Home and Family

Mother / Daughter Road Trip!

The timing of my trip to Humboldt last week was also partially planned so I could make the loooooong drive back to San Diego with my mom on Friday.  She was already planning to drive down, so I figured we could enjoy the time to catch up. Boy, did we ever!

052We headed out very early, with the requisite stop at Jitter Bean for coffee.  That place is the best!  It’s the thing I crave when I visit Humboldt; I enjoyed every sip of my Almond Milk White Mocha. Yum!  The drizzly rain continued as we left Eureka in the semi-darkness.  As we drove Highway 101 through Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell, and Scotia, the fog was beautiful all nestled in the redwoods and fir forests.  It was the perfect way to linger over this beautiful landscape as we left town.

The drive from Humboldt County to San Diego takes about 13-14 hours, depending on traffic.  Would you believe me if I said my mom and I chatted that entire time??  It’s true.  We tried to catch some of the Giants’ game (Game 3 of the World Series!) but the static made it hard to hear.  We never tried listening to music.  It was really fun to just talk, and talk, and talk with my mom.  I commented, at one point, “Mom, this is so cool. There’s not many people in the world that I could talk with for 14 hours straight.” What a blessing it is to have such a close relationship with my mom.

On a Friday evening, there’s really no way to get through the Los Angeles area without hitting traffic.  We opted to go through Pasadena and cut over through Ontario to end up on Interstate 15.  We still ended up being stopped in traffic, but we told ourselves that it was undoubtedly much worse on I-5 through LA.  After being in the car for over 12 hours, we started to get a little silly and giggly.  In a classic “you had to be there” moment, we got the giggles and couldn’t stop laughing.  I was coming down with a cold and laughed so long and hard that my throat felt like it was closing up.  I imagine it felt like an asthma attack.  I manage to squeak out, “Stop!  I can’t breathe!”  My eyes were also watering so much that all I could see was the glare of tail lights.  Not super safe when you’re driving down the freeway, but really funny nonetheless!

When we told folks that we drove all day on Friday, we got several “Are you crazy??” looks.  But, other than the annoying traffic, it was really fun and special to spend that type of quality time with my mom.  Now, having a daughter of my own, I appreciate the mother/daughter relationship so much more.  I can imagine, in 25-30 years, how awesome it would be for me to enjoy that kind of time with Sienna.

Probably the most significant life changes I’ve made from the growth (aka “awakening”) I went through last year, is to value the relationships that are closest to me.  I want to devote time and energy to building stronger relationships with my husband, kids, parents, siblings, grandparents, and close friends.  Hence, this trip to visit my aging grandparents and reconnect with my mom, sister, dad, stepmom, and extended familiy was perfectly aligned with that value.

Home and Family

Going Home Again

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “home” recently.  I am blessed to have been raised in the same house since I was 2 years old.  We lived within a short drive of both sets of grandparents.  I had a big extended family that mostly all lived in Humboldt County too.  Living behind the “redwood curtain” – it never occurred to me that I was from a small town.  In fact, I was a bit shocked when one of my graduate school professors pointed out that I was from a rural place.  When I commented that I was from the suburbs, he responded, “What is Eureka sub-urban to?”  Whoa.  It was mind-blowing.

us-101_nb_exit_636_05Once I left for college, Eureka became my “hometown”. I haven’t lived there for any of my adult life.  After meeting my husband in San Diego and falling in love with this city, it was pretty clear that we’d make our home and raise our family here.  But, nearly all of my extended family still lives in Humboldt County.  When my Nana (my mom’s mom) recently transferred from an assisted living facility to a full nursing home, at the age of 94, I decided to make a quick trip home.

012This trip was unexpected and unprecedented.  I’ve never taken a trip alone since becoming a mom.  Sienna and I have taken a couple quick trips up north for baby or bridal showers.  Other than that, Dennis, the kids, and I take long road trips to visit his family in Marysville/Yuba City and my family in Humboldt, every year or two.

