Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shimmering, Silver Magic

I was about 7 years old and when my dad woke me up from a deep slumber.

"Wake up, kiddo!" he said.

It took a few seconds for my mind to click and then wide-eyed excitement hit me.

"Are they really running?" I whispered.

"Yep! Let's go!"

I hopped out of the top bunk in our small camper trailer careful not to bump my mom who was sleeping below. I followed the beam of my dad's flashlight to my brother who was sitting on the camper step groggily putting on shoes. I perched beside him and slipped on my damp and sandy canvas sneakers. 

It took less that 30 seconds to cross the dry sand that led to the ocean's edge. As I continued to followed the beam of Dad's flashlight I was astonished. The shoreline was covered with thousands of silver little fish squirming and shimmering. The light from the flashlight seemed to reflect from fish to fish so that the entire shore was alive with sparkling movement.

The Grunion were running!

The California Grunion come ashore to spawn and lay their eggs in the wet sand. I highly doubt they understand why this is such a fascinating event for humans to witness.
That night is clearly etched in my mind. It was the first and only time that I have seen the Grunion run but it occupies a safe place in my mind. Though the Grunion arrive with some regularity the exact hour can be hard to predict. I have searched on yearly visits to Pismo Beach along the California Coastline but I have yet to see the remarkable event again.

I think memories like these are treasures of childhood. Like my own childhood, my children will never have the most expensive toys or the latest video game system but they will have cherished memories that will last far longer. It is my hope that one of those memories will be the amazing run of the Grunion. This is why I continue to slip on my damp and sandy sneakers and peer at the shoreline late into the night whenever I find myself in Pismo. Someday, just maybe, I can share the silvery magic of the Grunion with my kids.

Monday, June 24, 2013

At the threshold of 40

Next week I will turn 40. How did 40 years go by so quickly? I remember time seemed motionless before children and now they are growing so quickly that I can't help but realize that I am aging with them. I don't feel incredibly old but I don't feel like a spring chicken either. I have laugh lines around my eyes and scars marking past adventures on my body. I have to dye my hair to tame the gray hair or is it white? And, while I am still active, I find I am much more conscious of falling. Falling hurts more these days so I place my steps carefully.

I have been truly blessed by my life thus far but knocking on 40's door has me wondering what is next. I still have big dreams and endless aspirations. I must be closer to reaching them! 

I can't even fathom what the next 40 years will bring because the first 40 has been beyond anything I could have planned. There have been valleys of despair and peeks of elation. Sometimes the peeks and valleys have come without warning and sometimes I could see them a long ways off. But, even those I could see often brought some twist or turn I was not expecting.

So, I guess I am sort of excited to turn 40. I get to fill in new bubbles on surveys and enter new categories in races. And, I will be in the same decade as my hubs for a few years before he races off to 50. 

I guess it is time to quit lamenting and tackle the goal of being fabulous at 40! Maybe I should start stocking up on goal lamé...I think that might come with 50.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Clean Gutters

I got to clean out our rain gutters today! Yes, I did mean to write that with excitement! I love doing things like that. I got the ladder and my gloves and dug out leaves and debris that had built up over the past few years...this is a neglected chore. I have never cleaned gutters before so I found it quite fun. My son managed water control and we got all the gutters ready for the next big rain...probably in December. But we are ready!

My husband was laughing at my excitement of being on the roof digging dirt out of gutters. He noted that when the weekend comes the first thing I want to do is go outside and dig up something while he wants to catch up on e-mail and Facebook. My husband works hard all week in a swamp-cooled shop doing autobody work on cars, trucks, and motorcycles. I honestly don't know how he does it. People bring in these old chassis' on four tires and Todd sends them out looking fresh off the showroom. By Friday, he is done with the elements.

While I do work outside much of the year for my job, in the summer I am tethered to my laptop. I crave the outside. I pop open windows - when it isn't 108 degrees outside - and gaze out to where I want to be. When the weekend comes for me I want to run and play and grow something.

