Maui Summer Adventure: Day 5, part 1

Believe it or not, I am finally — FINALLY!! — closing in on the end of my family’s Summer adventure in the fairytale land of Maui. And it has only taken me … what? A month? Two months? Yep. Blogger fail! I should have been blogging this trip in real time, but I was too busy living the memories. And that’s okay.

Day 5 was, by far, our busiest day. It was so busy that I think I am going to split it into two posts. Because one post can not contain all the fun. Actually, it’s because I have too many photographs I want to share. I’m selfish that way.

Going into it, I was excited about Day 5. This was the day we had scheduled to go to Haleakala to see the sunrise. Do you know what the worst thing is about wanting to see the sunrise? I bet you can guess. I’ll give you a moment to consider …

Yep! You’ve got it. The worst thing about wanting to see the sunrise is that you have to get up way before the sun. Otherwise, you miss the whole thing, right?

We were going with my brother-in-law’s family, including two adorable babies. Packing up for babies, with all the things you might need along the way, like bottles and diapers and pacifiers and toys and snacks and more diapers, is not an easy task. Our destination was at least 2 hours from our hotel. That’s two hours if you know exactly where you are going and you are familiar with the twisting and turning roads. We didn’t have either of those things working in our favor, and we wanted my brother-in-law and his wife to have plenty of time to get those sweet babies ready for the road. We knew we would need some extra time.

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We had a 2AM wakeup call on the morning of Day 5. Just let that sink in for a moment and think about how I am a night owl, all the way. And, after five days in Hawaii, I still hadn’t recovered from the 6-hour time difference. Let’s just say 2AM was painful, and leave it at that. The night before, I had briefly considered not going to bed at all. I am a night owl, after all. And I’ve been up past 2AM lots of times, with no ill effects.

In the end, I decided I would try to get some sleep, because I knew we had a busy day ahead of us. We were quickly coming to the end of our trip, and we all wanted to fit in the last couple of extremely time-consuming tourist things we had planned from the beginning. I went to bed around 8PM the night before. I ended up not falling asleep until around 10 or 11PM, which meant I hit our 2AM wake-up with about 3-4 hours of sleep. It was not pretty. And I was not in a good mood. But I managed to get up. And I stayed awake to keep my husband company during the entire 2 hour drive. That’s what counts!!

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I don’t really have much to share about the drive from our hotel to Haleakala. It was a long drive, and, of course, it was dark. There is something kind of mysterious and a little creepy about taking a long drive in the dark. The view outside your window takes on an unearthly, eerie kind of appearance. Things you would recognize during the day look strange and unexpected in the dark. We passed a lot of the drive in silence. I think everyone in the car was feeling the pain of our early departure time.

Haleakala is a massive shield volcano. It forms about 75% of the island of Maui, which is pretty incredible, when you think about it. The highest part is 10,023 feet above sea level, and you can see it from pretty much anywhere on the island. Being a know-nothing tourist, I had been looking at Haleakala all along, from Day 1 of our trip. But I didn’t realize it!

The name “Haleakala” means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian. There is a legend that says the demigod Maui stood on Haleakala’s summit to lasso the sun from its journey across the sky. He slowed its descent and made the days longer for all of us. Sound familiar? If you’ve watched Moana about a hundred times like I have, it will definitely sound familiar. And you probably hear Maui singing, “You’re welcome!” in the back of your mind.

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Luckily for us, Haleakala is now a National Park. It is such a treasure, and I am so grateful to the people of Hawaii for sharing it with all of us. Some initial research before our trip told us that the Haleakala Visitor Center was one of the best places to view the sunrise. The Visitor Center is at around 9,740 feet above sea level, and I believe there is another place to view the sunrise that is somewhat higher. I am not sure of the elevation for the second viewing area, because it was closed off by the time we arrived. We found parking at the lower level, near the Visitor Center, and that is where we stayed to watch the sun make its appearance for the day.

This is a popular destination. On any given morning, the parking area at the Visitor’s Center is full to bursting. So you need a reservation to reserve parking. For our purposes, this meant we needed a reservation to see the sunrise, because we were not already in the park. We were going there specifically for the sunrise. Let me tell ‘ya: We had to fight for our reservation. You can reserve a spot ahead of time, but you have to do it months and months before your trip. Things have been crazy (and not in a good way) in our lives for a while now, and my husband and I didn’t plan far enough out from our travel dates. It just kind of slipped through the cracks.

But we had a fall-back plan. Each day the Park Service releases a certain number of reservations for the following day. These reservations get snapped up in milliseconds after they go live on the website, which means you have to be there — locked, loaded, and ready to go! — at the second the spaces for the next day go live. This led to quite an adventure of me trying to log into the website, grabbing a parking reservation, and paying for it before the transaction timed out … all on my phone … all while we were traipsing around various places on the island. Guys, this was stressful! Mobile service is spotty at best. You might have service in one spot but then travel a mile down the road and have no service at all. I did this dance several days in a row, and it wasn’t pretty. Inevitably, my husband ended up mad at me because I couldn’t type fast enough or I couldn’t make the mobile service last. But, I finally managed to reserve a spot. Huzzah!! I don’t mind telling you I did a victory dance, right there on the side of the highway. (I had made my husband pull over at a turn-out overlooking the ocean. Not for the view, but because it had mobile service. Three whole bars!!!)

Luckily, my husband’s brother was able to get a spot on the same day, which is why we got to go together. Otherwise, we would have had to try cramming everyone into one car, and I am not sure that would have worked. I don’t think there’s a car in the universe big enough to hold all of us, plus two car seats.

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I did not know what to expect once we arrived. Not really. I went into this experience thinking I knew exactly what to expect and exactly what was going to happen. It’s a sunrise. I’ve seen this before. We’ve all seen it before, right? I’m older than I want to type out loud, and I have seen the sun come up on many, many occasions so far throughout my life. If I am lucky, I will get to see it come up on many more.