For this trip, I flew to the Santa Rosa / Sonoma airport (another first!) on Wednesday and was greeted by my sister and nephews.  My sister, Sarah, is the best!  She and her boys: Lane, 4 and Cody, 2, came down the day before and stayed overnight in a hotel so they could pick me up and drive us home to Humboldt – a 4 hour drive!   Sarsies and I got to catch up and enjoy the amazing views along Highway 101.  It was wonderful!

During my short stay in Humboldt (less than 40 hours total!), I got to enjoy meals and catch up with my Grandma and Bumpa, my dad and stepmom Monica, my sister and brother-in-law, Casey, my nephews, two aunts, my mom, my Nana, my Uncle Paul, and various folks I knew that we ran into around town.  It rained the entire time I was in Humboldt!  Which seemed fitting as the area is traditionally known as being very wet and rainy.  However, I’m told that the weather has actually improved a lot and they hadn’t had rain (thanks to our California drought!) in months.  It felt cozy and familiar to have overcast skies and rain during my visit.

017Visiting my dad’s office in Old Town felt wonderfully familiar too.  It was the first time I’d visited this particular office space, but it was delightful to see the pictures, maps, and decorations that have adorned my dad’s law office for years.  We got to talk and enjoy our coffee while sitting across his big, familiar desk from one another.  It’s something I’ve done so many times throughout my life and now, more than ever, I’m able to enjoy and appreciate the richness of our relationship.

Since the house I grew up in was sold a little over 10 years ago and my grandparents’ house has changed little since I was young, being in my grandparents’ house provided the most intense feeling of “home” for me.   Running into people I knew from years ago, while getting coffee in the morning with my dad, and later at my Nana’s nursing home, provided a deep feeling of belonging.  I haven’t been here much over the past decade, but I still know folks and they know me.

019My mom and I ate “brunch” out at Adel’s, a local coffee shop on Thursday.  It was so cozy being in another place that hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years, seeing the rain pouring down on Broadway (Eureka’s main thoroughfare), drinking coffee and talking with my mom.  When we got up to leave, Mom pointed out – “I think that’s Grandma and Bumpa over there.”  Sure enough, my grandparents were there!  We went over to chat and marveled as we left – “Yep, only in Eureka.”

035Visiting with Nana on Thursday afternoon was very special.  My mom, Uncle Paul, Nana, and I just sat and talked for a couple of hours.  Nana is 94 years old and still quite “with it”.  We giggled a lot.  She knew who I was and after calling me Kelsey several times, proceeded to call me “Cheryl” once or twice, which she’s done for years.  Cheryl is my cousin and the oldest daughter of my Uncle Wayne.  I think Nana confuses the names because were both the oldest daughters.  Even that felt poignant and comforting.

Driving around the streets of Eureka, it was very familiar and yet, strange.  I haven’t been in this place regularly for over 15 years, yet I know how to get around.  I pointed out houses where my childhood friends used to live and drove by my high school.  Most of the restaurants I remember are no longer in business.  Strolling around Old Town, we enjoyed the places that remain and reminisced about the shops and restaurants that are no longer there.  I suppose it’s the feeling a lot of people have about their hometown.  It’s a part of you yet it keeps changing, just like you do.

050On Friday, my mom and I drove all the way back to San Diego together.  As we started to see signs along Interstate 15 for Escondido and northern San Diego neighborhoods, I suddenly thought –  “I’m almost home.”  My house, family, and “home” are now in San Diego.  But, my sense of “home” was instilled and nurtured while growing up in this loving family, in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Maybe you can’t “go home again”.  But, “home” are the places where you are loved.  This trip reminded me that I will always have a home in Humboldt County.

Home and Family

Fall: Frenzied and Fun!

Posting to one’s blog less than once per week is not a good way to build one’s following.  But, since most of my readers are people who know and love (or at least like) me, I don’t have to worry about that.  Whew!

fallI’m fully appreciating how busy the fall season can be, now that we have a school aged child.  Sienna’s in ballet once a week, Dennis and I are participating in our church/preschool’s Conscious Discipline workshop, which is weekly during October, Sienna’s in First Holy Communion catechism, and all four of us are taking classes in our church’s Augsburg Academy.  We have lots of fun fall activities planned, including pumpkin picking next weekend and having folks over on Halloween!  I’m helping plan our church Oktoberfest. Dennis and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary the first week of November; we’re taking two days off work to hang out together. Can’t wait!