Todd grew up tending to his mom's farm so he has had a lifetime of yard work. And, while we just have two acres, they need a lot of work. It went like this...the house burned down and then the well went dry. Those two catastrophes pretty much did in our lawn. It is going to take a lot of work and funds to get everything looking spiffy and green again. Once the well is paid off we will work on the lawn but for now we manage weeds and trees. It can be daunting to look out and see dried up everything but when I look out I focus on our shrubs and plants that need watering and our vegetable garden that is thriving. I have learned to overlook the vast expanse of brown where our yard should be. 

My husband is a champ about indulging me in my little projects like cleaning out rain gutters. He knows there is a big project looming but also knows I feel better if I can at least keep up on the little things. People driving by our home probably wonder why I am wielding a chainsaw while Todd tinkers in the garage. Simply, it gives me joy. I love tending to what vegetation we have. I know we have a plan and when the time is right God will make it so. Someday I will walk barefoot on green grass in our lawn (actually I will probably flop around on it like a happy dog after a bath). I know without a doubt that even when I am able to flop around with joy I will still find happiness in clean rain gutters.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Um...yeah...that's not reality...

My running buddy was telling me about a reality show she watched. She said in the season finale the striking doctor whisked away his choice lady to a hillside where they shared their first kiss in the setting sun. Mere months later they where living apart having called the whole thing off. These are the topics that puzzle us at 5:30 each morning as we run in the cool air of our quiet community.

We tried to wrap our minds around a reality dating show that is completely unhitched from reality. The beautiful women live together in a mansion while fashion stylists work feverishly to make them fetching. The suitor seems to have an endless supply of funds as he plans exotic vacations and dates complete with gondolas and violin players.

That is not reality.

Reality is bedhead and morning breath. It is home brewed coffee and tracking down the morning paper in the bushes while wearing your slippers. Reality is listening to food poisoning attack your spouse from the other side of the bathroom door.

Reality is not an endless fairytale where you travel to work by hot air balloon. It is not all butterflies and sugar cookies. Reality is gritting your teeth and hunkering down for the ride.

In reality you do not walk into your bathroom to meet your hairstylists everyday (well, I don't!). You don't have cameras following you around and you don't have producers planning the perfect spontaneous moments. In reality people work and tend to chores. In reality dogs must be walked and children must be fed. In reality there is dust that needs to be removed and carpets that need vacuuming. In reality there are a million little things to accomplish to simply function as a productive member of society.

It is no wonder that when the cameras leave the lust leaves. The couple must engage with one another without prompts. They find themselves alone and face-to-face. After the final rose is given society could care less. Life goes on...reality sets in.

I rather like reality but I can see how it is not everyone's cup of tea. Reality can provide some stirring moments but it is usually not total drama and angst. After our home burnt down, I craved normalcy. I wanted to sleep in my own bed, under my own roof, in my own pajamas. I wanted my coffee to come from the pot on my counter and the flowers to come from my flower bed. The drama of having a house go up in flames drained me. I just wanted normal.

Everyone's normal is different but normal is certainly not how reality shows portray it. How sad for the contestants looking for love who get caught up in the fairytale the show producer creates. That fairytale cannot last forever. Reality swoops in and squashes it leaving the love birds feeling empty and deflated. 

My husband has never chartered a helicopter just so we could kiss on a mountain-top at sunset and that is OK. Reality is he kisses me every morning before the chaos of raising children begins. That works for me. True love outranks lust and my reality suites me just fine.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Girl Scout Secret...

There is a dark side of Girl Scouts that no one talks about. When they recruit for troop leaders they omit the darkest of all secrets. They hook you with images of skipping through green meadows while your arms are linked with little, wide-eyed girl scouts who want to glean whatever insight you have to share. You start to believe that little cartoon flowers will dance above the heads of your precious scouts at every meeting. 

And then, the darkness comes. You start to hear whisperings of it. Hushed tones and muted e-mails. You notice people twitching. You notice the nail biting. It is near. Then it is upon you like the fury of an angry volcano that spews forth molten lava. It just appears and no matter how much preparation you think you have you find it is not enough. It…is…not...enough…

 It is…cookie season.

