it until I am 80.

Me and Owen took off while my husband carried Tess up and down the mountain at least a dozen times.  Ski school was full, I was on the “green team” in college…meaning of the two of us —he was the only one qualified to given any kind of instruction.  And Tess, takes to being told how to do something about like me…which is terribly. There are times I am reminded of how much I love my husband. It is usually moments where he starts my car on cold mornings or attempts to get my order right at Starbucks. My husband is not usually long in patience, but my heart swelled each time I saw him carry that pink ski jacket (with my six year old intact) a little higher up the slopes.  Me and O would see them at the base after a run and I’d go check on them mostly to see Tess face down and skis all askew.  She did not look happy but was still getting up.  “Pizza” he kept telling her while me and Owen worked on our “french fries” (wedge vs straight skis for those of you that don’t speak mountain).  We met for lunch and Tess broke down into huge tears when she realized that she would have to go back out there after she finished her chicken strips. I had promised to take her home when she was done and let the boys get a few harder runs in….but I wasn’t willing to call it quits yet. Shaun somehow bribed her to get back on the lift while me and Owen took the express all the way to the top. Some kind of miracle occurred while I took one more run and bargained with the orthopedic gods on wether or not I tear something else in my knees on our way down the mountain.  All of  Shaun’s patient work somehow payed off. She went up and down the bunny slope over and over getting faster and more independent each time. I watched her go down the mountain on her own a few times making it further and further each time before eating snow, beaming the entire time.  On the drive back to the house, she kept saying how much fun that she had skiing. 
That it was  really hard, but really fun.
And could she go back tomorrow because it had been so much “hard fun.”

There will be no more lift rides until next season.
But the hard fun, I hope she learns to have that every season.
Especially with hard fun people.