BHAG’S & Teens – Ten reasons you should say “YES!”

 

Kayah on steps at Oxford

Our teen on the steps of Oxford University. She had been on campus less than 24 hours and looked so happy! BHAG achieved.

BHAG’s – ever heard of that acronym before? If not, let me share.

Backstory: BHAG is a term I was introduced to by my homeschool-mentor-guru, Julie Bogart. I believe it originally was coined in the business world, but it stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals.  Awhile back, Julie did a talk on her top ten must do’s when raising teens and BHAG’s were one of her recommendations. She shared that every teen should be given the opportunity to tackle one before they graduate from high school.

BHAG’s are exactly what they stand for…big, ginormous, difficult, bold goals.  They usually start with the words, “hey mom, I was thinking…” They are going to sound CRAZY when they share them with you! Your mind is immediately going to scream “danger, danger…” Your brain is going to immediately turn into a calculator adding up the costs! But, if they are sincere, if they are for real, if this is something they really really want to do…say “YES!”

Some of your friends and family are going to think you’re crazy or insane for spending the amount of money or time necessary to dedicate to helping your teen achieve their BHAG, but do it anyway! I promise, it is completely worth it! Regardless of the outcome of their efforts,  the experience of chasing a BHAG is where their grit and ability to follow through on a dream will emerge.

A young adult supported through a dream will more likely continue to chase passions and have the courage to say “yes” to new opportunities as an adult.

Find a way to fund it. Find a way to make it happen. And by find a way, I mean help your TEEN find a way, NOT YOU.

No matter what – at least once in high school try to give your child this opportunity. No matter how gifted you are as a parent or teacher, you could never recreate the learning or experiences they will gain when accepting the challenge of a BHAG.

So, what is going on in the Takei house that I wanted to share? Our oldest is in England, studying at Oxford Summer Courses and is having the time of her life! This was her BHAG and she is doing it right now! While she off on her adventure, I have had some time to reflect on the process of getting her there and thought I would share some of the things we have learned along the way!

 

Quinn, Kayah and Me

Kayah, our teen – she’s the one in the middle just in case you couldn’t tell the night of her Bon Voyage Party ūüėČ

So without further ado…

Top Ten Takeaways from supporting a Teen achieving a BHAG!

  1.  Let your teen discover their BHAG. Encourage exploration of areas they want to experience or explore, but don’t find their BHAG for them. They must own it from the start. It has to be something big, bold that they want to achieve – big time! Our oldest, Kayah age 15, googled and researched, applied and was accepted into the Oxford program completely without our knowing. We found out AFTER THE FACT. No kidding. Praise, support and encourage any initiative, interest or any action taken seriously by your teen.

    Kayah 1st text from Oxford

    Our first text. Less than 24 hours and our teen says, “I don’t want to leave!!!” 

  2. Listen with an open heart. Do not immediately say no or dismiss their idea! Avoid the temptation to naysay  because it is too expensive, too far away, too scary, too crazy of an idea. There will always be a way! Enlist your teen to make it happen. Kayah had a part-time job, worked extra small jobs and was able to secure  her deposit on her own. She created a Go Fund Me page and as a part of her campaign, she committed to providing community service based on dollar amounts to every single contributor. This was not just an awesome way for her to raise funds for her dream, but a hands-on way to reinforce one of our core family values of community service. Our teen has and continues to be involved with many acts of service and connection within our community as a result of her BHAG. I couldn’t have planned the things she is donating her time on right now!

    Screenshot of plane landing in England

    Just imagining our teen flying without us (internationally) made this momma break out in a cold sweat.  But, she did it! 

  3. Partner your teen! Kayah did not do this completely on her own. She needed some reminding, refocusing and direction at times. She needed rides, feedback and encouragement. Hold your teen accountable to their dreams and be a solid partner. Praise and applaud your teen – let them know they got it! Emphasize your pride in their efforts, not the outcome.

    Welcome to Oxford Welcome Packet

    Dreams come true. 

  4. Document the journey. Help your teen find a medium they enjoy and document their story. Kayah used a closed FaceBook group called “One Step Closer to Oxford,” to share her story and when this experience is completed, she will have a beautiful online electronic scrapbook of her entire experience.

    Quinn, Kayah, Kira and Miko at airport to England

      Sending off our teen at the airport. 

  5. Celebrate! Take time to recognize and celebrate the small and big achievements along the road to achieving their BHAG. Recognizing that it takes work and lots of little steps to achieve Big Dreams. Letting your teen experience  first-hand is the best way to learn! The night before Kayah left for England (she is there right now!) we had a Bon Voyage gathering. It was a tremendous opportunity to surround her with friends, love and positive energy and recognized what SHE achieved. She glowed.

    Kayah Bon Voyage Pic

    Picture from our teen’s Bon Voyage gathering the night before she flew across the pond.

  6. Empower your child. Once they are actually doing their BHAG, just let them be! Let them own it start to finish. At the time of writing this blog Kayah has been on her adventure for only two days and I can see and hear how much she has changed-already. She looks different and she is lit-up. She doing it alone. Teens need to know they ‘got it.’ They need opportunities to fly solo and know they can trust themselves. For our teens to learn how to dream, follow-through and make their dreams manifest is a parental gift. This experience will help them spread their wings and trust that they can repeat the process as adults. A process, we as adults could sometimes use a little more courage in doing ourselves!

