Tag Archives: travel

i find happiness in dreaming

I find happiness in dreaming. One thing that drives A. crazy is when we’re on a trip — an amazing trip where we’re kayaking in Costa Rica past sea turtles — and I’m so full of life and excitement, I say, “Where can we go NEXT?” I get it, I also like to live in the moment especially while life is good — and the people we love are doing well. But sometimes I can’t help myself — thinking about what’s next is a bubbling up, my-cup-runneth-over feeling.

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next: What’s my next goal, what can I get involved in, where can I find the community I’ve been longing for. I don’t have answers, but here’s a list of places I’d love to go and dreams I’d love to fulfill. Some of these ideas come from friends who have lived them.

  • An artist’s residency for pottery in Maine or Australia
  • A writer’s retreat where I’m with other writers and someone cooks for me (oh I love when people cook for me!). Bonus if it’s someplace like Italy.
  • A yoga retreat. I saw one in Bali that would be amazing.
  • A biking trip in Northern Spain
  • Working on a farm in Maine
  • Learning how to make cheese
  • Sailing in Turkey
  • Sight-seeing in the Galapagos Islands
  • A running race in Hawaii
  • Volunteering for a cause I believe in
  • Traveling to the caves and story-book settings in France
  • Seeing the Northern Lights in Norway and visiting one of my favorite potters I found on Instagram

When I was single (nearly 10 years ago, woah), if I was struggling with feeling lonely or during a breakup, I would write lists like this and it always, always cheered me up. There’s so much to do! So much to look forward to!

Speaking of pottery, I continue to see progress with each firing, and I continue to be motivated when I sell. Today, a woman I don’t know bought a mug off of Etsy and I went to my shop while the boys were occupied and I threw three more pieces in a surge of excitement.

 

I’ve also really been enjoying the kids in a profound way. In a “they are growing up and I love them within the deepest reaches of my soul” kind of way. The song “Have It All” by Jason Mraz, which is about kids leaving the nest, makes me cry (twice this week!) because even though my boys are 6, 4 and 2, it doesn’t seem that far off when they’ll leave to explore and discover themselves. I already know how deeply I’ll miss them.

This summer, the boys and I spent two weeks in Michigan, including a week up north at a lake house. Every year I get older, the more connected I feel to my home state — the people are down to earth and kind and the landscape up north on the water is serene and beautiful. And of course, many of my friends and family are there. It makes me want to have a house there to spend in the summers when A. and I are retired. One there, and maybe one in California for the winter. I don’t know where we’ll be in a few years, but every time we move and every time I travel, I’m looking, and feeling and trying to understand what I want and where I want to be. I’m dreaming. Because dreaming makes me happy.

 

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so there i was, staring at a bear…

So there I was Sunday evening in the woods near Mammoth Lake, my 2 1/2 year old near our car, my 3 month old sleeping in his car seat next to our tent, my eyes locked with a big black bear’s.

We were ready to camp for a third consecutive night on the route home from a camping/climbing adventure near South Lake Tahoe.

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Earlier that day, we got a flat at the ghost town in Bodie, Calif. (My theory is the Wild West bandit/drunk ghosts were angry because they heard me say I don’t believe in ghosts. So they popped our tire.) A. put on a spare while I nursed and we hatched a plan. It was after 5 p.m., so we decided to drive near the closest town — Mammoth — camp and then get a new tire in the morning.

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We turned onto a side road off of the Mammoth scenic route. “Think we can camp here?” A. asked. We looked around. Seemed OK. “It’s so gorgeous,” A. said. “I wonder why no one else is out here.”

We set up our tent on a bed of pine needles and laid out the sleeping bags. We sat in our camping chairs and ate tortillas with peanut butter, grapes and Hershey’s chocolate. We spotted a small bear in the distance that wasn’t interested in us. We brushed our teeth. CM and I were at the car to put on PJs, and A. had moved our bear canister with everything I could think of: my deodorant, our baby wipes, sunscreen.

And then I saw a big blur moving through the trees.

… “Babe?”

It was camouflaged.

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A. and I yelled a few times, but the noise didn’t phase the bear. It stared at us, its ears standing up. I pretended to charge it. It took a few steps backward, but then cocked its head and took a few steps forward. I picked up a stick and yelled loudly and ran toward that m’f’ing bear — wild and crazy — before it turned and fled, kicking up pine needles as it ran. My heart was pounding and A. said he’d seen lots of bears in the wild, but that was the most nervous he’s been. And then: “If I was a bear, I would have been afraid of you, too.”

We had already spent two nights at a beautiful campsite about a half hour from South Lake Tahoe: Fire! S’mores! Privacy! Stars! Trees!

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A. went trad climbing on Saturday, while I wandered Tahoe with another mom and her two kids. We ate breakfast burritos at the funky Keys Cafe, went on a mini hike at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center where we gawked at trout and blew dandelions and then we dipped our feet in the ice-cold water at Pope Beach.

We were happy and didn’t need another night sleeping on the ground. So, after a short discussion, we decided it was wise to pack up and drive home the three hours on a spare. We can put everything that smells like food in the bear canister, except for me and CP. I’m not a shrinky dink. And this nursing mom didn’t want a bear sniffing around our tent for milk in the middle of the night. [Shudder.]

