Life Without Walls

My heart is full. A 3,000 mile tent camping road trip with a 3 year old and a 1 year old may sound like hell to some, but it put me back in my happy place.  For the hubby and I it felt like we had been on a hamster wheel for a year.  New baby, new town, work, school, apartment living.  This is extremely difficult for two people that have hiked across the country a couple times and tasted freedom in every sense of the word.  We knew something had to give and we had to find a way to get back out there and do the things that make us happy.  We seriously considered selling everything, buying a cargo van and hitting the road for good!  We decided to first pack up the truck and immerse ourselves and our kids in the outdoors for a bit.

So for one month we have lived out of our truck, traveling 3,000 miles through Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.  A destination wedding took us to Colorado, we just decided to take a long time to get there and a long time to return to our box of an apartment.

I am still processing it all.  We’ve been asked numerous times, “So have you found a place in your travels that you want to land next?”  I stumble over words for a “correct” response.  No. All this trip has done for us is open a million doors and has been completely freeing!  It makes us want to live a life without walls.  We just spent a month watching our kids adjust to living outside 24-7 and they thrived.  We went to bed when we were tired and woke when rested.  Eric taught Lukas (almost 3) to gather wood and built and tend to a fire and he was amazing at it!  We saw the Strawberry Moon come up over the horizon as we sat in awe and roasted marshmallows.   Lukas fed ants to antlions, we watched a spider tend to her eggs, went fishing, watched storms roll in, ate ice that fell from the sky as tiny hail balls bounced off of us, identified flowers, made mud pies…the list goes on.

Our days were full, some were completely exhausting, there were toddler meltdowns, teething, a few sick days and a times when we all ended up sleeping on a queens size air mattress.  There was a lot of laughter.  Mostly there was this feeling that we were nailing it as parents! haha.  Our kids weren’t cozy and comfortable 100% of the time.  There was weather and mosquitoes and elements that we all had to adjust to.  Lukas learned to dig his own hole to poop in and Lilah ate her fair share of mud and rocks.

I would wake in the morning to the sounds of the woods and for the first time in what feels like forever my soul was completely alive.  I felt a new appreciation for all of it and we got to experience even the most basic things through the curious eyes of our children.

We are back in our apartment now.  I wouldn’t say it feels like home.  We felt at home when we were “out there”.  So what now?  I don’t know.  We’ve always lived a little differently than most.  Sometimes we need roots and sometimes wings.  Right now the wings seem to be taking over.  Stay tuned.

 

Coolest Easter Bunny EVER

Not to brag but growing up I had the absolute BEST Easter bunny in the world.  She was so incredibly creative. Now that I think about it, where in the heck did she even find the time?  Oh yes…Easter bunnies don’t think of it that way I suppose.  I mean, when you are doing special things for the little ones in your world you do it with great love and somehow you always find the time.  And I quote Mother Teresa, “do small things with great love.”  Well anyhow, my Easter bunny went above and beyond.

From the time I can remember I would wake up on Easter morning with my sister and brother and there would be a giant basket full of chocolate, a handwritten note from the bunny herself and a plastic egg.  Inside that plastic egg was a clue on where to find the next egg which held the next clue and so on.  These clues took us all over the house.  They were clever and thoughtful and sometimes rhymed.  As the years passed the egg hunt grew.  It went from the house to outside in the yard and the next thing I knew we were on the four wheeler riding around on the farm and down to my grandma’s house looking for clues.  It didn’t stop there!  When my sister could drive that Easter bunny decided to step it up a notch and hid clues all around town. Now mind you, we lived 5 miles outside of town at the end of a dirt road on the farm.  My awesome, coolest, most clever Easter bunny hid these clues all around town so we could go on this giant Easter egg hunt in my sisters car!  It would take all morning and those clues weren’t easy but eventually we would make our way to the last clue and waiting there was a gift for each of us.  Not just any gift but a thoughtful gift.  My Easter bunny always put a lot of thought into what we would like and I loved that (and still love that) about her.  It was never about the gift though.  Don’t get me wrong, I always loved a special present at the end and after that a big family breakfast, but the best part was the hunt!  It was thrilling and different and made me eager with anticipation.

I realize Easter egg hunts for most people end when you are 9 or 10 or something but not for this girl.  I believe they stopped when I went to college and lived 90 minutes away. My point is, here I sit in my 30’s and my heart is so full remembering our big Easter egg hunts growing up.  Times have changed, technology has changed and I do think children are different these days…but…children are children and the effort and love that we put into things both big and small spills over into their lives in a very big way.