    Kayah dorm room

    Her new home.

  7. Grow their worldview. To expand your child’s worldview, they must bump up against other worldviews! Nothing will increase your teen’s ability to understand other points of view then immersing themselves in different countries, cultures or experiences away from home. Within 24 hours of arriving in England, Kayah has already developed a circle of friends from Romania, Saudia Arabia, Australia and many other countries.

    Screenshot of Kayah and new friends

    Our teen’s friends from around the world! Awesomeness.

  8. Nurture Gratitude. Teaching a teen gratitude is completely different than a teen experiencing gratitude. Taking your teen out of their comfort zone (their house, bed, air conditioning, sleeping with mosquito netting, having to secure clean drinking water, walking everywhere, not understanding the language spoken, getting lost, etc.) is one powerful way that may help them appreciate those things when they return home. Just the simple fact you have allowed them to tackle a BHAG will require the help and assistance of many. They will learn first-hand how to be grateful to others.
  9. Trust the process & LET IT HAPPEN. This is my favorite mantra in all things. Once your teen embarks on the experience they have created, get out of the way and let it be – good or bad – it is theirs. Let it unfold as it will, without judgement or opinion and let them have their experience. Let them learn. Let them grow. Even if they hate it, or have a horrible time, there is still immense value in the experience for them to build upon.
  10. Unpack the experience. We are still weeks away from Kayah’s return from abroad. We are planning on spending some time just letting her come off her unpack literally, mentally and emotionally. I am not sure who will come home…I can see changes and I am curious who will walk through our front door. I imagine there may be a little readjustment required by the entire family. After some time, we are going to support her as she creates a presentation of some sort for family and friends to share her experience. We will pair it with a nice dinner and really allow her to wrap up her experience full-circle with the people that helped her make her wishes come true!

    Wishes fulfilled

    crazysexy love notes by kris carr & artwork by lori portka

I leave with a quote on adventure from one of my favorite travelers of the Earth, John Muir…“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.” 

Until we chat again, Rock on, living.

Vickie

 

The Jump

 

Hey Friends!

Happy summer!

Although my blog doesn’t reflect it, I have been diligently writing. I have almost completed the revision, additions and changes to my first book – well, book may be a stretch…how about a collection of thoughts?

The book is in the final stages. I am excited to see this process through to the end. This book is specifically for families hearing the whisper or feeling the nudge for a possible change. This is a book for parents who are not only questioning if the current education of their children is really meeting their personal needs, but if their lifestyle is allowing them the type of connection and joy they desire, too. This is a book for all those considering homeschooling.

I will be learning how to format and transition the material for publishing soon! This is the first time I have done anything like this. It is a cool process to learn and fun to witness the book take on a voice and shape.

Quinn and I spent many hours reminiscing and discussing the time leading up to our decision to pull the trigger and bring the girls home from public school.

Quinn recalled the very day I withdrew the girls from public school. He described a feeling of dread all morning – like for real, dread ya’ll. He said he even called to tell me to wait so we could talk a little more about it (we had been talking about it for TWO years!) but I had already done it.

We are happy we made the choice, but it was not (and is not) without worry, anxiety and stress if we were making a huge mistake. Some comfort I have found is that every parent, regardless of the choices we make, worries a little! Right?

Five years later, our only regret? That we didn’t do it earlier…

My hope is this book will serve as some inspiration, encouragement and food for thought for a family contemplating a big change. This is for all of you out there who question the status quo and entertain different and new ways of being. This is not a “How-To Homeschool” book, but more of a guide to support you in determining if home schooling may be the right fit for you and your family.

This is the book I wish had been available to Quinn and I all those years we contemplated back and forth on whether or not homeschooling was right for us. It is my intention to support you and your family in making choices, whatever they are, that serves you best.

Here is a sneak peek at the first chapter…

Rock on, Vickie

 

~ Chapter One ~

The Jump

‚ÄúSometimes the people around you won‚Äôt understand your journey. They don‚Äôt need to, it‚Äôs not for them.‚ÄĚ

–  Joubert Botha

militray men sky diving

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

If you are reading this, I am guessing you may be desiring change, something different. That is my hunch. You hear that whisper late at night ‚Äúis this it?‚ÄĚ I know. I was there.

Perhaps it isn’t homeschooling, but just a big change, a shake-up in life? Many a night, I laid in bed going back and forth on withdrawing our girls from public school and bringing them home. I thought I was only contemplating a different way of educating our children, but what I have learned, is it was a different way of life.

I remember in my late 20‚Äôs my husband and I went skydiving. Before our jump, we watched a brief safety video. After our ‚Äútraining,‚ÄĚ I was strapped to the front of a retired Navy Seal and taken 3 miles into the sky in a little propeller plane.

When we reached the altitude to jump, they opened the hatch-door to the plane Рthey opened the door Рtake that in for a second…they opened the plane door three miles above earth.

