Archive | August, 2013

Back Yard Bonanza

27 Aug

My family lives in Northern Virginia by chance. We moved here courtesy of the U.S. Military for our last tour of duty 17 years ago, and just haven’t gotten around to moving home. Truth be told, we don’t exactly know where home is.  I’m a native Rhode Islander, and I pine for the water and sand. My husband grew up in Montana and Colorado, where it’s all about the mountains and snow. So we sit here in the suburbs while the years tick away; we’re like sloths trying to choose our next tree. For years our only certainty has been that we won’t be staying in Virginia. The traffic, the hurried pace, the shopping malls—not for us.

Falling Spring, Covington, VA

Falling Spring, Covington, VA

However, a new family hobby may be bringing our future more clearly into focus. We’ve been geocaching for more than a year now. That’s a different story for a different time, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll describe it as an international pastime involving more than two million containers logged according to their longitude and latitude. Or, as one popular slogan explains, we use billion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods.

This hobby has taken us to places we’d never have seen otherwise.  We’re half-way through our quest to find a cache in every county and independent city in Virginia. That’s 95 counties and 39 cities. In the process, we’re discovering Virginia.

This past weekend, we drove along the West Virginia border, through the George Washington National Forest, stopping in counties with names like Bath, Bedford, and Botetourt. We spent a night in Harrisonburg and a night in Roanoke. Between the two stops, we found a breathtaking waterfall in Covington, we snaked alongside the James River through the Appalachian Mountains, and we stumbled across the gravesite of the WWII U.S. Marine Corps general whose artillerymen may have kept Uncle Frank alive at Iwo Jima (yet another story, coming soon to a Portrait site near you).

Pirates guarding the pier

Couple of beach bums guarding the pier at Colonial Beach

Our recent trip has left me reflecting on the many historical, peaceful, and bizarre sights we’ve seen in the past year or so—and how our opinion of Virginia is changing. There’s a lot more here than asphalt and tail lights. We’ve watched the Serenity Schooner sail into Yorktown, admired the pirates at Colonial Beach, and waited for the sun to set over the Shenandoahs.

We’ve visited so many monuments and grave markers that we’re developing a fascination and appreciation for America’s history while searching among headstones at Arlington for the graves of Iwo Jima flag raisers, standing at Stonewall Jackson grave site statue wondering what he’s looking at for all eternity, or even just hanging out in Middleburg, where Jeb Stewart and his cavalry were skirmishing just before the battle at Gettysburg.

Serenity Schooner

Serenity Schooner sailing to Yorktown..
is our ship coming in?

It’s been a most excellent adventure…and we’re only half-way through our journey. As it turns out, Virginia is a tad larger than we first thought, and much more interesting. In fact, on each trek, we add another site to our growing list of places we want to go back to when we can spend more time. More importantly, in nearly every place we visit, I think, wow, I could live here.

Next trip: Smyth, Grayson, Patrick AND Henry counties. I can hardly wait…

I’m starting to think we might be Virginians after all.

I yam where I swam

12 Aug

I’ve taken on too much. Again.

It’s a regular thing for me.

A wife, a mother, a friend, a writer, a housekeeper, a supervisor, a wreck.

plates for spinning

How many plates can you spin?

Does my story sound familiar to you? I race everywhere, arrive five minutes late, and spend my time there thinking about where I’m heading next. I have a bag that is brimming with receipts, notes, and forms I accumulated this week that I keep promising myself I’ll sort as soon as I get a free minute. And, as you’ve no doubt noticed, my weekly blog post is two days late. My life has become a circus plate-spinning act. How hectic does life have to get before I start saying no?

So naturally, when the opportunity to learn Hebrew in a free, fast-paced, fire-hose of a daily commitment arose, I jumped at it. Feet first; no floaties.

That’s why today I’m wallowing in a pool of self pity, trying to remember that what sounds like “he” is the Hebrew word for “she” and what sounds like “who” is really “he.”

