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Stretching Oneself

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A snowy morning at Benmore Valley Ranch Feb. 5, 2019

It feels like we are on an extended holiday as we pass the weeks at Stephen’s parents house. You might wonder how our time traveling around the country in our trailer might not also feel like an extended holiday, but it feels different. There is a heightened level of stress that we felt traveling from RV park to RV park, constantly finding ourselves in new towns and cities. Here we can rest in the familiar and the known and it feels really good to be with family.

Our Airstream trailer is in the shop getting fixed in preparation for selling it. We will likely be here in Texas until the end of February when I return from my last trip up to Canada for my teacher training. We’ve only had about a week at a time visiting with Grandmom and Granddad in the past, so this extended time together feels extra special. Even though we have shortened school days at home, Zoey said to me the other day, “I never get to see Granddad and Grandmom.” It was one of those moments where I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of her statement, and yet realized the depth of her feeling that we stopped our lesson so that she could go get a hug from Grandmom.

We’ve been staying fairly close to home the past month, hence the old photo from our ranch.  The weather has been mostly warm here, but we’ve had a few cold days. This morning we woke up to a sprinkling of snow and went for a walk after breakfast on the trails behind the house.

I recently finished reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave.  Stephen picked it out for me at a Goodwill store. It was one of those books that found me right when I needed it. If you want to feel challenged and need some soul stretching, it’s a good book to read.

I’ve been puttering around on this blog post for days now, searching for the words to write. And then Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes found me again. She writes in her Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times:

Mis Estimados: Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered, very concerned about the state of affairs in our world. One has to have strong cojones and ovarios to withstand much of what passes for good in our culture today. Abject disregard for what the soul finds most precious and irreplaceable, and the corruption of principled ideals, has become in so many places “the new normal.” It’s hard to say which one of these most egregious matters has rocked the people’s worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping, astonishment, and righteous rage over the last degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people. You are right in your assessments. The luster and hubris some have aspired to, while endorsing acts so heinous against children and elders and everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet I urge you, and I ask you, I gentle you . . . do not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially, do not lose hope, most particularly because the fact is: WE WERE MADE FOR THESE TIMES. For years we’ve been practicing, learning, been in training for, and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that WE ARE DEFINITELY THE LEADERS THAT WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR . . .

For a long time I chose not to read the news in depth because it felt too heavy to carry while also holding the stories of suffering of my clients. But now as I enter more fully into what it means to be an adult, I can no longer be ignorant of the world of today. Even though Dr. Estes wrote this letter years ago, the words still ring true in 2020. And it begs the question, what do we value in our leaders? And more significantly, what values are we instilling in our children who are observing with wide-open eyes all the so-called adults of the world today? They are watching closely.

 

 

 


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6 Months on the road

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Wormsloe State Historic Site near Savannah, Georgia

I forget every year how quickly the holidays fly by. Only 3 weeks ago I was in North Vancouver, B.C. for my Waldorf teacher training, but it already feels ages ago. And in 3 weeks we will celebrate Christmas with Stephen’s parents. I had no problem crossing the border into Canada, but my flight into Chicago was cancelled due to snow, so my Monday travel day turned into a Tuesday travel day and I spent several hours at SFO waiting for my evening flight. I joke about how I would love to spend endless hours reading, but whenever I am stuck on an airplane or inside an airport and could read for nearly the whole day crossing the country in a matter of hours, I weary of reading. A body needs to move after a time.

Two days before yesterday (in Zoey and Zane parlance), we walked around Savannah, Georgia and stopped in at E. Shaver, Bookseller to browse the books and visit with the three resident bookstore cats; all were very fluffy and big. We found an Advent Calendar (not the chocolate kind!) for the kids with an activity behind each window. Zoey requested we hide the cards each day for her and Zane to find just like the Martin and Sylvia Sparkle story. It’s a nice way to count down to Christmas without sugar. They’ve had plenty of that in the past 3 weeks and will be having a lot more once we hit the Cowan household, in Texas, that is. Just telling it like it is.  Nearly everyday around the 3 o’clock hour, Zane announces that he is hungry. Neither Stephen or I had packed a snack, so we ended up at the Gryphon Tea Room.