It was cold, loud, windy and our green and blue marble looked so far away. The instructor looked at me and yelled, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre first!‚ÄĚ All these years later, I am not lying, my hands still sweat as I recall this experience.

We waddled to the door to get in position. I was in the open doorway. My toes were dangling over the transition of the plane. Crouched at the doorway I could see the outside of the plane ‚Äď I was looking at the wing of the plane, I could touch it.  I was standing between the plane (safe) to free-falling (not-safe, but exhilarating.)

I looked back at my husband and I was T.E.R.R.I.F.I.E.D. terrified. If I had been last in the line of jumpers, I may have chickened out, but everyone was sardined tightly and waiting to jump.

My partner yelled in my ear, ‚Äújust rock back on me and then we will roll forward‚Ķ‚ÄĚ I have never felt more scared in my life.

I trusted and let go…

I jumped.

I shut my eyes for the first 10-12 seconds of our jump…it was too much. It was loud, the wind was strong, and I was falling. I was freefalling to earth. I was not in the plane, I was not on earth. I was freefalling Рuntethered. After two miles of free-falling, my instructor touched the top of my head. This was the signal that we were going to open our parachute.

The second we pulled the cord to open the shoot, everything changed. It became silent, slow, peaceful, beautiful. This transition from freefalling to opening the parachute is like a hurricane changing over from the tumultuous outer bands  to the silence and peace of the storm‚Äôs eye.

We swirled, like a leaf falling from a tree and I got to see the big picture ‚Äď Earth never looked more beautiful. It was an incredible moment where I saw life different. I guess you could say, my world-view changed from a change in perspective.

If you have ever sky-dived before, you know as you approach your landing you experience something called ‚Äėground-rush.‚Äô It can be frightening.

After soaring and coasting down to earth, the ground appears to suddenly rush up and if you’re not careful can freak you out! We skidded to our landing and my legs were so weak, I could not stand for a moment. But, I did. Changed, forever.

Big changes do that!

Big changes or experiences sometimes require overcoming fear, a leap of faith, disorientation and a re-entry to life. They can leave you with a new life-view, a broadened world-view. I believe these are the moments where you are ‚Äėliving‚Äô and can be the booster shot needed to enjoy other areas of your life, too.

You make a change and it allows you to grow deeper in your understanding of yourself and builds the muscle of courage to do life. You grow as a human.

I don’t know if this analogy will help settle your mind, but honestly, if you have a desire to be with your family ( a lot), learn together and have the courage to try something different, this jump may be for you. Regardless of how much your read, study or prepare, it truly requires a leap of faith.

If you have a desire to be with your family, learn together and have the courage to try something different, this jump may be for you.

I spent many of our first years homeschooling anxious and looking for ‚Äėproof‚Äô that we weren’t  going to mess our kids up forever. I felt lost at sea for about two years. Disoriented, I found myself repeatedly saying ‚ÄúI feel like I have lost my footing.‚ÄĚ

Everything was new, foreign and counter-culture. Quinn and I were both public-schooled and up until this point, so were our girls – we knew what that looked like. But, for homeschooling, there was and is no one size fits all blueprint.  I found myself trying to explain and put a form to something I didn’t quite get myself, yet.

In hindsight, I had lost my footing. I was standing in the transition between viewing school as ‚Äėother‚Äô and something done separate from home life and school coming home and becoming a lifestyle.

For about two years, I remember when our family was seriously considering home-schooling, I scoured the internet for books, blogs, testimony about how families came to the decision to homeschool. My kids were in public school and doing well. I needed to hear people‚Äôs thought processes as to why and how they brought their kids home and honestly, if it ‚Äėworked.‚Äô

Quickly, I discovered there wasn‚Äôt much out there for us.  At least families like mine whom were not considering home-schooling for faith-based, behavioral, cognitive or  children that just didn‚Äôt fit the public-school mold reasons. I discovered there were and are a lot of resources available for those groups. While homeschool families owe much debt to these pioneers of home education, this was not our story or our why.

As the number of homeschoolers are swelling at record rates, there is a new groups or type of homeschooler emerging and those were the people we were looking for to help us navigate this uncharted territory. Families that were restless for not only a different way of educating their children, but living their lives.

             I was looking for families that were happy with their lives, but still wanted more.

I found my inspiration in a book called Becoming BareNaked by Jenn Barenaked. Now, before your mind goes to the gutter, as the title does make one go, ‚ÄúHmmm‚Ķ‚ÄĚ stay with me‚ĶThis book was about a family that was tired of the status quo. A family of five that had worked and achieved The American Dream.

This family was good, but discontent. They were looking for more‚Ķmore time together to learn, to travel, to grow, TOgether as a family. This family left a six-figure income, sold two homes and set out into the unknown  with three young children.

They homeschooled. I liked that. But, homeschooling was one small piece of the pie they were creating. Homeschooling was almost a byproduct of the style of life they desired for their family. Education happened, for the most part, in the world. This family stepped out of mainstream America and had the courage to do something different, on their terms, together…together my friends.

             Life is too short to settle.