I’m super excited that my beloved San Francisco Giants are in the World Series…. yet again!  Dennis, who’s a big Orioles fan, and I were hoping for a little family rivalry if the Giants and Orioles both made it.  Oh well.  Teo is singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with the line “root, root, root for the Giants” – so I’m a happy mommy!

This week I’m doing something pretty unusual for me… taking a (short) solo trip!  With my Nana recently moving into a full nursing home, I figured a trip to my hometown to see my family was overdue.  So, I’m flying to Northern California on Wednesday!  My sister is picking me up from the airport that’s 4 hours from our hometown.  She’s the best!!  I’ll only be home for about a day and a half, but I’ll get to see lots of family.  My mom and I will then take a long road trip back to San Diego on Friday.  I’m excited to spend a couple of days being just a daughter, granddaughter, sister, and auntie.  This is the only time I’ve been away from my kids for more than one day, and that time I was with Dennis.  Good thing I’ll be busy because I’m going to miss them like crazy!

I’ve recently gotten re-energized to cook and eat Paleo again.  I’m trying to switch my kids (and husband!) to more whole and less processed foods.  I’ll get some recipe posts up soon!

Happy Fall, everyone!


Home and Family

50 Days

I meant to get this post written earlier, in commemoration of my husband’s birthday on October 3rd.  But, we ended up having such a fun birthday weekend that I didn’t get a chance to write.  So, here it is, one week late.

Two years ago, my husband had a milestone birthday: 50.  He wasn’t particularly excited about this big birthday.  As his adoring and enthusiastic wife, I wanted to do something very special for him.  The idea I came up with was giving him a “gift” and card each day, for 50 days.  I dubbed it: 50 Days to Celebrate 50 Years!  I planned it so his actual birthday was right in the middle – “Day 26”.  We spent his birthday at Disneyland, which started our “Year of Disney”.  Taking advantage of one child under 3 years old, Dennis, Sienna, and I got annual passes and we used them well.  Our last trip to Disneyland included the days leading up to Dennis’s 51st birthday.  Great, great memories!

26Back to the 50 Days, each “card” had the same format, including a photo and a quote related to whatever that days’ theme was.  Some were tangible gifts – a USMC hat, cookies, a DVD collection on Ancient Egypt, etc.  Others were just reminders about something special in his life: his days in Hawaii, favorite sports teams, his family, etc.

Coming up with the quotes each day was fun!  For example, on the day celebrating the decade he lived in Hawaii, I put lyrics from one of his favorite John Cruz songs, “On the island, we do it island style / From the mountain to the ocean from the windward to the leeward side.”   One night the gift was a break from doing the dishes after dinner (I cheerfully did them), and the quote was from Rosanne Barr: “Excuse the mess, but we live here.”

5On Day 5, the quote was about parenthood: “Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands. Take time with them; teach them to have faith in God. Be a person in whom they can have faith. When you are old, nothing else you’ve done will have mattered as much.”- Lisa Wingate  Along with this day, I did a special one separately for Sienna and Mateo. On those days I gave him parenting books as the gift.  I’m so subtle.

The quote for the Marine Corps day, commemorating Dennis’s service in the Corps, was: “A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount ‘up to and including their life.”‘ – Lt. Col. George Goodson, USMC (Ret).

29I also incorporated a lot of sports themed days, since Dennis is such a huge fan. One gift was a book about baseball coaching and life lessons from Dennis’s favorite player, Cal Ripken, Jr. Then, I was so excited to discover that the University of Hawaii was playing San Diego State University in the Sky Show game, the weekend after Dennis’s birthday.  I surprised him with tickets on the morning of the game, when we were heading back from Disneyland.  The Sky Show is an annual event where they put on a huge fireworks display after the game, set to rock music by a local radio station.  I felt a bit negligent holding my hands over Teo’s ears because it was WAY too loud for a toddler.   But, the memory of seeing Sienna and Mateo walking through Qualcomm Stadium in their footsie pajamas is very precious!