As I got out of the car and carefully made my way over the dark ground toward the edge of the viewing area, I quickly realized I had to ditch all my preconceived expectations. Because anything I had experienced up to this point in life … any sunrise I could point to in my memory, no matter how spectacular … was going to fall far short.

The excitement and expectation started building right away, from the moment my feet touched the ground. It was dark in the parking area, although we were a little bit late arriving. And there was a faint glimmer of light far in the distance. Like lemmings, we shuffled our way over the parking lot toward the edge of the viewing area. And when I say “edge”, I mean EDGE. Keep in mind it is still dark. I couldn’t see anything in front of me, but I could sense the edge of the crater or cliff ahead. I could sense how the earth would suddenly drop off beneath my feet if I took a wrong step. There wasn’t any real danger of this, as the edge is fenced off, making it impossible for anyone to go right to the brink by accident. And yet, the feeling was there, equal parts exhilaration and terror.

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As I stood there, facing in the direction of the faint glimmer of light, I could see shapes in front of me and in the distance. They were big and kind of lumpy. They seemed to be moving ever so slowly, swaying with the wind. My brain could not make sense of what I was seeing. Trees? Bamboo? Something else? It was eerie but also beautiful.

There were people all around. And yet, it was silent — not the kind of quiet where you can tell people are trying hard not to talk, but the kind of quiet that is filled with awe and an air of tense expectation. I could hear people shuffling their feet across the ground, shifting their weight from foot to foot in an effort to stay warm. Here and there, I could hear patches of conversation. Voices were low and hushed, so words remained just out of the range of hearing. Smaller children and shorter adults moved and jostled a little bit for a better position. Mostly, we all waited. I have never felt more alone and at peace in a large group of people. I’m not sure how else to explain it.

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Slowly, the light in the distance started to grow. It began to spread across the sky in lazy, creeping sweeps of golden-red, pink, and orange. As the pinks touched their edges, I realized for the first time what the ominous-looking shapes in front of me were: Clouds. I was standing at the edge of this crater, just behind the low barrier, and I was looking out on a world of clouds. No wonder my mind couldn’t make sense of it in the dark. I had no frame of reference in my memory. I’ve never been inside the clouds before, so close that it seems I could walk out onto them. It was so many things: amazing, breathtaking, terrifying. Even now, months removed from the experience, I can’t separate my feelings from each other.

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The light grew and grew. It continued to spread across the sky before us. The clouds became more distinct, colored with syrupy golds and oranges. The sky beyond started to turn blue. I held my breath as the world seemed to pause, just for a moment …

And then, the guest of honor arrived. The sun, in all her glory, peering over the farthest clouds right in front of us.

I stood there and watched as the colors faded and the sun solidified her presence in the day. I’m not sure exactly why I waited. The show was over, and people around me had started to move off toward their cars, already eager to get out of the parking lot and traverse the winding road down the mountain. And yet, I stayed a little bit longer. I guess I didn’t want it all to end. I knew it couldn’t last forever. Soon, I would have to go back to my car, too. I would have to get in and buckle my seatbelt and travel back down to the world below. But part of me wanted to stay in the clouds.

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In a way, I got my wish. Because the clouds chased us all the way back down the mountain. I have seldom seen such beautiful shapes. I loved seeing them rolling over each other, forming and re-forming as they went along. We drove with the windows down, and the air was crisp, cool, and fresh. It felt good on my face and on the hand I trailed out of the window.

Getting back down the mountain took a while. Remember, there were a LOT of people up there to see the sunrise. And we had to wind our way back down single file. The road was narrow, and everyone seemed okay with taking their time. Really, they had to be. There wasn’t another choice. I was absolutely okay with it, because it gave me more time to see the clouds and look at the amazing scenery. I hope I can go back to Maui some day and explore Haleakala National Park a little more. Of course, I would like to see that amazing sunrise again. But I would also like to hike the trails and see some of the scenery that beckoned to me outside my car window.

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Once we were out of Haleakala National Park, breakfast became our next order of business. At this point, it felt more like: BREAKFAST!!!! Because I was starving. We had grabbed food on the way to the park, but that had been hours earlier. Having said good-bye to the clouds and the sun, I had pancakes on my mind. Or maybe waffles. Or french toast. Or regular toast. And maybe some eggs.

We had reservations at Kula Lodge & Restaurant, which is about thirty minutes away from the park. The lodge and restaurant are about 3200 feet above sea level, and they are located in the small agricultural town of Kula. This lovely little town is on the western slope of Haleakala Crater, and some quick internet research told me it has a population of about 7,000. I think these must be 7,000 of the luckiest people on Earth. Because they live in a true natural wonderland. I can’t even describe the beauty that surrounded us, other than to say it was Paradise.

Kula Lodge & Restaurant was built in the 1940s. It is a sprawling property, where one building seems to tumble right into the next. And all of it clings to the slopes of the mountain. The lodge is surrounded by gardens, and it seemed everything was in full bloom when we visited. As you sit in the restaurant, you can look out across acres and acres of farmland. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many shades of green. You can see distant towns and, even farther away, the ocean glimmers in the sunlight of a new day.

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I found Kula Lodge enchanting. It is a magical place sitting smack-dab in the middle of another magical place. I almost felt like I had stepped out of my own life and into a fairytale. Everything was perfect: the gardens, the views, the way the buildings blended seamlessly into their surroundings. Just … everything.

Breakfast was delicious, too! My daughter and I still talk about how these were some of the best pancakes we have ever had. We ate with my brother-in-law’s family, of course. And we took our time. We lingered over our meal and over second and third cups of coffee. We told stories and laughed at silly jokes. For me, it was peaceful and enjoyable just being with everyone. I think some nice memories were made. I know I carry many within me!