The book, Becoming BareNaked is a raw, collection of Jenn’s handwritten notes and is a glimpse into the inner thinking and thought process this mother was going through before they made the decision to sell it all and blaze a new path. It was the book I needed. It wasn’t a homeschooling book per se, but a book about having courage to go for life! To be brave and make decisions that are true to you, even if they are counter-culture.

The name Becoming BareNaked is a metaphor for how they are living their life…in the wide open for all to see, no lies or covers. Just their truth.

Becoming BareNaked was our impetus to jump. I provide a list of books at the end of this guide containing some of the resources and books I found helpful on our homeschool journey. I hope they may help you, too.

Stone Henge (2)

The next chapter, Our Story, will hopefully give you a better understanding of how we became a family of unexpected homeschoolers.

 

From:

A LIFESTYLE OF LEARNING:

Insights for a family considering homeschooling from a family that said, “YES!”

coming soon…

 

Connecting the Dots in Homeschool History

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Miko at The Tower of London Fall 2017 – (built in late 1070s) stories of knights, prison, palace, torture, crown jewels. Currently, Queen Elizabeth II is the ‘owner’

Right now we are enjoying an unplanned and completely welcome serendipitous coordination of learning with our history and geography curriculums. One of my favorite perks of home-education is our family learning together. I love when connections are made – where we kind of connect the dots between subjects as a family and create common familial context.

Case in point:

DOT: In language arts we are reading historical fiction novel, Georges, by Alexandre Dumas (France, 1800’s.) We are using the Bravewriter Boomerang Guide for literary analysis and copywork.

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Kira’s Copywork for Georges using the Bravewriter Boomerang Guide

DOT: In geography we are studying Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

DOT: In history we are reading the Story of the World (SOTW), Volume 2 – Middle Ages.

DOT: We are binge watching the Crown on Netflix.

 

thecrown

The girls love this show and have acquired such an understanding of who Elizabeth, Philip, the monarchy, Winston Churchill, historical events and much more. We are excited for Season 3!

 

DOT: We just returned from a field trip to France and England.

DOT:  Poetry Teatime Tuesday is a Bravewriter staple in our home. We have tea, hot chocolate, lemonade and treats on Tuesdays and read poetry or lyrics to songs. When we were in England we made sure to have high tea and brought home some special souvenirs to keep our holiday alive just a little longer.

 

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Poetry Teatime Tuesday special treat

 

DOT: My eldest daughter just finished reading Don Quixote and recently attended the¬† Carolina Ballet perform it as well. (Spain, 1600’s.)

DOT: In the story, Georges, the main character is confiding to Lord Murray that he intends to duel his nemesis to win Sara’s (his love) hand in marriage from Henri (to whom she is already engaged.) Henri is of no masculine threat to Georges. Lord Murray makes a comment to Georges that perhaps he not worry about Henri as he is like a “windmill and not a giant.” This subtle little reference could have been so easily glossed-over and missed if it were not for my eldest.

CONNECT THE DOTS: Kayah giggled and ‘got it’ straight away! She explained to us that in Don Quixote he is preparing to fight a “giant” that turns out to be nothing but a mere windmill. Thus, the author was implying Henri maybe should be of little concern to Georges…nothing but a mere windmill.

 

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Kayah sharing the passage from Don Quixote during our read aloud this week.

 

All of these dots connect to create an image of connected context (that is some serious alliteration!) I may be a total dork, but I love when that happens.

These are the AH-HA moments that can never be planned Рlearning that occurs across curriculum.  THAT is exciting! Subjects never seem independent of one another, but connected.

One of my favorite questions to ask the girls when we are exploring a new topic is “what was going on in the United States at this time…” I love this question because sometimes the USA was not even an idea and other times they can connect the global dots of what was occurring during the many phases of the United State’s maturity – a layering of history.

If you are looking for some ideas to study this time period, here are some links to product we enjoyed! You can just click on the image for links or more information or select the links in the text above.

(All  amazon links are affiliate links.)

Henrietta

Hey all,

On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I agreed to a short-story challenge.¬† The challenge was to create and illustrate a short story by January 31st.

Without further adieu, meet “Henrietta.”

Rock on! Vickie

20180121_153120 Continue reading

Road Trip USA – Day Fourteen “Land of Enchantment”

en-chant-ment noun – the state of being under a spell, magic.

One of my favorite words is enchantment – the magic...

In life, I try to sprinkle pixie dust to the mundane to helps us remember that at every moment we have the opportunity to make the ordinary extraordinary! So it is no surprise that I had lived in a state with a tag line boasting “the land of enchantment” for many years!

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Has it really been over a year since I started the journaling of our Road Trip USA? What in the world?!  Seriously? Time is moving at warp-speed.  So without further ado, I offer our final day, the closure to our Road Trip, our visit to New Mexico!

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We concluded our Southwest trip with a visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We snuggled with our former neighbors, visited friends and favorite places. We consumed as much green chili and breakfast burritos from the Frontier Restaurant as humanly possible! This was an awesome way to wind down from our trip, reminisce and connect. Home.