Me is who.

Dog is Fish.

And a yam is something we swim in.

Whose idea was this? Yes, of course. It was mine.

As such, I come to that all-too familiar scene, again, wherein I must create a list of obligations and responsibilities. Then I scrutinize, categorize, and prioritize the list, asking about each item, “Is THIS the most important thing?”

It’s a rather long list, but when finally sorted and cut back to the priorities, it looks, oh, so familiar: God, then family, then writing. Well, sometimes it’s writing and then family, but don’t let that out, ok?

Out of the blue, I’m reminded of a story I wrote a few months ago about this very topic, intending to post it on my Portrait Page, but instead I lost it in the yam of business that is my life (NOTE: that’s not irony; it’s a pathetic coincidence).

So today the story goes on my page, as a promise to myself that I will start again, focus on what’s important, and, if need be, do the same thing next week.

Its actual title is My Main Event, but perhaps I should post it as “Portrait of a Woman Who does too much.”

I won’t ask you to go read it today. (NOTE: that wouldn’t be irony; it would be pathetic hypocrisy). But, when you get some free time, or when you want to learn the secret to prioritizing, it’ll be there, waiting for you.


Taking Flight

3 Aug

In my heart he’s still my baby, my youngest, my little man. But watching him stride through the airport to meet seven other Canada-bound Boy Scouts from his troop, I’m momentarily startled by the volume of space his six-foot frame commands. A mother should never have to look up to address her 14-year-old.

Wearing an eyepatch

Eyepatch, eh?

He’s been to Canada before. We went to Niagara Falls when he was seven. Back then he had to wear an eye patch to strengthen a weak eye; we would draw picture on each day’s patch to at least keep the process interesting.  Of course the patches that week sported Canadian Flags and waterfalls. He was adorable. And small.

He greets his friends with handshakes. (When did that start?) In mere seconds he’s absorbed into the line of khaki uniforms and overstuffed backpacks heading to the check-in counter, but I can pick out his size-13 hiking boots in the assembly of feet.

I’m struggling to identify an overwhelming weight pressing down on my heart, making it somewhat hard to breathe.

It’s not fear, of that I’m certain. I will say, though, in the months leading up to this 10-day canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness, I experienced a range of emotions, from envious elation at the incredible opportunity before him to brown-bag-deep-breathing-exercise-inducing moments of dread over what COULD happen. I conjured images of giant snarling bears, stampeding moose, and head-splitting falls against the rocks.

But this isn’t fear. I know he’s a responsible young man who is well trained, and I trust his leaders implicitly. I’m confident that the number of his days has been ordained by The One who knows how many hairs are on his head. I’m very much aware that every day we have to share with loved ones is a gift, and that I’ve received 5,323 undeserved one-more-day gifts with this boy thus far (and twice that for his older brother). I pray I have many more, knowing that our days on Earth are no less guaranteed in the wilderness than on the interstate beside a drunk driver if God decides it’s time to come home.

So, what is this pain?

The boys finish checking their bags and stop at the parent pool for a last round of good-bye hugs. I fight the urge to remind him not to spend all his money on the trip out, and stand on tip-toes to whisper in his ear that I love him. He surprises me by NOT rolling his eyes.

They head to the gate, walking away from us as one body. But my boy is the tallest in the group, and not at all hard to follow. He’s deeply engrossed in conversation with his pals, oblivious to the emotional wreck of a mom watching him leave. Then I see him turn and look back.

Ready for Takeoff

Ready for Takeoff

I suddenly know what’s going on in my heart. It has finally realized that my little man is about to walk through that gate and disappear, and that I won’t recognize the person who comes back. In ten days when I see him again, his face will be tan, his arms muscled from days of pulling the oars, and he no doubt will be even taller, but he will also be more confident, capable, and independent. This is the beginning of adulthood, and I’m just not ready for it.

Saying good-bye to my little eye-patch boy is breaking me.