The Birth Canal is a One Way Street

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When I think of a childfree life it is not one of glamour, adventure, romance, travel and leisure that I envision. Nope– it’s much more basic, encompassing the minutiae of life. It’s sitting down to a meal where the first bite isn’t interrupted by someone suddenly needing the potty. It’s sleeping consistently without someone screeching from night terrors or dropped Pillow Pets. It’s getting out of a car without cleaning the spilled contents of un-spillable milk boxes that have seeped into the crevices. It’s reading Time Magazine’s The Childfree Life on the toilet, undisturbed.

Clearly my dreams are not lofty. For me the short hours of the school day (thank you, September) most closely resemble a childfree life. Oh to go for a run post-drop-off alone in Torrey Pines is simply blissful! Or to be out in the open waters, surrounded by old school surf dudes and some (gentle) marine life–paradise!

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And when I want solitary time–no people, no conversation, no kids– I might find myself here where a swim in a most perfect pool is just two bucks.

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And of course there is the productivity component: being able to accomplish the goals of the day that require a chaos-free environment such as offering nutrition advice, composing blog posts and writing my yet-to-be-published children’s stories. This is my childfree life.

According to the article in Time Magazine some opt for life sans-children because instead of reproducing they pursued interests, talents and careers that yield a certain lifestyle–one that is comfortable and fulfilling. Why change all that?

I had children fairly young, though not according to North Carolina standards where we were living at the time. There if you don’t have several kids by your late 20’s you were deemed barren. Or so it seemed. I finished school, including a graduate degree, and happily worked for $16.50 per hour.  I enjoyed a comfortable life, but not one so luxurious or exotic that introducing kids might complicate. Into this life Thing One arrived. And we were happy. By the time Thing Two joined us our lifestyle hadn’t evolved too much. In fact, living standards had declined due to our move to the pricier New Jersey. And we made the decision to rely on one income largely because my chosen field was not exactly lucrative. Nannies and daycare would be more costly than my own attempts at raising the clowns.

Yet I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t question my choice. At least once a day. I think anyone who claims that he or she doesn’t at times pine for a childfree life is not being truthful. I’m the first to admit that I am completely challenged, frustrated and depleted by my kids. It’s all too easy to imagine what I’d do with my time without them. So much activity and productivity!

Let me pose this question: would I appreciate a childfree life as much if I were actually childfree? It’s like East Coasters maintaining that they need the seasons to appreciate good weather. West Coasters (particularly down in the SoCal) don’t buy it: living in Utopia doesn’t make it any less satisfying.

But of this I am sure: the birth canal is a one way street. You can’t put the kids back (though no doubt one of mine would climb right in if he could). The fact is I do love my kids.  And the last thing I do before turning in at night is remind myself of that. I take a peek at them sleeping, a peaceful snapshot in which they truly are adorable and almost angelic.

I am also quite certain that had I opted for a childfree life, this would be the image I’d conjure when inevitably pining for children.

 

 

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I Left My Health in San Francisco

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Has anyone seen my immune system? I seem to have misplaced it somewhere between here and San Francisco. If you see it lying about, please send it my way. I’m desperate to have it back.

The first weekend in February I piggybacked onto a business trip of my husband’s–something I have long since dreamed of but never had done. And to San Francisco of all places– a geographic destination that had been off-limits in my college-seeking years because someone (who shall go unnamed) didn’t want me to meet a California guy and relocate there. Ooops.

Last thing I remember I was running along the Embarcadero, dining with dear friends, touring Chinatown, indulging in Ghiradelli, and not feeling guilty that my kids were nowhere in sight. But payback’s a bitch. A really large one.

I should have a t-shirt that reads: I Went to San Francisco and All I Got was Pneumonia.

I’ve emerged from the worst of it (I hope) and have kept myself busy with convalescing, taking my meds, relapsing, taking more meds, and gazing longingly at the outdoor opportunities that tease and taunt. I feel a bit like a kid with a chocolate allergy who is paraded through a candy factory.  God forbid I ever endure a serious illness or debilitating injury–my whining quota has already been used up.

Here I thought moving to Southern California would render me tan, fit and delusively invincible. Such is not the case. I’m less Katy Perry’s California Gurl (daisy dukes, bikinis on top) and more There’s Something About Mary’s  sun-dried neighbor (if only she wore a top).

With each sunny day that comes and goes I remind myself that there are more–plenty more– to enjoy. I’m convinced that this sun and warmth have melted my immune system, but hopefully that’s a temporary side effect of adjustment. It’s still a dream of mine to work with an organization such as the Challenged Athletes Foundation– I just have to wait until I am not so challenged myself.

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Run Away with Me, Lance Armstrong

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Run away with me, Lance!

Ewww– gross. This isn’t a romantic gesture (I’m committed to a guy with bona fide moral integrity). I offer as a friend, because I am guessing you’re short on those right now. Come run with me, and escape who you’ve become. Come run with me and rediscover the athlete you once were– the one who ran, swam and cycled because you had drive, talent and above all passion.