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I loved our life in New Mexico. I clearly remember the day we arrived in Albuquerque for the first time. The manner we arrived echoed the feel of our new “home” – simple and expansive.

Before moving to New Mexico in 1997, Quinn and I had owned a home in Virginia Beach. Once we decided to take a leap of faith and move out west, we downsized and sold it all! Now that I am reflecting, it seems a pattern or habit of ours…hmmm.

We packed up everything we owned in our two cars, cats riding gunshot and drove for a week across country. What a simple time.  To basically carry everything you own in two cars.

I will never forget our approach to Albuquerque. The song “Great Pets” by Jane’s Addiction came on the radio and all of a sudden the flat, open endless terrain became interrupted by the enormity of the east side of the Sandia Mountains. For a girl that was raised in Ohio, this mountain looked enormous!

With excitement and anticipation we began our drive through the more lush, rural side of the Sandia Mountain to the urban west side of the mountain – Albuquerque. The enormity, expanse and simplicity of the town is incredible. After our almost 11 years of life in this town I am convinced one either falls under the enchantment spell of the west or doesn’t. It is isn’t a place for everyone, and honestly, the natives and inhabitants of the town like it that way.

“When you turn around, you’ll see something I bet you’ve never seen before. If it takes your breath away, then you’ll fit in nicely. If you don’t feel anything, then maybe you don’t belong here.”¬† Veronica Randolph Batterson

We were moving so Quinn could attend The International Institute of Chinese Medicine (IICM) to study Chinese medicine.¬† I had interviewed and accepted a position at the best hospital in the world, (I’m a little biased, but I am pretty sure it is!) Presbyterian Healthcare Services in the Coronary Intensive Care Unit. I made some of my closest friendships at that hospital. Many of my friendships in the unit began in our early twenties and we shared an intimate lens into our ‘growing up.’ We partnered each other as we entered adulthood with one another- growing our families, marriages, divorces, careers, celebrations, buying homes and holding each other close through some of our friends and families untimely deaths. Special people. Special bonds.

We were living in a sketchy part of town, in our rented apartment and life was good.

Neighbors 

After a few years, and being the victim of several crimes in our apartment complex, we decided to rent a home in a better area of town.¬† We rented a sandy-brown flat roofed stucco home that would hold some our most special memories –¬† Quinn’s completion of studies, my completion of a Master’s degree in Science and Nursing and the arrival of our first two daughters. It was also the home where we met Sherry and Tom, or as our family calls them, “Sherrytom.”¬† Sherrytom – a perfect compound word.

 

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Sunday Dinner with Sherrytom.

 

After a few weeks in our new home, Quinn was out back playing horse-shoes by himself. Tom came up to our fence (think Mr. Wilson) and said, “howdy neighbor.” Quinn invited him over, the two drank some beer and played shoes and this began a friendship that we believe was inevitable.¬† From that day forward, we spent every Sunday together having “Sunday dinner.” Tom even built little wooden steps between our two homes called the “neighbor’s steps” so we could visit each other more easily. They became our best friends. When we moved, they gifted us a pendulum clock with a plaque engraved “neighbors by chance; friends by destiny.” ¬†

Good Buddies

Sean and Liz are our Good Buddies.¬† We met Sean and Liz through Quinn’s school of Chinese medicine. Sean and Liz are the type of friends that you can enjoy a bottle of wine and then sing and act out the entire score to¬†the musical Rent. (yes, this did happen!)

Inside jokes, intimate memories and shared life.  Good Buddies. Circling back through Albuquerque, visiting and spending time with Neighbors, Good Buddies and all our friends was the perfect ending, like a cherry on top of a big old sundae on our road trip adventure.

 

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Breakfast at Frontier with Good Buddies.

 

 

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Lunch at Garduno’s with some of the CCU gang! (best margaritas, ever.)

 

This trip was a trip of a lifetime. I know for sure our family is at its best when we are doing life – having adventure – and we are committed to continuing to make changes and adaptions in our everyday life to allow for more!

If you have never visited any of the National Parks in the USA – GO! Experience them! They are treasures, truly, and a gift for you and I.

I conclude with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt…

“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Road Trip USA – Day Twelve & Thirteen “Carlsbad Caverns”

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Chili vs. Chile

I ate Hatch green chile for the first time on July 13, 1998.¬†I had moved to Albuquerque, NM in 1997, reluctant to try ‘chile.’ ¬†Being raised in the Ohio, “chili’ was something we ate on Sunday afternoons, in a pot, with beans, ground meat and crackers while watching the groundhog day Cleveland Browns almost take us to the Superbowl with my family.

As a staff nurse,¬† I was¬†given¬†(not offered as declining wasn’t an option)¬†a green chile breakfast burrito from the Frontier Restaurant¬†from¬†a hospital administrators on a jet plane ride to select¬†new hospital beds for our unit.¬† Feeling cornered, I politely unwrapped the shiny foil wrap¬†and took a small bite.

It was¬†the¬†best thing I had ever eaten in my life – scrambled eggs, cheese, and green chile…so spicy, so good.¬†¬†I could not stop thinking about that burrito.¬†From that day forward (for almost 12 years),¬†Quinn and I ate a breakfast burrito¬†from the Frontier every single Sunday.¬†¬†Like the many that have gone before me, and they many that will come after, an addiction was born.