Once we had stuffed ourselves sufficiently, we paid our check and headed back to our cars. I think we were all a little bit reluctant to return to the real world. And yet, more adventure beckoned. Because the day was just beginning.

And by the way, that 2AM wake-up call? Yeah. Totally worth it.

 

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Maui Summer Adventure: Day 4

It is taking me so much longer to blog about our Maui trip than it did to take and enjoy the actual trip! Isn’t that always the way things go, though? Vacation days seem to fly by on lightning-quick wings, but, once you are home and trying to savor those memories, “real life” manages to get in the way time and again. And that’s exactly what has happened to me with this series of posts. In between my last post and today, we have started a new school year, with all the weirdness and anxiety and craziness that comes with it. My husband has been worrying over his job. My daughter has had endless band practices and activities. There have been football games. There have been doctor’s appointments. Today required an unplanned veterinary visit for one slightly barfy dog. And so it goes. The more I think about it, the more I realize I really NEED some more “Maui time”!

When we last left off our Maui Summer Adventure, my family and I had spent a day enjoying beach time (for them), blog time (for me), a long and leisurely drive to Mama’s Fish House, and a yummy dinner with my brother-in-law and his family. Day 3 was a pretty great day, and I went to bed that night thinking of the sound of the ocean and the wild macaw I had seen earlier in the evening. And that brings us to Day 4, which dawned early for my husband and daughter. My daughter was feeling so much better that we decided it would be safe for her to go snorkeling. And so, she and my husband set out early that morning for their tour. (Not a “3 hour tour”, though. Because that would be bad.)

Truthfully, I don’t remember what I did that morning. Which tells me I probably slept in, grabbed a late breakfast or early lunch, and did something totally boring and wonderful with my morning. In short, I probably sat around and read a book on my Kindle.

If I am recalling my days correctly, it was about mid-afternoon by the time my husband and daughter got back. They took quick showers, and then my husband decided we should set out on The Road to Hana.

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Keep in mind it was around 2 or 2:30 PM by the time they both showered and changed and ate a little lunch. I have to admit I was against the outing. I was still tired and sore from all the travel we did to get to Maui. And, even though I had been able to have a couple of mornings to laze around and do nothing, I was also tired from the feeling of go-go-go that had surrounded our trip so far. My husband and I have very different ideas of vacation. I like to do a whole lot of nothing. My husband wants to do a whole lot of EVERYTHING. Through almost 20 years of marriage, we have yet to strike a balance between those two things. We usually end up doing all the things; otherwise, he makes me feel like a big drag. And, maybe I am a big drag. But I digress.

The point is this: It was already late in the day. All the information I had read about the Road to Hana said it was an all-day thing. I was tired. My husband was tired. My daughter was tired. It felt like a Very Bad Idea to set out on a journey on a winding, mostly deserted road in this fashion.

I was overruled. My husband had it on his list of things to do. He had mentally budgeted the remainder of this day to do it. And, by golly, we were going to go! With much grumbling and grumping, we all headed to the car. My sister-in-law decided to join us, so we picked her up at her hotel. And then, we headed to the beginning.

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Mile Zero. We paused to take a picture to commemorate this auspicious moment. In my life, I have found myself on many journeys. Most of the time, I haven’t realized I was on a journey when I first set out. It was only when I was about halfway through that I would look behind me and think, “You know … I should have paid more attention at the start of all this.” So this moment, at Mile Zero, felt pretty huge to me in a spiritual way. “How many times,” I asked myself, “Can I realize, right at the start, that I am going on a journey full of wonder and adventure?” (At least two, it turns out. But that is a story for another blog post. And don’t worry, Friends … it will come.)

We checked that we had plenty of water. We double checked that there was gas in the car. Our tank was half full. Based on what I had read about this outing, I wanted to have a full tank from the beginning. But, remember, everyone was already tired and grouchy. So I bit my tongue and said a little prayer that we wouldn’t get stuck somewhere on the Road to Hana. Never to be found again. Like, for real. Because it would be entirely possible that the feral chickens would eat us. Seriously. These guys (girls?) are everywhere!

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Before heading to Maui, I read a few things about the Road to Hana. I read about how the journey is uplifting and a spiritual experience. I read about how people start at Mile Zero feeling one way, and they end up at the end of it all feeling lighter or wiser or just … more. I was expecting a LOT from this trip, guys! I thought it would be a beautiful journey of self-discovery and awakening. I thought I would come to the end, take a deep breath, and walk away feeling … something.

None of that happened for me on Day 4. I started the trip feeling grouchy, tired, and grumpy. I ended the trip feeling more grouchy, tired, and grumpy. I had an aching back and a sore hip from spending too much time in the car. And, I ended the day feeling a little bit like a failure. Because, of course, we didn’t make it all the way to the end. I don’t think we even made it halfway. There were too many obstacles against us: the late start, the grumpy feelings, not enough snacks, the app with the Hana info on it didn’t work properly, there were no bathrooms. Truthfully, I don’t think any of us was mentally prepared for this journey of self-discovery. Or for any journey of self-discovery. You have to be in the right frame of mind for it, you know?

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But we managed to see some pretty fantastic things. We hiked to Twin Falls, which, I believe, is one of the easier waterfalls to reach from the road. We listened to the water splash and laugh as it bounced from rock to rock. I felt it on my skin, and it was cold and pure. My sister-in-law had her bathing suit with her, so she was able to swim right in the pool. I thought that was neat.

I dipped my toes into the water at the edge. It might not have been as incredible as a swim under the fall, but I thought it was pretty great. We weren’t the only people on the road, either. There were lots of people at each stop. Twin Falls was no exception, which is the main reason I had decided against bringing a swimsuit with me. I didn’t want to scare strangers, after all!