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Post-snack at the Gryphon Tea Room

The kids had a strawberry spritzer and I had a pot of cinnamon spice tea. The building was once an apothecary, a bookstore, and now a tea room/restaurant owned by the Savannah College of Art and Design. We ordered two sandwiches to share which felt like more than a snack, but two hours later, Zane was announcing yet again that he was hungry. We went to the Old Pink House Restaurant for dinner.

We left Georgia two days ago and arrived at St. Augustine, Florida. We went to the beach nearby, threw the nerf football around, and got our feet wet (or in Zane’s case most of his body) in the warm ocean water.

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I’ve been reading the book Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver over the past several weeks. I’ve always enjoyed her writing, and this book has made me ponder the big questions about our current political situation (don’t worry, I’m not going to talk politics here!) and how we live our lives here on earth. We’ve spent 6 months on the road, and I start to wonder how this trip has changed us if at all. How will we live our lives differently once we have settled and have a house again? I realize I can only ask these questions because we’ve lived a privileged life.

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I turned 42 in October and I told my friend Jen that I only now feel like I am taking up the reins in being an adult, or figuring out how to be an adult. And then I look at my daughter, and she gives me so much hope for our future. I’m sure you’ve noticed capable, young people in your own sphere of living. Our towel rack that hangs off the stovetop broke off on one side when we arrived at our RV park. Zoey noticed it and immediately went to the truck to get a screwdriver out of Stephen’s toolbox in the truck and went to work on fixing the towel rack. She fixed it in a matter of seconds. I beamed inwardly with pride that my daughter is so capable of fixing things, while simultaneously noting that I was going to leave it to Stephen to fix. I’ve lived most of my life waiting for someone else to fix things, but I’m awakening to a new consciousness that challenges me to do the things that don’t come naturally or easily for me. I wonder what it would be like if on a world scale we let go of inertia and fear and did the very things that were difficult and hard for us? Even if we just tried.

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Wormsloe State Historic Park

 


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Finding a New Home

In the past three weeks we’ve traveled from Lake George, New York to East Lyme, Connecticut, to Clarksboro, New Jersey, and then today we arrived at our RV park in College Park, Maryland. We are here for 17 days to explore around Washington, D.C. Next Monday, I fly back up to North Vancouver, B.C. to finish my second to last session of classes for my Waldorf teacher training.

On our way to Lake George from Vermont, we stopped with our trailer at the University of Vermont Morgan Horse farm. We had just finished listening to the audiobook “Justin Morgan Had a Horse” by Marguerite Henry, that tells the mostly true story of the first Morgan horse.  Zoey would have liked to have stayed there all day visiting with the horses.

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The horse barn

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Morgan foals

In Lake George, we hiked up the steep Prospect Mountain trail where there used to be the Prospect Mountain Cable Incline Railway that brought people up to the Prospect Mountain House hotel in the late 19th century. On our travels, we have managed to see peak fall foliage across several states in New England.

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On our way to East Lyme, Connecticut, we visited with cousin Carol and Auntie Flea in New York. Carol made us a delicious vegetable barley soup for lunch. Zane told me later that Carol makes the best soup ever!

During our stay in Connecticut, we traveled to Newport, Rhode Island and visited the Vanderbilt summer cottage “the Breakers.” Zane, Zoey, and I had a race running across the lawn. There are numerous summer “cottages” aka mansions here in Newport, but we only had time to visit one in an afternoon.

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The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island

On our last night in Connecticut, we had a chance to visit with my friend from college Diane and her lovely family. Zoey and Zane enjoyed playing with the cats and toys and asked if they could spend the night.

After leaving Connecticut, we stayed in Clarksboro, New Jersey about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. We took several trips into the city to visit the Mint, Independence Hall, the Museum of the American Revolution, and ate dinner one night at the City Tavern eating out of pewter glasses and plates.  The Tavern was where George Washington and other founding fathers gathered to eat and drink while deliberating on the formation of our country.  To maintain the ambience of the 18th century restaurant, it was requested that guests not use their cell phones so I didn’t take any photographs of the restaurant. We ate by candlelight and Stephen enjoyed a sample of ales, one of which was Ben Franklin’s own recipe.