The Frontier Restaurant, located on old Route 66, across from the University of New Mexico campus is a place you must visit if you go West Рit is quite the operation to witness. In operation since 1971 it is open seven days a week from 5am-1am! Frontier Restaurant  Opening the doors, you may see a line a mile long that wraps and twists through the various rooms of the restaurant and will be in awe of the lightening speed service that moves everyone to green chile comas.  Not only is the chile amazing, but they sell a cinnamon bun (a.k.a. the cardiac bun or sinamon bun) that was never meant to be eaten by just one person (but trust me, you can!) and they have this mesmerizing fresh squeeze OJ machine that produces the best Orange Juice Ever.

It’s were the locals go.

There are two types chile, green or red,¬†and¬†it is¬†THE condiment (some would argue a food group) in New Mexico.¬† Many love one or the other, and even more order ‘christmas‘ which would be both red and green chile¬†on everything from their eggs to pizza!¬†Each Fall, New Mexicans enjoy the constant¬†aroma of roasting chiles¬†outside, 24/7.

Today we began another day of driving to Albuquerque.  Logistically, we had to once again change out our rental vehicle to save money.  We returned our rental and picked up a new one.  When you pick up and return your rental vehicle at the same location it is always less expensive.  We changed vehicles a total of three times on this road trip.

Immediately after the rental car exchange we headed to the Frontier! After our fix, we began our drive to Southern New Mexico to take the kids to Carlsbad Caverns.  This drive was a long one РNew Mexico does not offer the same land features as other drives we experienced Рit was flat, open and much of the same Рwith not much to do between destinations.

Carlsbad Caverns is a magical place in Southern New Mexico that has over 100 caves for exploration.  In addition, each evening there is an evening bat flight program. Carlsbad Caverns We planned our trip to arrive in Carlsbad to catch the nightly bat program and then return the following day to explore the caves.

The bat flight program is a free event that takes place from May-October each year.  A park ranger conducts a talk on bats and describes what to expect at the sun set Рhundreds of thousands of bats emerge from their slumber to a night of feasting. While it is difficult to provide an exact number, estimates have ranged from 300,000-400,00 bats. The mass exit takes between 45-60 minutes.  The caves are migratory homes to the Mexican free-tail bats.

We sat in an outdoor amphitheater right outside the cave entrance and waited with hundreds of other vistors hoping the evening would provide the conditions that would entice the bats from the darkness.¬†After an educational session, questions and strict viewing instructions we waited…and, then a few dark¬†flutters¬†emerged! We sat in awe of what felt like an unending cloud of bats that flew right over our heads and out into the night sky.¬† Magical experience.

The next day, we woke up and returned to the Caverns¬†and participate in¬†a self-guided tour.¬†Quinn and I had been there before and remembered it being an amazing experience, but crowded.¬† Today, we hit the jackpot!¬† As we began our descent into the cave, we¬†discovered we were almost¬†ALONE.¬† Aside from maybe two other families, we had this amazing cavern to ourselves!¬† It was eery, quiet, mystical…perfect.

We had planned on staying 1-2 hours and ended up leaving over 4 hours later.  We just took indulgent time and the kids loved it.  My oldest ran out of camera space!  Talk about a field trip!  Here they were seeing firsthand stalactites, stalagmites and columns.

At the conclusion of the tour, we took the elevator back to the surface and visited the gift shop for souvenir shopping. Once again, entrance to this park was free with our 4th grader National Park Pass. 4th Grader Park Pass

We headed back to our hotel and went to sleep for the final night of our vacation.¬† Tomorrow we would head back to Albuquerque to stay with our old neighbors, Sherry and Tom.¬† We planned to visit friends and places with the kids and enjoy a day of reconnecting and reminiscing.¬† So hard to believe our two weeks was coming to an end…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gifts of Grief.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” – C.S. Lewis

Unfortunately, grief cannot be scheduled from 2-4pm on a Sunday afternoon.¬† No.¬†Grief is¬†the visitor that will arrive and paralyze your breath while¬†folding laundry.¬† It will sucker-punch your heart when you hear a song.¬† It will bath your day in melancholy on Christmas.¬† Grief shows up and she doesn’t consider timing.

In the first few months after my mother’s death I hated everything.¬† I couldn’t believe I could go the grocery store and people were smiling and buying groceries!¬† I wanted to scream, “Don’t you know? My mom died!”

I wanted every 1st holiday following her death cancelled. Christmas was horrible.  We sat under our tree and did nothing but cry the entire time.  It was terrible.  There was no joy.  The holiday glue was painfully absent.

Slowly, over time, a new normal began to emerge and while I still could not find comfort or peace in my home, I began to grow as a human being and develop the skills I would need to enter adulthood.

Losing my mother as a young girl has been the biggest loss of my life.  When she died I felt alone.  None of my friends had experienced what I went through.  Some of my friends had experienced the concept of loss through divorce.  But, no one close to me had had their mother die. I felt alone and very misunderstood.  Lost. Scared. Abandoned.  And, Life kept going.