As we got on 395 in the last minutes of soft evening sun, we laughed together as the boys slept in the backseat. “Are we wimps?” “Yeah, we’re wimps. But it’s the right call.”

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a midwest vacation

C. and I have been on the road for more than two weeks — visiting my parents in the Detroit suburbs and my brother and sister-in-law and niece in Chicago. The last few days, C. was saying, “Go home, go home?” Yesterday, we arrived at the tiny Inyokern airport — which was virtually empty (United only offers two flights there daily), and A. was standing in the doorway, and C. ran toward his papa and giggled insanely.

The last two weeks, we mostly relaxed and visited family and friends. We swam, played in the sprinkler, saw penguins at the Detroit Zoo, visited family in Port Huron — and I watched A LOT of Tigers baseball, which I enjoyed, but I’m happy to be back in our quiet house without a TV. (Well, our TV is under the bed in our guest room for special occasions.)

My favorite moments were seeing C. snuggle up to his grandparents and ask for them every morning when he woke up, long conversations with girlfriends (that’s what I miss most since moving to the desert), catching up with two friends I literally haven’t seen in more than five years, watching 19-month-old C. and his 13-month-old cousin bond (babies can really get each other, can’t they?), and delicious meals, including carry-out pad Thai in Chicago (ohhh how i miss good Thai food).

Now I’m ready to be back in the quiet so I can launch into some creative projects, cook more, read more and write more. Happy Friday to you.

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what i learned on vacation (and on my return)

Do you ever come back from a vacation more tired than when you left? That’s how I feel today after 10 days in D.C. and New Jersey (with swings through Vegas, New York City and Atlantic City). I definitely overbooked myself — and though I had a blast, I’m glad to relax in the quiet, listen to the birds, make myself smoothies and decompress before heading to the Midwest next month.

Here’s what I learned on my vacation:

1. I don’t hate Vegas as much as I thought I did. We swam in the outdoor pool at New York, New York, and ate pizza and beet salad and drank good wine. Also, C. wasn’t ready to be dunked and he freaked out after I dipped him under (note his wary expression).

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2. C. is still a good traveler, and although long flights make me convulse with anxiety, he never ceases to amaze me. (Granted, with A. it’s 200 times easier.) Here, A. and I rigged him up to the suitcase, which elicited many laughs.

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3. It feels like nothing has changed in D.C. It’s been six months, but it felt like I was there yesterday. I loved connecting with dear friends, even if I ran myself ragged to do so. If only I could move one of them to the desert. Just one.

4. I also still feel connected to former NPR colleagues, although it’s been longer since I left there and they’ve since moved into a swanky new headquarters. They all made me (and C.!) feel loved. Despite the love — and I hate to admit it because I’m happy and I know this is a special time — I still harbor some insecurities about my status as a stay-at-home mom.

5. I’d much rather live in the oppressive desert heat than in chaotic, trash-strewn NYC. Though, we did have fun on our date (rooftop wedding in Soho).

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6. I miss running in cool, humid weather — and sweating. This was a little slice of heaven in New Jersey — I felt like I could run forever.

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7. It was really, really hot in the desert while we were gone and it’s not the dog days yet. Here is evidence.

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7. Our apricot tree has a two-week picking period, and then it’s done. We returned to a whole lot of this.

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I’m glad we told friends to help themselves and I’m even more glad our 82-year-old neighbor — who knew we were away — called A. to tell him there was a black SUV parked in our driveway. Thanks for watching out for us, sir.

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in search of wildflowers

On Sunday, we drove to the Panamint Valley in search of large yellow daisies that you can only find on that small section of the earth. We drove through the mountain pass, stopped to take in the vast, open view, and on into Death Valley to see charcoal kilns built by Chinese laborers in the late 1800s.

While there, C. took A. on a mini hike — this little 16-month-old is getting more adventurous. “Hand,” he says, wanting to hold hands while he navigates his unsteady feet over rocks.

There were no daisies — it was a dry winter and the wildflowers will be hard to spot this year. But it was the type of drive that makes you suck in your breath with wonder.

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abandoned mine: a film set?

“If I were a college film student,” A. said. “This is where I’d shoot a horror film.”

We were at an abandoned mine deep in the Indian Wells Valley, and A. was downstairs in a cabin in the woods looking at debris and rusted springs from a bed from nearly a century ago.

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On a tip from two dirt-bikers at the brewery the day prior, we went in search of the Nadeau-Magnolia gold mine, driving narrow dirt roads past hundreds of Joshua trees — some charred from a recent fire. When we arrived, there was a sign lying on the ground, so faded it’s hard to read: “Caution: Mining Area” and “1937.”

On one of the walls in the cabin hangs photos of Siebert family — but A. and I didn’t get a close look because we didn’t trust the wooden boards to hold our weight.

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Wandering around, seeing mining equipment from the early 1900s, I felt like a kid who had walked straight into a storybook. I imagined miners calling to each other, faces covered in dirt, and the Siebert family sitting around the stove in the cabin, looking out the same window I peered out.