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We saw Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. Their bark sheds off in strips, leaving colorful wood behind. They were taller than the sky. I liked how I could look up and up and up and still not feel like I would ever find the end of them. Their roots are huge, humping things. As I put my hands on the trunks, I thought I could feel their energy, coming right from the earth below us.  It was beautiful, and I walked away feeling happy that something like this exists in the world.

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I got to fulfill a closet lifelong dream of mine. I walked through a bamboo forest for the very first time. I don’t know what it is about this idea that attracted me so, but I have wanted to do this for as long as I can remember. And you know what? It was everything I had imagined it would be. The sound of the wind through the bamboo is beautiful. It is gentle and swishy. It is like music.

It seemed like there was something beautiful and unexpected around every twist and turn. The world around me was alive and vibrant. I felt as if the very air in the forests and near the waterfalls hummed with excitement and life.

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We started out our trip that afternoon with the idea that we needed to hurry, hurry, hurry. We needed to see and do everything possible. We needed to cram as much fun and as many memories as we could into the time we had. But the truth is that you can’t rush on the Road to Hana. You have to step away from yourself and the things you want and the things that worry you. You have to take a deep breath and let it out. You have to relax a little. And you have to enjoy the ride.

Little by little, with each stop we made, everyone in our group started to step back. A moment at a time, we let go of expectations and demands and, maybe, even some of our grumpiness. We got quiet and we let ourselves marvel and wonder at the world around us. Little by little, we began to stop trying to control everything. Instead, we started to let things be.

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As I said, we made it a little less than halfway to Hana. The clouds started to roll in, and the sunlight started to fade. Our gas tank was close to the last quarter-tank marker. And it seemed like it was time to turn around and head back to the hotel. I mentioned earlier that it felt a like failing to have to turn around before we had seen everything. And that is true. At the time, it felt a lot like failing. It didn’t feel good in the slightest.

Looking back on it, I think it wasn’t a failure at all. The whole point of the Road to Hana is to see whatever you can see. And to learn how to let life carry you along on its waves. And we all succeeded in doing that!

Maui Summer Adventure: Day 3

Day 3 of our Hawaiian adventure came all too fast. It already felt like time was speeding away from us. Granted, we were packing lots and lots of fun and family time into every hour of every day. But I could not shake the feeling that our vacation was tumbling quickly downhill toward its ending. Whenever I try to hold tightly to something precious, it seems like that very thing slips and slides through my fingers even more. Isn’t it funny how life works that way? Not funny in a “ha ha” sort of way. Funny in more of a “Why, Universe? Why?” sort of way.

Day 3 was a rather slow day for me. My daughter was feeling quite a bit better, so she and my husband decided to head to the beach. I love the ocean, but I am not a beach-going kind of gal. While my sweet family enjoyed the sun, sand, and sea, I enjoyed the balcony of our hotel room. It was beautifully cool and breezy, and our room had a pretty great view of the hotel grounds, plus a little slice of ocean.

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It felt like time to hit the blog for a little “me” time, so I spent the morning blogging about our flight from Chicago to Maui. As you recall, it was a rough journey with a happy ending, overall. And I had a LOT to say about it! It felt good to get all those feelings — the good and the bad — out of my system. There is something refreshing and a little bit exhilarating about sending all that energy out into the ether. I guess that’s one of the reasons I love blogging so much. It not only helps me look at and figure out my own feelings, but it also helps me look at my problems from a different angle.

It also felt pretty great to sit quietly with my own thoughts. The cool breeze, the sounds of the birds twittering away in the trees around me, families laughing as they played in the pool, and the sweet ocean smell all worked their magic on my heart and soul. This was just the kind of “Island Time” I needed, and I think I spent as much time just sitting and enjoying life around me as I did stringing words together for my blog.

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My family basically spent the whole day on the beach, which was quite all right with me. My husband and daughter came back tired but happy. We had plans to go to Mama’s Fish House in Paia that evening with my husband’s younger brother’s family. Mama’s Fish House is on the North Shore, and it was quite a drive from our hotel. We had already discovered that things run a little slower on the island, which has its own sense of time and life pace. So we settled in for a long drive.

Long … but also beautiful! I love the way Maui meanders from small town to small town. With lots of beautiful sights in between. We got a late start, so we were already running late for our reservation. We are hurry up people from a hurry up kind of place, so we would have been tempted to … well, hurry up! But Maui had other ideas. We couldn’t have rushed even if we wanted to, because there was always someone in front of us who was in no hurry at all. And then, we took a couple of wrong turns. I’m embarrassed to say we arrived quite a bit late. Thankfully, island hospitality saved us. We apologized for our tardiness and explained that we got a little bit lost. And they very kindly worked us back into the schedule. Lucky for us!

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Mama’s Fish House seems to be pretty famous. It is a restaurant and hotel, and it is all over the internet. In fact, I bet most of the people reading this post (if anyone is reading this post, that is), probably already know all about this amazing place. I did exactly zero research for this trip, so I had never heard of it. I had no idea what to expect once we arrived. But it was like stepping into an island wonderland, complete with a wandering macaw who wasn’t a bit afraid of any of us!

Mama’s Fish House is a sprawling building nestled right next to a beautiful, secluded beach. The restaurant and hotel look like a bunch of buildings all jumbled together. It’s winding and chaotic. It looks like some slightly unhinged person tossed them all together in a rush. And yet, everything goes together beautifully. It is one of the most charming places I’ve ever seen, from the thatched roofs to the island decor found inside. The whole restaurant is open-air, and every table has a great view of the beach and ocean beyond. The restaurant menu is always changing, because they serve fish that were caught that very day. This means everything is fresh and yummy. I thought the food was delicious. I probably shouldn’t admit this out loud, but I don’t even like fish!