We buried my mom on a Saturday and I was in school Monday.¬† As I walked through the halls and attended classes no one said a word.¬† How strange. I understand many didn’t know what to say and I am not criticizing, just sharing that when someone has experienced the death of a loved one your acknowledgment will not make anything worse.¬† They already feel their worse.¬† They want to know they are seen, not alone.

I am beginning to see some of my friends lose their mothers or fathers, and for many, entering the all-consuming process of grief.  Grief has no end point.  You will feel joy again and you will be happy, but there will forever be this small raw sad pulsating spot in your heart.  It will beat softly, always,  and at times resonate like a kettle drum.

“She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts” – George Eliot

When a loved one dies, there are logistics that need to be handle and there is the business of final arrangements .  I think this is good.  You need something to remind you to breath.  To get up, brush your teeth, get dressed. Rinse and Repeat. However, Monday will come.  Your friends go back to work and you sit with this grief, alone.  It is a personal relationship like no other.

Life is relentless and will not stop for your loss. Grief is no different.¬† It is relentless and will never end.¬† Allow it.¬† Receive her when she knocks.¬† Cry.¬† Be angry.¬† Smile.¬† Acknowledge it – Grief isn’t always sad.

Grief, to me, is like any other emotion with one painful caveat Рyou will only understand this emotion when you experience the loss of someone you loved dearly.  It is a bittersweet gift.

Not one of us will escape grief.  It is inevitable.  Someday you will hear or witness your biggest loss.  Grief will knock and you will open the door to a place you could never prepare to greet.

Many times, I feel so fortunate I was able to experience this type of loss¬†at the tender, na√Įve age of 14.¬† Young enough that I truly had no big picture understanding of the what¬†I was losing (yet).¬† I find now, years later,¬†as a mother, I grieve her in new and different ways.

Grief will also brings you gifts.¬† When you lose someone you love,¬†not much will¬†really ever rock your world again.¬† Once you survive your worst fear or pain, you may learn first-hand that aside from your health and relationships, nothing else really is a big¬†deal –

I have found grief offers us three beautiful packages for living a more meaningful, joyful and empowering life if we are able to receive.

Perspective. Gratitude. Resilience.

Gift One: Perspective. This is a precious gift I can thank my mother for daily.¬†Truly, there is not much that rocks my world. I can fathom a few, but for the most part, I don’t complain.¬†I can see a silver lining in just about any situation.¬†Life is a gift.¬† Time is relentless. Time is a constant reminder that life is finite.¬†Time does not lie.¬†¬†Time does not play.

Don’t waste your life wishing it away or failing to recognize the beauty of another day.¬† Even the messy part.¬† The messy part is where the growth and deepening of the soul has greatest potential. My mother would have done anything for another day with us – you do have today – live well!

Perspective is like the best human super-power, ever.

Gift Two: Gratitude.¬† When I wake up in the morning, before I even put your feet on the floor, I try to remember to take a deep breath and say “thank you.”¬† To be given the gift of another day…say thank you.¬† I take a daily morning walk to connect with nature – It is the time were I commune with nature and feel my version of God.

Sometimes it so easy to find yourself caught up in the aggravations, irritations and demands of your day, but if you practice the gift of gratitude you will quickly realize there is always something to be grateful for.  I am sure my mother would be grateful for a day of aggravation, irritation and demands if it meant to also experience more time with the people she loved and to witness the beauty of another sunset.

Gift Three: Resilience. The third gift you may receive is the nurturing of resilience. Nothing tests your inner strength more brutally than grief.  Grief is like the moon.  It waxes and wanes but even during the month when it becomes invisible to the eye, it is still there.  Grief will always remain, but you will find in each day you continue to face your pain your confidence in facing any challenge in life will increase and be ready for whatever hand life deals next.  Resilience can be your greatest strength.

I would not be who I am or be living the life I am without my mother’s death and allowing grief to enter my heart.¬† My mom left to allow space for me to grow. Such a blessing.

my mom and grandpa spencer

My Mom & her Dad.  My mother lost her mom before she was 10.  A legacy of loss I have broken.

To all of you grieving or facing the loss of someone you love, know you are not alone. Be gentle with yourself today and always. Grief may come when you least expect it, or have poor timing, but at those moments open the door…

Grief is like the ocean;

it comes on waves ebbing and flowing.

Sometimes the water is calm,

And sometimes it is overwhelming.

All we can do is learn to swim.

        РVicki Harrison

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip USA – Day Eleven “Monument Valley & Grand Canyon (and some sketchy dinosaur tracks)”

Our Day Eleven trip was ambitious! We had a six hour drive south to Monument Valley, Arizona and planned to arrive at the Grand Canyon early evening to watch the sunset over the rim.

Day 11

I think I have mentioned this in every post, but remembering that the drive IS part of the vacation/adventure¬†is important when traveling with kids –¬†¬†that especially echoed true today.¬† Our kids continued to impress us and traveled like rockstars.¬† Not too long after we left Moab, we saw a questionable¬†sign for “Dinosaur Footprints.”