I’m encouraging all you Easter bunnies out there to think outside the box this year.  Maybe it isn’t a huge all over town egg hunt but perhaps start a new fun tradition that pulls in even your oldest children.  I know my sister did a lot of eye rolling perhaps when she drove us around town looking for plastic eggs with clues but I guarantee if you ask her today it would be one of her greatest memories. Many times as parents we think we are too busy and just don’t have the time…but we do have the time.  Just remind yourself that it’s not just an Easter egg hunt but it’s a memory, it’s time well spent, it’s all that matters in the end.  Someday down the road you’ll probably wish for just one more chance to stuff plastic Easter eggs with tiny handwritten clues in anticipation of seeing your child’s beautiful, wide, excited eyes sparkle from something so…simple.  Sending creative thoughts to my fellow Easter bunnies!

 

Ultimate Happiness

For those who don’t know me personally you may not know my husband and I hiked from Mexico to Canada, twice. Does this define me? No. Yes. Maybe? One of the most difficult things after a really long walk is merging back into society.  Everyone is busy, the world is loud and everyone is moving 100mph to do something bigger and to be something better. I remember getting off the trail after hiking the CDT and I felt like I was that person in the movies where they focus on someone sitting still and speed everything up around them.  I still feel like that sometimes.  Ultimately, in my life, I just want to be still and enjoy my kids and my husband.  I want to hike and explore, travel and try new foods, drink a good beer and watch a sunset.

My husband never talked to anyone much about the trail.  When we hiked the PCT together it was so life altering for me.  I wanted to tell the world, I published my journal and I felt like it was my job to tell anyone and everyone that would listen to me.  He said one day, “Do you notice when you talk to people about the trail that most of the time they don’t REALLY listen?” and I realized, yes, it’s true and I felt sad and longed to be back out there away from the rat race.  Of course there are the people who do listen and you have my mom and dad who tell perfect strangers about us.  I love that.  I’ve had friends I’ve known for years that probably don’t really know much about me at all.  That’s okay.

It took me a very long time to find myself.  I do realize that sounds completely cliche but I have no other words for it.  My husband can attest, I can go a mile a minute and have 200 projects going all at once and can be organized and prompt…and in the very same breath, I am making coffee while drinking a mimosa in my mismatched clothes and Muk Luks, swaying to Bob Marley or Hot Buttered Rum (Eric says I have the same dance for every song) and jabbering on and on about the trail. Right now that’s not the season of my life BUT it reminds me to slow down and be still and it makes me smile. Every. Single. Time.

After the trail we would socialize and meet friends of friends because “you will love them!” or “they are just like you!” and every time we would sit and have a drink together utterly exhausted from listening to how busy everyone was or what their plans were to redecorate their kitchen.  After awhile we realized that we have each other and that is enough.  We don’t need to feel obligated to go and do things that don’t make us happy. We are at our best sitting on top of a mountain together or in our pajamas on a Saturday morning listening to records and watching our kids move about.  We have friends across the country and there are definitely times we wish they were right next door.  For now, we know who we are, we aren’t defined by a job and we find great comfort in living this beautiful, slow, simple, mediocre life.  We spend our time doing things that are meaningful to us.  We contribute to community, shop local, do things we enjoy, eat good food, drink good wine, stay up too late on occasion trying to soak up some kid free time and in the grand scheme of things try to avoid that feeling of obligation.  There seems to be this inherent need to be busy in our society.  I just need to be still.

We still get caught up sometimes and it feels like we’re going in circles and we know ourselves well enough to realize it’s time for a new adventure.  Right now on our wall we have 9 different places written in Sharpie that we want to live with an ongoing list of pros and cons.  We’ve made big life decisions drinking 40’s of Malt Liquor and rolling “decision dice” and even by throwing darts.  I’m not saying this kind of well thought out plan is for everyone but it has taken us on a 3,100 mile walk across the country and to a tiny village in the Dominican Republic.  Once, our dartboard held the words “ultimate happiness” on the bullseye as we laughed with friends after way too many drinks long ago working at a lodge in the middle of the woods.  So now, when we need to make a big decision, we always aim for “ultimate happiness.”

In the  end, it’s important to realize that avoiding unhappiness is not the key to happiness.  For some, maybe “busy-ness” is what makes them happy.  For me, I want to lead this small and simple life where I find happiness in the space of “in between”.  I love our great adventures.  I love the feeling of reaching the monument on the Canadian border after hiking 3,100 miles and I love rocking my babies to sleep at night.  Both are great adventures.  While I can’t wait to see what’s in store, every single day I remind myself that this is my life and right now my greatest adventure is whatever I have right in front of me at this very moment.

So my challenge to you is to find your ultimate happiness and I’m not talking about what everybody else thinks should make you happy.  If you can get past that feeling of obligation I’m pretty sure you will experience the freedom to be who you are. That is all.

P.S. I LOVE this journal The Happiness Project. It is a 5-year one sentence journal to record all of those “little things” that happen each day.