Home: Coming or Going?


We are officially home, if home is defined by which license plate adorns your car. Other than not being able to find my car as easily in a parking lot, I’m not sure how I feel about yesterday’s very symbolic action of relinquishing my last outwardly visible tie to the East Coast. The New Jersey plates were a distinguishing factor, announcing to all that we are transplants and our roots lay elsewhere. Each of us has now, in turn, left our birth states– California, New York, North Carolina and New Jersey– and only one of us truly returns home.

That would be my husband, who rolls off the plane and into In and Out Burger…and he is home. Ironically, he’s not even here full-time yet, but I digress. He is without doubt meant to be here, a Californian by birth and in spirit.

For me, home is more a compilation of places, people, experiences and memories. To be honest, I’m not sure where I am now along that journey. Is home an end goal, regardless of how long the travel? I can’t help but to recall Odysseus, who was off at battle for ten years and then spent another ten trekking home.

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns,
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cites of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
(Translation by Robert Fagles)

Perhaps a more contemporary anthem speaks to you. Even if you don’t watch American Idol (oh, you know you do),  and couldn’t pick Phillip Phillips out of a line up, this is familiar if you saw any coverage of the “Fierce Five” during the Summer Olympic Games:

Hold on to me as we go,
as we roll down this unfamiliar road.
And although this wave is stringing us along
just know you’re not alone
cause I’m going to make this place your home.

Whether artist, athlete, warrior or commoner, I suppose we are ever pressing forward if only to return home. And that home could be from where we began, to where we return or some place we have stopped temporarily along the way.

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Solitude: Punishment or Paradise?

We’re having a very quiet weekend without any externally infused fun. And the usual swimming, tennis, riding, etc. lessons are suspended for a week. We are teaching that activities are earned, not granted.  The alternative is a lot of alone time in one’s room. With one day down I assure you it’s going to be a long week!

For one person solitude may seem like a penalty while for another it’s a reward. I am the latter. What would I give to be relegated to my room with a good book? I would joyfully forgo television, computer, iPad, iPod, iThis and iThat for some quiet, entertained only by a  good old fashioned bunch of pages stuffed into a binding. It need not even be highbrow literature; I also love to indulge in a juicy People Magazine. I used to think that I was born in the wrong century. Now I think I may have been born into the wrong culture altogether.

This past week my children’s school hosted Lisa Napoli,  author of Radio Shangri-la. A radio journalist, she documents in her book the incredible experience of starting a youth-oriented station in the “happiest kingdom on earth”. No, not Disney Land–  Bhutan. Neighboring China and India, this relatively unknown Himalayan kingdom existed contently without modern “amenities” until 1999. At that point television was introduced, and thus began a cultural explosion that would forever change the economic, political, social  and educational landscape. I could write at length about Napoli’s insightful account of her journey to and within a culture quite literally a world away from our own. But the most fascinating conversation (in my opinion) is that of technology and social media, and how their presence tempts one to lust after what others seem to have or do, rather than to find fulfillment in one’s own pursuits.

Clearly I am conflicted by the simplicity of living without technological advances and reaping the benefits of them. Case in point is my iPhone, which as I understand, will be rendered obsolete shortly by its next generation, just now falling into the hands of eager devotees. I dragged my feet in acquiring one, but I now admittedly adore it. How else would I not only capture these photos, but also share the experiences almost instantaneously?

Take yesterday when I discovered one of the most incredible jogging routes to date. I ran seeking solitude. I meant to savor my alone time in the Torrey Pines Preserve and along the beach that I had completely to myself. There’s a cliff that juts out into the water (depending on the tide), and those who wish to journey beyond the main stretch of beach have to delicately climb the very narrow natural path carved into the massive rock. I took that route, which dropped me into a spectacular and unoccupied convergence of sand, waves, cliff and sky. Armed with my magic phone, I was soon itching to share my experience, ironically surrendering solitude. I just had to send the photos to my mother  (whom I knew I wouldn’t be able to entice down there) and to my husband (whom I knew would be drawn in the very next day).  I suppose technology transports us to places we won’t ever go, and lures us to those we otherwise wouldn’t have considered.

And lest you call me a naive purist, I acknowledge that while one child was “enjoying” enforced alone time, the other was plugged into the iPad, affording me the time and peace to produce this post.

Glory Days

I recently realized where I went wrong: I wasn’t knocked up in high school. Nor was I an adolescent alcoholic. And no sexual dalliances were ever leaked online. My dysfunctions were never exploited for public entertainment, and certainly not so by my momager. Wow, I was am boring. And boring is definitely not profitable. But perhaps in my next lifetime I will come back as a much more trashy version of myself and cash in on my indiscretions.

The latest person who has found fame and fortune through pure poor decision making is Farrah Abraham from MTV’s series Teen Mom. I’m all in favor of the network airing the young mothers’ struggles in an effort to decrease teen pregnancies and to help steer kids toward positive change. But somehow the intentions have been distorted. For one thing, more than several of these young women have put their financial gains into breast implants and hair extensions. Initially, I thought this was idiotic, but now I view the strategy as ingenious. With flowing hair and bouncing boobs, Farrah has landed her own spin off. And more disturbing, she has reportedly penned a New York Times Bestseller called My Teenage Dream Ended.

Yeah, my teenage dream ended as well.  But the only thing I came close to birthing in high school was an ulcer. That’s when I was holed up in the library, having given up my lunch period, to study. I committed every afternoon, and sometimes early mornings, to one of my three varsity sports practices. I recall Saturday nights dedicated to SAT vocabulary words and college essay writing. And I completed my community service hours, not because it looked good on those applications but because I enjoyed the effort. This is what I was doing instead of getting high and sleeping around– but that memoir would not be a bestseller.