20160830_162326Dinosaur Footprints, ya’ll! ¬†65-200 million years ago dinosaur footprints.¬†¬†We knew that Utah was full of dinosaur fossil findings and footprints, but this advertisement was intriguing.¬† Homemade spray painted signs made out of wood and siding promoted this stop on Navajo Nation land.¬†These tracks are right outside Tuba City, Arizona¬†and I am so glad we did a quick turn at the spray painted red arrow on the dirt road to stop and see.¬†¬† As you arrive, you will see about 10-15 shack lean-tos selling Navajo items with members of the community awaiting your arrival to serve as your tour guide.¬† Our guide was an elderly Native American woman.¬† It appeared that the guides await a vehicle and take turns¬† inviting you to take a walking tour of the grounds.¬†¬†Armed with nothing but a plastic water bottle to squirt on the footprints to highlight the dinosaur impressions, we were on our way!¬† While we found some of the information shared by our guide questionable, there was no doubt the tracks were there! I was awestruck by the irony of the unbelievable gold mind of fossils and footprints and tangible poverty of the tribe.

My mind was blown.¬†There were so many tracks.¬†Thousands.¬†Just right there.¬†You were walking all over them.¬†As soon as water was poured on them, they almost ‘came alive.’¬† Our guide claimed that at one time in history (millions of years ago!) this was a watering hole.¬†¬†This explained the number and varied species of dinosaur footprints we were seeing.¬† It was so surreal that we started to feel like we were being taken for fools!¬†We continued to the ‘tour’ and took a million pictures.¬† The tour is free of charge, but at the end a donation is requested.¬†We gave our guide $40 and she encouraged us to consider more as she was struggling and recovering from being an alcoholic.¬†When we declined, she¬†was nothing but grateful.¬†¬†The¬†kind woman¬†thanked us many, many times. I walked away amazed that this tribe has to be sitting on most likely one of the largest set of dinosaur tracks in our country and are flat out broke.¬† There was a double-edge beauty to the entire experience.

As soon as we got in the car we googled the heck out of the stop and we found several paleontologists whom confirmed the authenticity of many of the tracks. Dinosaur Footprints Tuba, Arizona Mind blown.

The stop at the dinosaur tracks took about 45 minutes¬†total and then we were on our way to Monument Valley in Navajo County, Arizona.¬†I was grateful we had a full tank of gas before we left as there was nothing…nothing…but wide open spaces for hours.¬† When we started to get hungry for lunch we finally came through a town that had a community picnic shelter at a run down playground.¬†As we stopped and pulled out our picnic tubs¬†we were ¬†instantly greeted by “Brownie.”¬†Brownie was a sweet dog that appeared to be fed off the kindness of strangers and the community. He was dirty, missing fur and appeared to have a broken leg.¬†He followed us to our picnic table and just laid next to us during our meal.

At one point, Kira stopped eating and was crying. When we asked her what was wrong, she just said she felt bad eating when he was so hungry. She took her entire plate over to him and just left it for him to eat. After he finished her lunch, we took some of our paper bowls and left him some bowls of water to drink as well. He finished them off before we even left. Sweet little Brownie.

As we were leaving the shelter a Native American man rode over to us on his bike and told us some of his story. He made several mentions of being free of the evil Рwhich for him was alcohol.  Although I doubt he was free of his vice, he was kind and hungry. We offered him bottles of water and food and he accepted. However, he requested that we not directly hand any of it to him. He provided an explanation we did not understand but were able to figure out that we were to place the items on the ground between us.  Once we did so, he said a few things and then picked up everything. It was an odd experience and at the same time, a sacred encounter.

We continued our drive into the historic and stunning Monument Valley! The contrast of flat open desert and buttes and rock formations required a constant reorientation that we were still in the United States! It is so unlike any other place we have visited before. If  you have never visited the West, you will walk away with a completely new appreciation of the significance and wonders contained in the United States.  Our piece of North America as it relates to the story of our planet, not just the metamorphosis of civilization, but the evolution of the planet is truly exceptional.

20160830_131045

Finally, we continued our journey south to the Grand Canyon. We arrived with just enough time to¬†explore the park and find¬†a location on the rim to have a picnic dinner and toast the sun-set.¬†We¬†reserved one evening for this visit so we did not set up any excursions into the canyon, but the abyss will forever hold a special place in our family’s heart as a moment of taking in something larger than you can imagine, together.¬† Watching the shadow of darkness slowly rise up the canyon until it became¬†pitch black – amazing.

Despite a huge day of travel and experiences, everyone was in great spirits and we checked into our hotel at the Grand Canyon.¬†It was a quaint hotel with a southwest vibe we all enjoyed.¬† Kamiko’s American Girl doll, McKenna, even found this to be one of her favorite lodges.¬†Tonight, we go to bed slightly melancholy that tomorrow we will make the long drive to Albuquerque, New Mexico (where we lived for a number of years and all three girls were born!) because it means we are days away from this epic adventure ending.¬† We have plans to pick up our new rental, eat at the BEST breakfast restaurant EVER and drive further south to Carlsbad, New Mexico to explore the caves with the girls! Sweet dreams.