We’ll put on some tunes, perhaps Fun. Some Nights:

Well, some nights I wish that this all would end                                                              Cause I could use some friends for a change                                                                    And some nights, I’m scared you’ll forget me again
Some nights, I always win, I always win…                                                                             What do I stand for?  What do I stand for?  What do I stand for?                                           Most nights I don’t know….

Indeed you won. You cheated death. Then you cheated life. You took that “win at all costs” attitude and you lost everything. But you certainly won’t be forgotten. So, now what do you stand for?

Let’s go for a run and find out. We’ll take in the salty breeze, welcoming the crisp air into our lungs– yours of course once ravaged by disease and yet still stronger than most. We’ll feel the pounding of hearts, yours of course once pushing tainted blood through your veins. We’ll feel the lactic acid releasing into our legs, yours of course having stood several times on a podium of lies.

We’ll run so that you can sweat away all that you once were– a liar, a cheat, a self-proclaimed jerk. But remember, you were also a hero, an idol, a self-proclaimed humanitarian. I believed in you as so many did. Are there any of us left now?

Run from your past and toward your future– the one in which you can be a better competitor, leader, survivor, father, friend, human.

You thrive on defending yourself and proving others wrong. Do it again–rise above and be better. In the words of your former sponsor:

Just Do It.

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Tattoos and Piercing

This past weekend was bliss for my family: thirty-one uninterrupted nag-free hours. That’s right, while mom’s away the dad and kids play.  Though they sent adorable and quirky photos of their antics and adventures, while claiming to miss me, I think secretly they cast not one thought in my direction. They love the rare occasions when I take myself out of the equation probably even more than I do.

Those hours, meanwhile, are precious few for me. I hopped the train to LA, a beautiful journey along the coast. However, I didn’t take in much of the scenery as I was engrossed in my latest book The Shoemaker’s Wife— a recommended read for anyone lucky enough to take a long plane trip, sit quietly on a beach or have a few spare moments in the evening. So, probably not applicable to many of you in this busy and hectic life!

I was retrieved at the station by one of my dearest friends from summer camp days (yes, a witness to the haircut). I’ll never forget the day we met– she already a veteran of this eight-week sleep-away camp and I a complete newbie to this east coast tradition.  Confident, sprightly  and engaging, she captivated me immediately and took me under her wing. Fortunately she was able to look beyond the haircut to establish a  friendship that even today slides right back into that comfort of our 8-year-old selves.

The wonderful afternoon rolled into a pleasant evening in Santa Monica with my mother, brother and some special dinner guests. Even more special was the guy at the bar, who apparently forgot to put on jeans that would actually cover his extremely unattractive and completely exposed rear. I did try to capture a photo, but alas, my phone-photo skills failed me at this critical juncture. I invite you to conjure up your own visual.

Early Sunday morning my electric blue shoes took me along the beach to the canals of Venice.  I did contemplate stopping here to revamp my image, but I neither had the money nor the time to wait until it opened:

I sauntered slogged back along the “colorful” Venice Beach as a birthday brunch awaited in downtown LA. There my brother took us to a swanky eatery, and then introduced us to his surrounding neighborhoods. I definitely don’t miss city life, but it’s always nice to be able to picture your friends and families in their habitats once you see how and where they live.

My respite from reality was not complete without a Chinese foot reflexology session. These poorly paid, highly competent people are geniuses at their craft! It’s a good thing I don’t have access to such venues as I would escape much more often, justifying that I’m helping their personal economy.

Back to the Amtrak I went, this time accompanied by my mother. A short two hours later I returned myself to my family, trained to welcome me with enormous enthusiasm. It was brief of course, but lovely while the love lasted.

How quickly we settle back into the routine tasks as chores themselves never go on vacation. As I thought about that phenomenon, I was grateful for having had one night when no one peed in the bed– or if someone did, I wasn’t there to find it.

Oh, and that tattoo? Perhaps next time.

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.

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.

Go West Young Family

After 35 years of being on the east coast, I have ventured thousands of miles away to set up home in sunny California. It is not without sadness that I leave behind friends, family, ventures and pursuits. But as challenging as it is to say farewell to my former existence, it’s equally exciting to embrace this current adventure.

I have spent the last week receiving and unpacking the 120+ boxes and finding a place for every single one of our possessions.  When the kids arrive on Saturday, I will have to show everybody (including my dear husband) where everything is…and how it should all be put back relatively neatly.

Already I have enjoyed just one of many terrific swimming options (heated comfortably year round!) and beautiful running trails (see Coyote Poop and Bunny Rabbits). I’ve found myself admiring the hot air balloons that soar over our house each night. I am in awe of the seaside town where I can run errands, walk on the beach, catch the train up the coast or even visit the dentist (funny how the environment can make an unpleasant experience become enjoyable).

This afternoon after I tackle some organizational and cleaning tasks, I am off to a local farmer’s market via a reconnaissance of the UCSD pool.

I welcome advice or suggestions as I explore the area! I can add them to my bucket list.