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Independence Hall

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The room where the Declaration of Independence was signed

This was the first year that we took the kids trick-or-treating. In past years we have gone to the Waldorf School of Mendocino County for Halloween to enjoy the Enchanted Pumpkin path which has been a very sweet way to enjoy dressing up and getting a few treats. We took them trick-or-treating on Delancy Street in Philadelphia where there are several blocks of redbrick row houses blocked off from street traffic. The streets were full of children and families. Zoey enjoyed looking out for dogs dressed in costumes. Her favorites were a lion dog and a pretzel dog.

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A ninja and Wonder Woman

When I began writing about our around the country trip in June, it didn’t feel right then to explain why we sold the ranch and the reason for our big trailer trip. In light of the wildfires happening in California, it seems appropriate now to explain that in July 2018, the Mendocino complex fire burned around our property, right on our dirt road which was our one way in and out of our home. We had to evacuate for a week, and we were incredibly thankful to have a home to return to, but it made us think seriously about living in California as it seems that yearly wildfires is the norm now. We had found what we thought would be our forever home at Benmore Valley Ranch, but it no longer felt safe there after the fire. So we began our trailer trip across the country searching for a new place to call home.

We have seen so many beautiful places in the 24 states we’ve traveled through, but when we reached Maine we found what we were finally looking for–beautiful beaches, fine summer weather, clean air, and a great Waldorf school. We found an affordable city in Portland that has a vibrant downtown, great restaurants and culture, and affordable housing. We continue our trailer trip adventure, heading to Raleigh, North Carolina to visit my sister for Thanksgiving and to Georgetown, Texas to be with Stephen’s parents for Christmas. After that we plan to return to Southern California to see my parents and my brother’s family before returning to Portland, Maine and finding a house to settle down in.

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Candlepin bowling in Brunswick (another reason why we love Maine)


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School Days and Afternoon Adventures

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Shelburne Farm Storybook trail in VT

On Sunday we arrived at Apple Island Resort RV park by Lake Champlain in South Hero, Vermont. We had one day of rain, but it’s been sunny since then. This week we’ve been enjoying a large community center at the park for our homeschooling time. Zoey said it feels like home to her. There is a gym next door so the kids have been having recess in the gym. They hop on the treadmill or the elliptical machine and smile their way through exercise. Zoey says to me, as she sprints and I take my time walking, “This is so fun!”

It’s nice having a larger area to move around for school, but I have to force myself to go to the community center every morning. Since I started homeschooling the kids a month ago now, I’ve had a guilt complex about the kids not being at a school. I feel like I’m breaking the rules, and I try most of the time to follow the rules (unless the rules are inane and then it doesn’t matter so much to me). Ever since I met Stephen he has been trying to wean me from always being a rule follower. I remember doing grocery shopping with him and he left his cart unattended to walk across the store and I looked at him in amazement, not realizing you could do that. I know, pretty simple. I feel sometimes like we have to hide with the kids in the trailer until school gets out around 3:00pm even though our homeschooling schedule is very different. We have main lesson in the morning, snack/recess, and then two more subjects before lunch. We’re done with school by noon and we have the afternoon to explore around town or wherever we might be.

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Dress up and rest time in the trailer

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After we left Maine, we had a short stay at Danforth Bay Camping and RV park near Conway, New Hampshire. One afternoon we took a paddleboat out on the lake.

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Eating lunch on a trail near Keene, New Hampshire

After leaving New Hampshire, we arrived back in Williamstown, Vermont. It was quite chilly there, staying in the mid 50s and dropping down below freezing one night.

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Our view from our campsite at Limehurst Lake near Williamstown, VT

IMG_4377We drove up to Stowe, Vermont on Saturday. Stephen and I rented bikes and rode with the kids on a 10 mile trail that was quite crowded with other cyclists and people walking the trail.

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Bike trail in Stowe, VT

Yesterday we visited Shelburne Farm. Both of the kids had a chance to milk a cow, help feed pigs at a pig party, and bring the chickens home to their coop at the chicken run.