So perhaps with degrees from my tony New York City private school, Harvard College and Tufts University, I’m not that wise and worldly after all. I could have spent my more formative years shirking responsibility and profiting from the outcome. My bucket list would have been so much more interesting.

Instead, being responsible has proved quite dull and sometimes draining. Just ask Kate Middleton, who bears the burden now of no longer being able to sunbathe topless. It’s hard to be a gorgeous royal role model who is allowed to do no wrong!

No, I don’t aspire to be Farrah or Snooki or a Kardashian, and I most definitely don’t want to raise a Honey Boo Boo. But it would be nice to have been a little (ok, a lot) less reserved. My parents always said that I was born thirty-five. And not a free-spirited thirty-five. So that would put me at pushing seventy-one. I had better get living then!

Today I am going nuts. Throwing caution to the wind. I’m blowing off responsibility and treating myself to something completely unproductive and frivolous.  I’m off to enjoy a foot massage– one that includes back, neck and shoulders to boot.

I just need to switch the laundry and make those damn beds first.

Sunrise Contemplations: Genetics

Have you ever been stopped dead in your tracks by the rising sun? A couple of days ago it happened to me. I was on autopilot, going through the (stiff) motions of a typical morning jog. Then as I turned one corner that reveals the canyons and hills beyond the neighborhood, I was jolted out of my haze by the most stunning splendor of pinkish-orange sky that I have yet to witness. And I have seen a lot of sunrises in my lifetime.

I’ve always preferred early mornings to late nights. My bunk-mates at sleep away camp loathed the fact that as soon as reveille sounded, I flew out of bed to start the day. Sometimes I even preempted the bugle. Not much has changed; I am often up before my alarm buzzes. This I surely inherited from my father, who used to walk to work so that he could enjoy the city that never sleeps when it was, in fact, sleeping. He visited his patients and caught up on administrative tasks before colleagues arrived. And he even enjoyed a quiet bagel with jam. All within the wee hours of the morning.

Morning hours inspire some of my most productive thinking as well. As such, this week I have been considering the power of genetics– particularly how a child is like a parent in certain habits. From morning activity to homework trends, the patterns are striking! And a little frightening as well.  Let’s discuss that nagging issue of homework.

My second grader was slammed with a shocking homework expectation. OK, perhaps that’s some projection. She tackled it like a champ, but I am still reeling. Perhaps it’s a difference in school curricula or maybe it’s just growing a year older, but times they are a changing! This week one assignment addressed concepts such as several significant amendments in US voting history, the discrepancy between the millions of people who could or did vote from one election year to the next, and the right to choose to vote or not. It was more than a little sophisticated. The final question asked whether she would vote this year if she were 18 years old. Her simple answer: No. It was actually more of a hummpppfff. But I told her that her answer was fine, just that she had to give an explanation as to why not. This is what she wrote in haste:  It would take to (sic) long.

There you have it. My child says it like it is, without flowering BS and with some very questionable penmanship. But she unabashedly makes her opinions known.  I tried to make sense of this– the genetics behind her resistance to homework and, moreover, conformity. Then it struck me– on a run this week– that I know the exact origins of this particular characteristic. Without naming names, I’ll just say that one parent in this household doesn’t register to vote. It’s not a particularly political statement or even a strong dislike of presidential choices. Rather, this parent abstains from voter registration in order to avoid jury duty! Right now you’re either horrified or envious…

Back to a less polarizing subject matter than homework, politics and civic duty. Who knows what combination of timing and temperature and marine layer contributes to the phenomenal scene of the other morning, but I won’t be the one who calculates it.  I will, however, chase that sunrise so that when I see it again I will have my camera/phone ready to document it for you. In the meantime, the photo above and below will have to suffice– just another dawn from beginning to end of my run. And one last contemplation:  My dad would have loved that sunrise.

Where One Road Ends

My maiden bike voyage was a success in that I figured out  pretty quickly where my route ended. Sunday morning was a perfect time to bust out my bike, brush off the cobwebs (and, yes, some sweat and snot left over from my last triathlon two summers ago) and begin to explore the California roads. I decided to head west along a popular paved road that runs along side one of the smaller freeways, thinking I would arrive at the ocean. A few miles down, however, the road ended. Abruptly at that. Sometimes, I suppose, we have to find our limitations before we can rise above them.

This particular route I will try again by foot when it’s time to increase long run distances (there are plenty of half-marathons to choose from out here). So, the next morning I took the same path, but this time to the east. It was uphill practically the whole way out, which of course meant a pretty quick ride back. I had only a small taste of the adventures of ahead of me.

My bike provides a certain freedom. I can go further than by foot, and much more slowly than by car. I’m therefore able to appreciate my surroundings and can explore them on a more intimate level. In high school I was extremely fortunate to tour several European countries by bike, carrying only what would fit in pannier bags. It was an unforgettable experience– and I recently found my photo album from that trip. If you’re lucky I might even show it to you! Several years later when I lived in England, I brought my first road bike with me. I logged countess miles around English farmlands on some pretty dicey roads– on the opposite side nonetheless. I sold it there before returning to the States, when I bought a great road bike that I had fitted for doing triathlons. That bike lasted until after my second child was born, and it’s now semi-retired in Colorado.

My current ride is sleek and fast, a road bike that I’m sure has not yet been taken to its potential. Perhaps on these beautiful, pot-hole-free California roads I will find my speed. I plan to add to my Bucket List locating some women’s group rides. And I ought to practice changing my own tires. After all, the road ends even more abruptly if you flat.