Cookie season is a dark time. People are frothing to get their Thin Mints and girl scouts are selling like Wall Street traders to earn their trinkets and badges. And no matter how many cookies you unload…people still want more.

There is no time for sleep in cookie season. There is no time for skipping through green meadows. It is hard core sales. There are orders and re-orders and final orders. There is sorting to be done - no job for the feeble. The cookies must be sorted by type…then by scout…and then your daughter’s own order. As Cookie Guru one must pick up cases of cookies…C-A-S-E-S. Vehicle-loads of cases. Perhaps three vehicles? Perhaps 215 cases? Perhaps.

Cookie season is intense and the scouts have a steadfast determination to beat last year’s sales. My troop sold over 600 more boxes of cookies than they did the year prior. That translates to 50 more cases!

One mom and I nearly wept as she came by at 9pm one night to pick-up the last dribs and drabs of cookies her daughter had sold.

“Did she make it to 250?” she asked with tired eyes.

“Yes, my friend. Yes she did,” I said with the solemn and serious grace that such a momentous moment deserved.

Cookie season does that. It makes one a little crazy. There are orders to fill, monies to collect, booths to set-up. Thin Mints out-sell Oreos and Thin Mints are only available two months out of the year. That is cookie chaos in the making.

As much as I love leading my daughter’s troop I do not love cookie season. If not for my mom and my awesome co-leaders I would not be able to survive. I faced cookie season alone once…I am still scarred. That is why I do not request the giant cookie costumes for our girls to wear at our cookie booths. I have dreamed of giant Thanks-A-Lots chasing me down, I certainly don’t want to come face-to-face with one in real life.

When it is all said and done; when all the cookies are gone; when all the trinkets are awarded; when our small portion of troop sales is nestled into the bank account; it is then I sit back and think that was totally not worth it! I jest! I actually sit back and wonder if the box of Thin Mints I stashed in the freezer is still there?!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Skydive Days

It was 19 years ago yesterday that I fractured my back while skydiving. Actually, it was the landing that got me. As with nearly all skydiving injuries it was 100% human error. I hit the brakes too high and hit the ground too hard (and was subsequently drug through a serious crop of weeds).

Skydiving was a passion of mine for a few years. It was my 51st jump that laid me out flat and I retired my parachute for running shoes at 150. It may seem amazing but with only 150 jumps I was quite a novice. Most of my skydiving buddies logged hundreds and a few had thousands of jumps. 

I was drawn to skydiving because it bolstered my confidence. Whenever I doubted myself I would think, "If I can jump out of a plane, I can certainly do this." It was the only outlet where I felt accepted for my goofy self and where I finally shook off a painful coat of shyness I lugged around for years. And, I did love the attention I received as one of a few females in a male dominated sport.

I watch my old jumping videos and realize I miss the sport terribly. But, I have to wonder if it is actually nostalgia for a different time in my life? A time when I had fewer responsibilities and money to spare. A time when my biggest decision was how many jumps I would make on a given Saturday. 

As the years have passed I have mellowed out quite a bit. The extremist in me has accepted that I am a mom with a host of responsibilities. And, I don't want my human error to prevent me from raising my kids (I want to be the one to embarrass them in high school!). There may be a jump or two left in me, but for the time being I am content with my running sneakers. With my running shoes no action is required to prevent imminent death and at worst I might need a bandage on my knee after participating in the activity (grace is not a virtue of mine). 

But, even as I run these days I do find myself looking up at the blue sky from time to time and thinking, "Today is a perfect day for skydiving."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Time to be Awesome

What are your aspirations? Those bits of awesomeness that God has placed on your heart? Those desires that often seem unattainable?

I aspire to be many things and achieve many things. As I near forty (gasp!) I find I am more compelled than ever before to leave my mark on this world. I have some pretty big dreams, and I have realized that each one is totally attainable.