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Zoey milking a cow at Shelburne Farm in VT

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6 month old Butter eating at the pig party

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Chickens going to bed for the night

Tomorrow is our last full day here and then Friday we’ll drive to Lake George, New York.

 

 


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Coast to Coast

IMG_4326After almost 4 months on the road, we have finally reached the east coast.  We’ve  been at Libby’s oceanside RV park in southern Maine since last Thursday. Our campsite backs up to the rocky beach below. We’ve spent two afternoons now on the sandy part of the beach during low tide.

IMG_4342The kids have frolicked about, pretending to be crabs or horses, or played on the large boulders which is their ship. I had a chance to sit and read a little book I bought Stephen for his birthday, Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke. One of my WCI instructors mentioned this summer that she read it to her 5th grade class.

Last Saturday we went to the Fairy House tour in the Strawberry Banke Park of Portsmouth, NH. There were so many different, creatively constructed fairy houses. The kids loved it.  Strawberry Banke contains some of the oldest buildings in New Hampshire, dating to the 17th century.

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Luckily, the weather has been beautiful and mostly sunny during our stay here.  Many shops and motels close down at the beginning of fall in York, the town we are near, but it is nice to have an uncrowded beach right at our doorstep.

We spent a few days last week in Vermont, but didn’t explore much beyond our campground.  Next week, we will be heading back to Vermont near Burlington and Lake Champlain for more adventures.

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Day 100

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Terraced garden at Naumkeag

We’ve been traveling in our trailer now for 100 days. Living in a trailer is a bit of a balancing act. I had a dream last night that Stephen told me we had too much stuff and that it would never fit in our house. I looked at him in surprise and reminded him of all our things that we gave away when we moved into our trailer. As my father always says, (and perhaps he was quoting someone else?) stuff will accumulate to fit the space available. What seems to be multiplying in our closet space is paper. I thought I was being wise by buying sketchbooks for the kids, to keep the loose leaf paper strewn about the trailer at a minimum, but the sketchbooks have been designated as “storybooks,” (Zoey has co-opted both her sketchbook and Zane’s to draw and write stories) so that she still wants loose leaf paper. Tonight she and Zane were using the loose leaf lined paper to wrap Christmas presents for me, Stephen, and each other. How can I say no to that when it keeps them occupied and they enjoy doing it?

We’ve started turning on the heater a.k.a. the “furnace” in our trailer the past few days. We’ve been in Chester, MA the past week. Before that we were in Rhinebeck, NY. We’ve had some sunny days and some rain with cooler temperatures in the 60s and 70s, dropping down to the 40s some nights. Here in Massachusetts, it is starting to feel like autumn and the leaves are just starting to turn yellow and orange but the trees are mostly still green.

Over Labor Day weekend, we had an enjoyable visit with cousins from my dad’s side of the family and we went to the Columbia County fair. Later in the week while I began homeschooling the kids, Stephen toured Primrose Hill School in Rhinebeck and Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in New Paltz.

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A highlight for the kids was going to a grocery store in Amherst, MA and seeing a robot going up and down the aisles. Zoey took the photograph below. This is our first grocery store we’ve been to with a robot. Stephen tells me that Walmart also has them.

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Marty the Grocery Store Robot

We are now in Chester, Massachusetts between Great Barrington, Hadley, and Amherst until tomorrow. Thursday afternoon we went for a short hike on the Keystone Arch Bridges trail, which were built in 1840 and are some of the earliest railroad bridges in the country.  It rained fairly hard Wednesday night, but wasn’t raining much Thursday afternoon so that we could get outside. We saw several newts, a frog, and a slug while hiking.

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Today we toured the Naumkeag estate, a “country cottage” spread over 48 acres in Stockbridge and built by a rich 19th century Manhattan lawyer, Joseph Choate.  The cottage contains 44 rooms, including 17 bedrooms, and large servants quarters.  It was one of many Berkshire cottages built in the Gilded Age.

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Back view of Naumkeag and gardens below

 

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Zoey sitting on the swinging daybed in the Chinese garden

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Tomorrow we leave for Brattleboro, Vermont for a four day stay, then on to Southern Maine before heading back to East Montpelier and Burlington, Vermont.