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But, you know what? The best part of the evening was the dinner show! As we saw the sun starting to slide into the ocean, we had to take turns jumping up from our table to see it for ourselves. And the nearby beach provided the perfect front-row seats for Mother Nature’s display. And what a display it was! The clouds piled up and up into beautiful, billowing arrangements. The sky became a mix of oranges and reds and yellows, with just a touch of purple-blue tossed into the mix for good measure. I did not want to miss a second of it, and I didn’t!

Once the sun made her exit, we headed back into the restaurant to finish our meals. Good food … family … lots of stories shared … lots of laughter … and new memories. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal — and a pretty darn perfect day, too! We drove home in the dark, taking extra care on the winding and unfamiliar roads. And we arrived back at our hotel happy, relaxed, and ready to see what the next day would bring.

Maui Summer Adventure: Day 2

Day number 2 of our Maui Vacay dawned bright and early. We were ready and eager for a day filled with sunshine and adventure, and lots of each! Since we only had a half day when we arrived, Day 2 felt more like Day 1. Either way, we were ready for it.

My daughter and husband had reserved a snorkeling trip for the morning. Unfortunately, my daughter was still suffering from Strep. Even with a couple of days of antibiotics in her system, she still had a painful throat and super clogged sinuses. After the disastrous flight over, we decided not to chance a snorkeling trip. My husband went on the trip as planned, and we gave our daughter’s spot to my sister-in-law. My daughter, of course, was disappointed and sad. She had been looking forward to snorkeling the most out of all the planned activities. But I was selfishly glad, because it meant I got a whole morning of Mommy Time! This is a valuable commodity when you have a teenager.

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Since the hubster was out and about snorkeling, my daughter and I decided to explore our hotel grounds, as well as the resort properties near where we were staying. Our hotel was right on the beach, and it was one in a long line of beautiful resort properties. This gave us a lot of opportunity to stroll leisurely and look at the ocean. As always, there were boats and parasailers galore. There is a little part of me that thinks this would be huge fun. But the Mom part of me will never try it. My daughter, who is afraid of heights, gave this a firm NOPE!

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Of course, there are birds everywhere. And the sparrows on the resort property, in particular, have no fear. At all. This little guy flew right in front of us as we were walking. He nearly flew right into us as he was landing. I can understand it. He was after a super-tasty snack, after all! And, once he had it in his little beak, he settled down to enjoy it. Even though he was sitting right next to our feet. Courageous little bird! Or maybe fool-hardy? I think there is a fine line between the two.

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After seeing our feathery friend enjoying his snack with such vigor, we realized we were hungry, too. Lucky for us, there were lots of choices with outdoor seating and a perfect view of the beach. What better way to enjoy a meal. Some sunshine … a lovely breeze … the beach … and even a fancy (non-alcoholic) drink. Yep! That’s the relaxation and island vibe I was longing for in my hum-drum, hectic life back home.

Half a day on the ocean did my husband in just a little bit. After he returned, he needed an extra bit of lunch and a nap. But the days are long and the time change was in our favor! We had plenty of time left for taking in the sights, sun, and sea. We decided to drive out in search of Lorraine’s Shave Ice. And what a drive it turned out to be!

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Lorraine’s Shave Ice is something of a Maui institution. My brother-in-law and his wife come to Maui every year, and they told us all about Lorraine, who makes banana bread, pies, and, of course, shaved ice. There’s only one small catch: Lorraine’s is located on the same road as the blowhole we visited on Day 1. You head toward the blowhole and just keep on going until, at last, you find Lorraine’s. You can’t miss it!

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This is a windy, twisty road. It has stunning views of the ocean and more shades of green than a person could possibly count. It also has sheer drop-offs that are more than a little bit terrifying, particularly when they were on my side of the car. I love the cliffs and the ocean, but there is nothing quite like looking out the window and seeing NOTHING between yourself and a sheer drop that leads to a rocky landing far below. Terrifying and exhilarating, all at the same time!

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It seemed like there was a surprise around every corner. Like when we came around a bend to find this fine fellow hanging out in the middle of the road. He was beautiful and strutting his stuff. There was a car coming from the opposite direction, and it had stopped, too. I think having two cars waiting for him made this guy feel a little surrounded and nervous. He was trying to hurry across the road. But peacocks aren’t built for speed. The more he tried to rush, the slower he seemed to get. And it didn’t help matters much that his tail was so luxurious and long that it dragged behind him. I felt a little bad for his obvious panic, but it was a treat to see a peacock, just wandering around like A Boss. He made it to the other side with ease, and I must say he was much more graceful scaling the hillside than he had been trying to rush across the road.

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The thing about this road is that it’s only two lanes in certain places. Around a lot of the twists and turns, it turns into one lane, only. If you are headed up a hill and someone is coming toward you, there’s nothing for it but to back down to the nearest turn-out. This doesn’t sound like such a big deal, does it? But remember … you are often backing down around a hairpin turn with nothing but a small margin of gravel separating your car from the edge of a cliff. It was dicey at times, but we made it!

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Maui is so full of beauty and unexpected things. The ocean, all the shades of green, the unexpected twists and turns … It’s all mesmerizing and inspiring. Of course, we found Lorraine’s at the end of our long and winding way. We had banana bread and shave ice, and we had a nice visit with Lorraine, too. She was lovely, and she showed us around her garden and told us stories about the ocean. No matter how scary and long the drive, it was worth it!

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One of the main things I wanted to do during our Maui trip was go to at least one luau. My husband and I visited Oahu fourteen years ago, shortly after our daughter was born, and one of my favorite memories of that trip is from the luau we attended. And so, that was our plan for the evening. We had to make it down from the mountain first, but we had great incentive!