I have pared down my list of desires considerably. I have accepted that dolphin training is not in my future - though swimming with the dolphins could be. And, I am pretty certain I will never compete in an Iron Man competition. I am OK with that. My half marathons suit me just fine. Likely, I won't be voted one of People Magazine's most beautiful celebrities. First, I would have to achieve some ridiculous amount of fame and then figure out how to de-age myself by at least 10 years. I am feeling quite confident that this will not happen.

The thing is that God has placed desires and dreams on my heart that I have let sit. I have let them grow stagnant. I revisit them ever so often to make sure those seeds are still there but I have not tended to them. Only recently have I began to water those seeds of hope feverishly. I have realized that if God places something on my heart, He has also placed the ability to achieve it within me.

My timing has never quite been in sync with God's. My wild notions and ideas have not always been in accordance with God's will for my life. I am learning. I am in a season of deep trust and growth. I feel myself changing and I feel my faith deepening and strengthening. I am getting ready.

Have you ever felt you were on the cusp of something big? That feeling of anticipation. Knowing you must wait but believing something awesome is about to happen? That is where I am. I have started to actively pursue my bits of awesomeness. I have seen doors start to open and my direction start to focus. I am frothing at the bit to run as fast as I can through every door imaginable but I am maintaining the course. I am holding onto my faith and trusting that God will straighten the crooked path before me. It is then that my timing and His will be in sync and the blessings will rain down in torrents. 

I know everyone has seeds of awesomeness on their hearts. It is time to start watering them. Tend to them. Clear the weeds away from their precious roots. Allow yourself to dream...actively. Don't just daydream but dream with purpose. Dream with intention. Look in your heart and find your passions. They are there. You have not lost them. They might be covered with the dust of time...but they are there. Waiting. 

Now is your time...and mine. Let's go boldly forward in faith knowing that God has our backs. He wants us to achieve our ultimate potential...it is time for us to take steps...even baby steps...toward our goals.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cave Season

We have entered "Cave Season" at Smokey Acres. Cave season usually begins around June and wanes around September. The purpose of cave season is to stay as cool as possible in the extraordinary hotness that is summer in these parts. Three-digit weather is not uncommon here, and contrary to six-figure incomes, is not desirable. 

The goal of summer is to remain in a state of relative coolness while not handing over our first born child to our utility provider. Hence, cave season.

Cave season starts with closing all window blinds. Any drop of unnecessary sunlight can anger the thermostat. The thermostat must remain stable or it triggers the air conditioning which starts the tally with the utility provider. The doors and windows must remain closed as much as possible. Heat likes to sneak in and disturb the coolness and pleasantness of our cave. My children have been caught trying to air condition the outside world. They did not get in trouble. Upon seeing chilled dollar bills fly out of our back door I simply collapsed into a pool of goo.

Cave season requires the use of ceiling fans. They must remain on at all times if only to stir up stagnate air. I do open the windows in the early morning hours of cave season when the air is still crisp and not completely wilted in the heat. But, the smells of childhood in progress do need intermittent stirring. 

Ice water, Otter Pops, and Ice Cream are a must in cave season. The moment one becomes dehydrated the outside world starts to appeal more that the coolness of the cave. A dehydrated child is a cranky child and yard work seems like a good idea at 103 degrees when offered alongside the option of being trapped in the cave with a child battling a case of grumpiness. Otter Pops and ice Cream are just for fun, because, it is summer after all.

Cave season is the price we pay for living 60 miles away from the gates of Yosemite and 3 hours from the golden sand lining the Pacific Ocean. We live in a beautiful part of the world and I suppose having to slap the steering wheel of the car for the first 5 miles to avoid third degree burns is not totally unreasonable.

I merely hope to survive cave season with a portion of our savings intact. The less I can run the air conditioning means the less money the utility company gets. They will get more than their fair share no doubt but I would love to keep some of that hard-earned money in the bank. 

The irony of this post is that I am writing it outside while I watch my children swim in our little above ground pool. The temperature gauge reads a cool 99 degrees - but the cave is a chilly 80 degrees! Now, 80 may not seem cool but, trust me, when it is 111 degrees in August it will seem like the polar ice caps!