 


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The Last Days of Summer Vacation

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Playground at the Cook Forest State Park in PA

Last week was a long week of driving with stops in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio. In Kansas, we hit a tree while pulling in to our campsite and broke the awning arm off the trailer. We stopped in Jackson Center, Ohio to try to get the awning fixed among other things, but they were too busy to fit us in, so we moved on to our next RV park.

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Eating lunch at the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, KS

Before leaving Dodge City, we spent the morning at the Boot Hill Museum, a historical museum about the Old West. At lunch, the kids were super excited to sit at the children’s table and drink some of daddy’s root beer.  Zane loved listening to a recording of gunfighters shooting their guns.

It rained much of the time we were in Missouri. Somewhere between Kansas and Missouri, Stephen let me drive the truck pulling the trailer. I convinced him it was a safe place to practice because all I had to do was drive straight. Before we left, we stopped at a nearby lake to feed the carp. It was a little creepy to hear the sound of squishy fish swimming on top of each other in their eagerness to get the dried fish food the kids were throwing at them.

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The kids were a little disappointed we weren’t able to stay more than one day at the Indianapolis KOA. Our campsite was right next to the playground. There was a kiddie pool (3ft at the deepest, 1-2 ft deep in some spots) I took the kids to with water slides, showering mushrooms, and large buckets that would tip over with water. The kids loved it. We had a campfire later that night. While Stephen and I sat around the fire, the kids were playing at the playground. Zane was on the slide and Zoey was on top of the monkey bars until her shoe dropped. She went to go get it, looked at her shoe, shrieked and ran to us. Zane then ran to her shoe, shrieked and ran to us. Stephen and I then had to get up and look. This is what we saw.IMG_5985.jpg

Stephen then told the kids how he and Uncle Philip used to catch cicadas when they were kids, put a dot on their back with nail polish, release them, then catch more to see if they ever caught the same one twice. We then listened to a Sleepytime Sparkle Story about Cicadas because how could anyone be frightened of a cicada after listening to one of David’s stories?

The morning we left the Airstream in Jackson Center, OH to hopefully get fixed, Stephen got food poisoning after eating breakfast out. We had planned to spend the day at the National Airforce Museum in Dayton, OH. Stephen stayed in the truck until he was feeling somewhat better while I walked around the museum with the kids. Our friends had gone there months earlier and taken photos in astronaut suits. Zane kept asking where the astronaut suits were, and I finally asked at an information booth. The men looked at me confused when I asked where they were until another man understood and said it was just a photograph they took at the beginning of the museum with different backgrounds you can choose to make it look like astronaut suits. It took Stephen several days to recover from food poisoning. I was glad that I had driven with the trailer before this because it was all up to me to get us safely to our next stop.

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Cook Forest State Park

From Ohio, we spent two days in Pennsylvania at two different RV parks. Our second day  was a 4.5 hour drive to Delaware Water Gap Pocono Mountain KOA, which we’ve learned is really too long to be on the road with the kids. About an hour to 20 minutes before we arrive at our destination, Zane seems to sense it and begins either kicking the back of the passenger seat or shrieks as loudly as he can, not unlike dogs sometimes do when they sense it’s about time to exit the car.

Before arriving at the RV park, we stopped at a local store where you had to insert a quarter into the grocery cart in order to use it (you got your quarter returned to you after you returned it). While shopping, I was approached by an 8 or 9 year old boy and asked if he could show me a magic trick. I declined, explaining that I really needed to concentrate on shopping. He wasn’t too upset. He just ran off to find another person to ask. He was the same boy who was riding around the parking lot on his bicycle. I started to wonder where his parents were.  And then at checkout, I was watching people unload their unbagged groceries into another cart to bag them, thinking that was so weird until it happened to us.  The cashier put all of our  groceries in our cart even though we had our reuseable bags right there for her to use. I started to put our groceries in our reuseable bags, while she scanned the items but she pointed to a counter we had to go to bag our groceries. Stephen had commented on the way in how he noticed there was a woman pushing two grocery carts full of food not in bags. Now we understood, and yet I was still so confused. Has anyone ever been to a grocery store like this?

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