We made it back to the hotel just in time to change and meet my husband’s younger brother and family to head to the luau. And was it everything I hoped it would be?

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Um … YES!! We went to The Feast at Lele, and it was pretty fantastic. There was family and fun. We laughed. We told stories. We ate. And ate. And ate. I loved all the dancers. Each piece was beautiful and told a story about Hawaii’s history. And, of course, we ended the evening with fire. All in all, a perfect ending to a beautiful day.

Maui Summer Adventure: Day 1

I am finally getting around to editing and resizing my Maui pictures. I ended up with a mixture of DSLR photos and iPhone pictures, which took some additional figuring and resizing and saving. Plus, there was that whole Texas adventure thing a week after the Maui adventure thing. What can I say? This summer has been one big adventure after another! Or maybe this is just me, trying to type the word “adventure” as many times as possible within one post. I am diabolical that way — mwuahahahahahaha!

Day 1 for us was more of a half day, as our flight arrived around midday, Hawaii time. We arrived to some “liquid sunshine”. I didn’t know what this meant when I first heard it, but an online friend who is from Hawaii explained to me that this is what they call weather where it rains and the sun shines at the same time. It sounds so much nicer than what we call this type of weather in my home stomping grounds. We say the devil is beating his wife. Definitely not picturesque or lovely!

From what I can tell, liquid sunshine happens a lot in Maui. You know, because of that whole tropical rainforest vibe. The rain was kind of a bummer. After all, when you decide to go on a Hawaiian vacation, you don’t think about the possibility of rain. At the same time, it was kind of great because it added to the tropical feeling for me. And also because it would rain and then stop. In Virginia, we have been having a lot of rain without stopping. For days. Ugh.

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As we drove from the airport to our hotel, we passed many beautiful resort properties. And this! What better welcome could we hope for than a gorgeous rainbow? It was beautiful and pretty darn spectacular. I told my daughter that Maui was welcoming us, and seeing a beautiful rainbow felt like the perfect way to kick off a great vacation. This was a quick iPhone picture because my camera was still stowed in the trunk with the rest of our luggage. I’m not sure if you can see it very well, but this was a double rainbow. You can just barely see the second rainbow at the top edge of my picture, particularly on the left side.

We settled into our hotel and took a little look around the property. We stayed at a hotel that was slightly older, but the grounds were beautiful. The decor of our hotel was exactly what I think of when I think of Hawaiian decor. This is going to sound totally cheesy, but I felt like I had stepped into an episode of Magnum, PI! And by the way, this is a good thing. It was like a geeky fangirl dream come true!!

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There are flowers and plants everywhere! I know … You’re looking at the screen right now and saying, “Well, Duh! What were you expecting? It’s freaking Hawaii!!” I know, I know. I was ready for all the flowers and plant life. At the same time, I kind of wasn’t ready for it. Does this make sense at all? The sunlight is so rich and pure. It makes every color seem to pop that much more. And I will never get tired of seeing hibiscus growing all over the place. There is something incredibly elegant and exotic about those flowers to me. I think the yellow ones were my favorite. They are so bright!

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After a short time to recharge, we decided to set out for a drive. The Nakalele Blowhole was on our list of things we wanted to see. We had plans to meet up with family for dinner that night, and we were already getting a late start. It didn’t leave a lot of time for sightseeing, but we felt like we could at least do this much. The blowhole was a bit of a drive, but not impossibly far from our hotel. The drive was spectacular, of course.

We drove with the windows open so that we could feel the wind and smell the ocean. We drove through patches of rain here and there, but even that was sweet. It felt cool and light on our skin. I don’t think I could ever get tired of seeing the ocean slide by next to the highway. I say “highway”, and I suppose it qualifies as that. It was one of the biggest roads we traveled while on Maui. But I live in the land of many-laned highways. Compared to what we are used to, it felt pretty small. It was also a winding, twisting, and fun ride! Oh! And did I mention the amazing scenery?

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The Nakalele Blowhole was magnificent! It’s rather a steep and slippery climb to get down the trail in order to be closer to the actual blowhole. I was tired from a long flight. Even though I had on good hiking shoes and I was prepared to do some major hiking on the vacation, I found I wasn’t feeling particularly sure-footed on this day. My back and my hip were both sore from too much sitting on the plane and in the car. I opted to enjoy the blowhole from a distance.

I have to admit I wasn’t feeling it when we first arrived. Yes, the scenery was gorgeous. And, of course, there was the ocean. There were some splashes and gurgles from the area where the blowhole is located, but, overall, it just seemed so small. It really didn’t seem worthy of the name “blowhole”. It was more like a gurgle-hole or something. Wait … that sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? *ahem* Nevermind. At any rate, I stood there watching it for a bit, and I thought, “This is it? Is this all there is?”

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Um … wrong! That little bitty splish of a splash was most definitely NOT all there was. I just had to be patient and wait for the perfect conditions to align. Once they did … BA-BAM!! It was like the entire universe exploded, and everything was water. The Nakalele Blowhole shoots water up to 100 feet into the air. And the noise! I wasn’t prepared for it. The noise was huge — a ringing boom accompanied by the ever-present underlying noise of the surf pounding against the shoreline. Truthfully, after seeing how high the water went and after hearing the ear-shaking BOOM that accompanied it, I was glad I had decided to watch from a safer distance.

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We spent quite a bit of time at the blowhole and hiking the trails right around it. There was some slipping and sliding up and down, but nothing too terribly scary. I only felt like I was going to tumble off the cliff once. I call that a hiking win! Plus, I think we all felt the need to linger near the ocean for as long as we could. There is something so refreshing about it. It is constantly changing. It is powerful and relentless. And yet, I find something so peaceful about it.

