Becoming something other than you are used to being is difficult and not for the reasons that one may think. One husband, one teenager, and one preteen, forty one years old and a homemaker. Days filled with making breakfast, packing lunches, grocery shopping, carpooling and laundry then dinner, homework, counseling and bedtime. You get the picture. And it’s good. We have a great family. We like each other most of the time and do healthy family stuff together like watching Star Trek and playing family tennis, hiking, we even eat dinner together occasionally.
I am reasonably intelligent but I would much rather read the entertainment section of anything than a science journal and I am not that interested in reading directions, following recipes or searching Google to fix my washing machine, download my pictures or figure out where the hell Office has disappeared to on Windows 8 of my “New Life and Career” laptop that I have spent two days trying to install because I don’t want to set a precedence in this new expanded mind, go getter girl persona, that I am creating. I do have a college degree; one degree, two majors. That was a long time ago and not too long after I graduated I became a wife and then a mom.
The best thing I’ve done though is be a mom. I did not want kids. I knew from babysitting and being around crazy, extended family that kids are a lot or responsibility, work, and worry and that it never stops. I didn’t want kids but my husband did and so we had a baby and that baby became my life and it was wonderful and I was good at being his mom and then we had another and that was even better, our little family, one boy and one girl. I was such a good little kid mom. I loved the days of hanging out at the park with snacks and nowhere to go. But then school started for the oldest and all of the things that come with school along with lots of new people in our lives and new activities and the days got busier and the years just slipped by. Occasionally I would surface from my all-consuming world of play dates and school projects and talent shows, piano lessons, sports and homework and catch a glimpse of myself or lack of myself but it was always fleeting. I was so involved in being a good mom, an involved mom, the best mom that I could be. I read, I played, I pretended, I cuddled, I scolded, and I reminded them to say please and thank you. I was patient and loving and involved. I volunteered at school, at church and in the community. I was a good mother, a good wife and a good friend. And I was happy and content most of the time.
The last six months something has changed in me, maybe it’s just forty finally kicking in. My birthday is in November and so it marks the time of year that everyone has settled into school and there is still plenty of it left until summer. My birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and then the long march towards summer with a week of spring break thrown in to tease us all. When I turned forty I threw myself a huge party and invited everyone I could think of to celebrate with me. I wanted to be surrounded by all of the good people in my life. I am mostly a quiet person and I would rather spend one on one time with my friends, but something, probably turning forty, made me want to do something that wasn’t me. I wanted to surprise people. So, I planned a big dance party and looked happily towards the milestone that is supposed to mark the beginning of the best decade in one’s life, the forties. The party was so much fun, but sadly it was not the magical beginning of a new and better me (more on that later). The year progressed as usual with my husband and kids heading off to school every morning, working out, doing laundry and going to the grocery store, dinner, dishes and homework. Go to bed and start over the next morning.
The year I was 40 we took two trips. We took our kids to London and Paris, their first trip to Europe, and we spent a week in New York City. The thing I am selfish about, dream about, plan about and look forward to is traveling and this is a very strange and confusing relationship I have with myself. I am a worry wart, as my Grandfather used to say. I could come up with at least 100 things that will surely happen in any given scenario. For example, my daughter was getting ready to go to a bonfire on the beach with a girlfriend. They are eleven years old and I have known the friend’s mom for eight years. I trust her. She worries about the same things I do. But, I have to tell my daughter, I have to warn her of all the things that might be lurking in the next few hours. Stay together, watch for cars, be careful of the fire, and make sure Emily’s mom knows where you are. My daughter says to me, “I didn’t know so many things could happen.” Oh! Yes! My darling daughter, love of my life, there are endless things to worry about, but because I love you and your brother fiercely, I ceaselessly try and stomp this trait out of myself so you do not grow up to be paranoid, worrywart like your mother. I bite my tongue, I sit on my hands, I turn away over and over again and I drink a few glasses of nice red wine, good for Mama’s heart,when all else fails. And herein lies one of my biggest obstacles: I am fairly certain that life is out to get me and my kids, but I yearn for adventure. Yearn, stupid word, yes, but I definitely yearn. Flying scares me to death. I get heart palpitations when I am browsing Expedia or any other site where I might possibly purchase a plane ticket, but I am driven to plan a trip, purchase a ticket, and put the date on the calendar. And honestly, a trip, without the death defying act (this will come back and haunt me for sure) of getting on an airplane is just not quite as fulfilling (it can still be great though, check out the Death Valley post).
I don’t know where my travel bug came from. My maternal grandparents raised my brother and I and they were not sophisticated travelers. Our yearly summer vacation was driving the old motor home from Colorado to Oklahoma for my grandfather’s family reunion. It was a two day road trip mostly through Kansas. By the time I was in college I had seen all of the curiosities along 1-70 and eaten at most of the truck stops. Even with the motor home, we stayed in the run down hotels along the interstate pulling in when they were tired of driving. When we were older they got really adventurous and took us and the motor home to Lake Meade. Our trips always consisted of a lot of yelling and getting lost.
Traveling, like life, is certainly more about the journey and what can be discovered there than where one ends up at the end of the trip. Today, my family took off on a yearlong adventure in more ways than one. We decided (five months ago and a different post) to take our kids out of school and ourselves out of our comfort zones. For a year we will home school our kids while we seek new adventures. My husband took a leave of absence for a year and our neighbors are watching our cat and feeding the chickens. We are spending our first two months in Europe, Germany as our home base, and then a side trip to Tanzania. In addition to my worry wart and flying issues, a few important notes about us; we are not sophisticated travelers, nor are we great planners, we are also mostly homebodies that live in a wonderful little town surrounded by great friends and family. Our next year is about seeing new things and spending time focused on each other without the noise (wonderful as it is) of our hometown, daily routines to distract us. “Us” consists of my husband Scott, my daughter Ashley, 11 going on 21 (at least), and my son Grant, 14 almost 15. Please enjoy our journey and may it inspire you to seek your very own adventure and variety, whatever that might be.