Since Dennis has a sweet tooth (and an annoyingly high metabolism that allows him to indulge it!), many of the gifts included treats of some kind.  Lemon heads, Mentos, homemade cookies, pizza, beer, and Jolly Ranchers, among them.  There had to be some inexpensive filler days, or this project would have broken us!

38Many of the themes were related to our favorite family traditions: Halloween, Bates Nut Farm for pumpkin picking, Christmas on the Prado.  It was fun for both of us to remember all of the special traditions that we started and now get to share with our kids.

43After the 50 days were over, I had all of the “cards” printed and bound into a book, so we can look back on this special time.

All in all, this was an amazingly fun and meaningful way to mark a milestone birthday.  I could see doing something like this for a major anniversary milestone, or retirement gift too.  As I noted in the card for Day 50, this project really gave me a chance to think about my husband and all the little things about Dennis that make him special:

“Dennis, this is the last of 50 daily messages in honor of your 50th birthday! This project has been the embodiment of the expression, “It is better to give than to receive.” I’ve loved every moment I spent thinking about you and preparing these gifts. I love you!”

Lutheranism, My Awakening

On the Inside

On the outside, my life doesn’t look dramatically different from this time last year. I have the same job, am married to the same wonderful man; I’m mom to two delightful children, we still worship at the same church, and we’re continuing to deepen relationships with our church family and friends. Life is full and good.

But, on the inside, there’s been a dramatic transformation.

gerberThere’s an inner peace and calm that’s replaced the constant activity of my mind. Making peace with my emotions, so that they no longer scare me, means that I can comfortably be in any given moment without having to control my feelings. That process, in the end, was really about who I placed my trust in: me or God?

As the layers of emotion unfolded last summer, the anxiety and sadness revealed my deepest fear: that I cannot protect my children, husband, and loved ones. I don’t know whether something tragic might occur in our lives. Coming to grips with that ultimate fear sent me racing into the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father. While I can’t know what the future holds, He knows. Through prayer I can entreat Him to protect my family and rest in the knowledge that Christ will make all things right in the end.

It has been simply amazing to experience all the changes that flow from trusting God and keeping God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the focus of ultimate value in my life. In a real way it feels like living the verse:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

There’s a great freedom in realizing how little control I actually have, how little I can do on my own. Believing that Christ accomplished everything for our salvation, including giving us the gift of faith in Him, provides this beautiful peace through surrendering. I don’t have to do anything to make myself or my life more pleasing to God. Instead, I can focus on serving God, my family, co-workers, and friends, in love.

In my daily life, there are times when upsetting thoughts or feelings appear.  I notice them now, accept that they’re there, pray that God will use them for good or help them pass by, and then go back to the current moment and directing my attention to what’s happening.  That process ususally takes a few seconds, maybe a minute.  Feeling uncomfortable emotions or thinking negative thoughts doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong”.  Having a poor night’s sleep doesn’t mean I’m depressed.  It all just means I’m human and experiencing life in this fallen world.

Acceptance and trust work together beautifully.

This transformation has made my world simultaneously smaller and richer. Instead of seeing how much I can do, how many projects I can say “yes” to or activities to fill in the calendar, I cherish time with Dennis, Sienna, and Mateo. We plan activities with good friends and our church family. We spend a lot more time at home, caring for our little piece of the world and devoting time to things that are most important – family dinners, Sienna’s first communion catechesis, and decorating for the changing seasons and holidays.

The mundane is more special now. Making breakfast turns into teaching the kids to flip pancakes. Washing the car becomes a fun way to cool off on a hot afternoon. Family dinner time gives us an opportunity to review memory verses with Sienna or hear Teo’s latest prayer song from preschool. Cleaning up the kitchen is a chance for Dennis and me to catch up on our day and enjoy the sunset view from our backyard.

There are certainly moments that are challenging, frustrating, angering, or sad. Accepting these emotions as a normal, natural, and healthy part of life has been a great opportunity for growth. But, more importantly, I’m now trusting that God is working all things for good and is always there to comfort, heal, and provide His perfect care.