It was a good first day. If I had any complaint, it would be that the day went by too quickly, mostly eaten up in a blur of exhausting travel. In the end, we had to say good-night to the ocean and head back to our hotel. After all, dinner was waiting.

 

2 AM & the Drink of the Gods

It’s 2 AM, and here I am … typing up a blog post for which I have no concrete plan or outline. It has been a long day, and I am tired. For that matter, I’m still tired from our Hawaii trip and the Texas trip. I don’t want to admit this to myself, but I might be getting old. No … surely, it’s not that. It must be something else. You know, like the weather. Or the government. Yes, that’s it. I’m sure it’s the government’s fault. Somehow.

Why am I up at 2 AM, you ask? Or, perhaps you didn’t. But I’m going to tell you, anyhow. I had some bubble tea, which usually wouldn’t bother me at all. Except, I drank it at around 10 PM. “I know I’m not going to sleep at all,” I said to myself as I imbibed the drink of the gods. The bubbles were fresh and the perfect consistency, too. And they put just the right amount of ice (which, when it comes to bubble tea, is almost none).

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So I told myself to look on the bright side of the whole situation. I mean, what’s done is done. My husband had already bought the tea. It would have been churlish of me not to drink it. Even worse, it would have been a waste of perfectly lovely tea! It’s not like I can go back in time and not drink it. Or drink it earlier in the day, when it wouldn’t matter. Instead of having regrets over my near-sleepless night, I decided I would be wildly productive, instead. While my family was slumbering, I would get so much writing done. It would be amazing. Amazing, I tell you! How could it be anything but? After all, this nighttime interlude is fueled by the drink of the gods.

Here’s the thing: Once one reaches a certain age, it is nearly impossible to be truly productive at 2AM. I am not sure when that age is, and perhaps it varies from person to person. For me, it was around age 34, because that’s when I became a mom. Once you become a parent, you really can’t avoid that whole “adulting” situation. Things need to be done. Errands have to happen. People must be fed. And all of these things, in general, happen in the daytime. From what I can tell, about 99% of adulting occurs in the daytime, with a good deal of it seeming to happen in the wee hours of the morning. (As in, before 10AM.) If you know you are required to adult but you are awake at 2AM, you end up sitting around thinking about nothing other than the fact that it’s 2 AM, you are still awake, and, thus, will be unfit for any adulting activities that may be required the next day. Or, later on during this day. Or … something like that.

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Which brings me back full-circle, to me … awake at 2AM and most definitely NOT adulting in any way, shape, or form. But you know what? I don’t regret the bubble tea at all. Such is the siren song of the drink of the gods. I would do it all again, if I had the chance. And, really, I might. Because I’m going to need something to keep me awake tomorrow! (Or later today. Or … something.)

The End of Summer

Today is the last day of Summer. Not officially, according to the calendar. And I’m sure the hot weather is going to hang around for a while yet. But, according to the powers-that-be in my daughter’s school system, Summer is kaput. Tomorrow, she starts band camp, and, from there, it’s a quick downhill slide into the school year. It feels like Summer was over before it even began. I am sitting in my parents’ sunny kitchen, frantically typing out this post when I should be doing some last minute packing. In a few hours, my daughter and I will head to the airport, and then, we will wing our way home.

It’s been a good Summer. Busy and full of travel, but also good. I haven’t blogged at all about Maui yet, as I only had a week of downtime in between trips. That week was taken up with appointments and other miscellaneous things that have to happen when one is forced to “adult” for a living. But the Maui trip was a good trip. We reconnected with family we seldom see. We laughed and met new family members, in the form of our new little niece and nephew. We saw spectacular things. We made memories to last a lifetime.

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Kerrville, Texas isn’t nearly as exciting as Maui. I can admit this. There’s not much to see. There’s not much to do. Life is quiet here, and a little bit slow-moving. I don’t think it qualifies as a tourist destination in the least. And yet … There is something about this place that I love. I’m sure it’s not the town, in particular, that captures my heart. It is because my parents live here. But it’s also because I miss my beloved Texas so much. It’s the place where I am from. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.

It’s not necessarily an easy trip in terms of the personalities involved. My daughter is sometimes snarky, as are most teenagers. She also has a tendency toward sarcasm, which I think she inherited from her father … and, possibly, me. My parents are getting on in years, and they are kind of cranky and grumpy. I honestly don’t know if all elderly people are like this. But my elderly people are. They have aches and pains. And they complain a lot about things they can’t control. News Flash: None of us has control over anything. But I wonder if, maybe, you get to a certain age and you feel like you should have control over at least one little thing in your life. I don’t know. My mom also takes things a little too much to heart at times. She gets offended easily and takes joking as being serious. She has always been this way, but it sometimes makes for a touchy situation at the casa.

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Even so, life is relaxing here. It is calm and peaceful. It is the perfect place to sometimes listen to one’s thoughts and to reconnect with a daughter who is becoming an adult right in front of my eyes. In three years, my daughter will be done with high school. I say the words out loud, and I can’t believe they are true. She will leave me in three years. Guys … that’s not a lot of time. It’s really not.

The weather was overly hot this time, so we didn’t get to walk every evening. But we managed it when we could. And that was okay. My daughter and I laughed and told inside jokes. We hunted Pokemon together. We sat quietly at times, each of us reading at different ends of the kitchen table. We talked about hopes and dreams and fears — you know, the BIG conversations. But we had lots of small conversations, too. We went to the movies together. We played a favorite board game with my mom almost every evening. And we all laughed and teased and got loud and rowdy. In short, we had fun. We made memories.