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A. and I had stepped into history, and it was all ours to explore. We decided it’s our best discovery yet since moving to Ridgecrest, Calif. The next weekend, we tried to take A.’s parents, but there were about six people huddled near the camping area — including a tall, lanky guy holding a shotgun — and a pitbull that came charging toward our car. We turned around so fast, it’s a wonder we didn’t skid off the dirt road.

We didn’t make it up to the actual mine, about a 1/2 mile hike, but we plan to go back. (And I’d like to find out more about its history — but a quick Google search doesn’t bring anything up.) Maybe we’ll take video cameras and shoot our own horror film like the Blair Witch Project. I’m certain that with little effort — especially after dark — we can scare the bejeesus out of each other.

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overnight date to mammoth

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A. and I drove to Mammoth on Thursday afternoon for our first overnight date since C. was born. We drove along the Eastern Sierras on virtually empty roads as the sun cast shadows on the mountains. When we arrived early evening, we both bought shiny new ski pants, drank beer (A.) and a white Russian (me) at a buzzing ski bar and then got the most delicious Thai food we’d ever had at Thai’d Up (A. kept calling it Thai Me Up).

The next morning, we hit the slopes and it was a bluebird day. I skied for the first time in 13 years (I switched from snowboarding because I figure I won’t want to risk a hard fall when I’m 60). And it was the first time either of us had been on the slopes in a couple of years. By early afternoon, I was cruising so fast I could hear the wind whistling through my red ski coat. And by 3 p.m., both of our legs were mush. I was so shaky, I barely made it down the last slope.

On the way home, we stopped in Bishop for a frothy latte and a dip in the art supply store (I bought watercolors!). And then on we drove, back along the Sierras, and we studied the peaks we plan to explore (including Mt. Whitney) during our stay in the desert.

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thank you palm springs

I love travel. Always have. But lately, I have quietly struggled when C. doesn’t sleep well on the road. Often, he’ll cry that first night in a new place, which stresses me out, and he won’t nap, which makes for a fussy baby. Not this weekend.

We met friends in Palm Springs for three nights, and C. slept like an angel. He went down easily for the night in his travel crib. He napped on two hikes — one overlooking Palm Springs and another in the Indian reservation (where we saw the spring for which the city is named — a true oasis). He napped in the car on the way to Joshua Tree.

And then, on our last day, he took a late afternoon nap so that A. and I could dip in the heated pool just outside the door of the condo we rented for the weekend. I fit into my pre-pregnancy bathing suit (yay!) and enjoyed the sun’s warmth and felt so relaxed and happy. Yeah, I like California in the winter.

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how not to fly with an infant

At Detroit Metro airport, waiting for our return flight to D.C. (a much better, leisurely trip).

I stood in the ticket counter line, panicked and on the verge of tears. The lady helping the man before me seemed to be in slow motion. Smiling, slowly leaning down to put a tag on his bag, slowly reaching over to grab his passport.

“C’mon, C’mon!!” I muttered to myself, bouncing up and down.

My flight from D.C. to Detroit was leaving in 25 minutes. I had checked in online, but when I got to the Delta kiosk to print my boarding pass, the machine said I was too late. And then an incompetent lady walked me back to the kiosk to do what I had just done, only to get the same message. I was furious that she wasted three precious minutes.

“Sorry,” she said, not sorry. “You can take the flight leaving in 3 hours.”

“No, no,” I said. “I think I can make it.”

“It’s against regulation,” she huffed. “You can talk to one of our service representatives, but you have to wait in line.”

So I did. And when I got up to the nice lady at the counter, I started to cry.

“This is my first time traveling with my baby alone,” I blubbered, tears running down my face. “I really need to make this flight. Delta sent me an email saying the flight was delayed 30 minutes.”

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iceland with an infant

He came back to the table, sat down, looked at my plate and looked at me with a teasing glint in his eyes.

“You like that?” he said as I chewed a bite of what I thought was beef stew.

I stopped chewing.

“It’s pony,” A. said, laughing.

Pony is a delicacy in Iceland. A. and I were in Hveragerdi, a town in southwest known for its geothermal springs. There’s an agricultural university, several hot springs and greenhouse after greenhouse. And we were eating from a traditional Icelandic buffet. Pork, lamb, carrots, cod with cheese — and pony. A. had eaten horse sausage from a buffet earlier in the week — not knowing what it was — and when we both found out from our waiter (“I’m afraid to tell you what you are eating,” he said), I had turned down the corners of my mouth in disgust. So A. thought it was hilarious that I was eating pony.

It was one of our adventures on our first international trip with C.

I wanted to push the limits, to see what it was like to travel with a 5 1/2 month old. Turns out, C. is a little trooper. Iceland was a good choice because it’s a 5 1/2 hour flight direct from D.C., inexpensive (to fly there, not to eat there) and baby-friendly. There are little high chairs in the restaurants (we put C. in three of them, including one that doubled as a rocking boat) and beautiful changing stations in the bathrooms.

I was nervous about the overnight flight — that it would mess up C.’s sleeping or he would freak out while others were sleeping.
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