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I feel bittersweet and nostalgic about the ending of Summer this year. Usually, I am already looking forward in terms of planning the upcoming school year and figuring out how to get everyone into their normal routines and schedules. This year, there hasn’t been any of that. I haven’t looked at school supplies or tried to figure out what my daughter might need to start the new school year. I feel much more chill about that whole aspect. Last year, she didn’t have supply lists until the end of the first week of school. Or, maybe it’s more that I’m in no hurry for any of it to happen. In my heart, I feel like I am hanging on with my last shred of strength and dignity to this beautifully sweet and bitter Summer. My parents are getting older. My dad is 87. My mom is 81. My aunts are both gone. My uncles are both in bad health, and so is my brother. Part of me wonders how many summers I will have left to come here and walk the sidewalks of Kerrville in the evenings and look at the deer and tell jokes with my parents and play Pokemon Go with my daughter. Even though there has been a lot of bitter in with the sweet, today I am looking at the sweet parts of it all and thinking, “Yeah. This is all right.”

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I am heading back to a dirty house and a near future that feels uncertain and a little bit scary because of my husband’s work situation. School is coming. Busy schedules and family drama are coming. Feeling rushed and panicked and like there is too much to do is coming. I hope snow is coming, too. I love snow. And winter. But through it all, I will have my memories from this Texas trip. And the sound of laughter ringing through my imagination. And you know what? I think that is pretty good.

Out of Step

Do you ever feel like you are completely out of step with the rest of the world? I’m sure everyone feels like that from time to time. It seems to me a perfectly human way to feel. I feel like this a LOT. Usually, I can brush it off and ignore it enough to continue about my day with my normal amount of zany weirdness. But there are times when I become so aware of my out-of-stepness that I can’t ignore it. It sneaks up on me at the oddest moments, and brings with it an almost physical pain laced with a longing that is all too familiar. It’s a weird feeling — almost like stepping outside of yourself for a moment. One moment, you are sitting there, minding your own business and living your internal sort of life. And the next, you are standing there, right next to yourself, looking in surprise at … well “you”. It brings reality into sharp-edged focus in a way that is singularly disconcerting.

This happened to me not that long ago, as my daughter and I were sitting down to breakfast at a favorite restaurant. We had gotten up early that morning for an appointment. My daughter recently got her braces off, and we had to go into the dentist’s office that morning so the techs could make her permanent retainer. We decided to grab a little breakfast while waiting for the retainer to be completed. I hadn’t slept well the night before. My allergies were bothering me more than usual, and I had been up most of the night not feeling well at all. I am NOT a morning person, even on the best of days, but this day was particularly bad. I felt horrible. And grumpy. And yucky. My hair was a mess. I had on an old t-shirt and an even older pair of yoga pants, because I had been running late that morning. These were the first clothes I could grab. I had no makeup, although I seldom wear makeup. I had forgotten my glasses and only had my sunglasses to wear so that I could see the world. My eyes were swollen and puffy from lack of sleep and allergies. I had dark circles under them, and I couldn’t breathe. Basically, I felt like my entire body and soul had been coated in slime. I was sitting at our table, slumped over a glass of iced tea and feeling really pretty awful about the world, and I kept seeing these cheerful families walking by. Whole families of morning people, joking and laughing and smiling and having a great time. And, just like that … it hit me.

These are not my people.

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I wish they were. I wish I was one of them: a person who goes to bed on time and gets up early in the morning with a smile on my face. I wish I was a person who looked forward to the coming of each new day with anticipation and excitement and fun in my heart. I wish I was always turned out and put together perfectly: makeup on my face, cute outfit, hair done and in place, matching shoes. I grew up striving for this ideal of “perfection”. I grew up being told this is what I should want. I should be pleasing to those around me. When people look at me, they should see things that are socially accepted and expected. The face should always be done. The hair should always be done and perfect. The nails should always be done, in an appropriate color and with no chips. The outfit should always be cute — not cute to me alone, but socially acceptably cute. The shoes should always match, and they must be socially acceptable as “girly” / feminine shoes. This means high heels. There should always be a smile on my face, even if my feet hurt.

I’m not any of those things. I’m not girly. Although both my husband and daughter think I am (thank you, God!), I am not particularly pretty. I hate clothes. I hate the whole process of shopping for them and mixing and matching them into different outfits that use all the same pieces but look completely different so that no one will know I only own three skirts. (I really, actually only own, like, three skirts. But I only like one of them. So I wear that same one over and over again.) I would walk around wearing a garbage bag with holes cut out for my arms and head, if I didn’t think it would get me arrested for public indecency. Now that I no longer work in an office setting, I am strictly a t-shirt and jeans or yoga pants kind of gal. I fail at hair, so mine is generally messy. I can’t fix it so that it looks nice, no mater how many times I try. And it’s blue — well, mostly blue, but with some purple and green tossed into the mix. My clothes are wrinkled and look as if I slept in them. Sometimes, this is actually true. My shoes don’t coordinate with any kind of “pretty” or “girly” outfit. I only own 3 or 4 pairs of shoes, to begin with. I used to have more, but my feet grew after I got pregnant.

I am scoring big on the nails, though. The rest of me might be a hot mess, but my nails always look good. I feel I should give myself points for that.

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I never get enough sleep. I plan to go to bed early. I have the best of intentions, but it never works out. I get distracted. Or I hit productive creative streaks late at night. This means I never get up early, given the choice. I am never willingly up at the crack of dawn  and looking forward to a productive morning. I seldom see “morning”. For me, “morning” starts around 10:30, which is practically lunch time for most people. I am never happy to face a new day. In general, I am hung-over and groggy from too little sleep. And I look it, too. I can admit this. It hurts, but I can admit it.

So I wonder, sometimes, what my goal in life should be. Should I be longing, even in a subconscious way, to be more in step with the rest of the world? My husband thinks I should be. My parents think I should be. I know it sounds weak and a little bit lame as I type it out here, but I have tried to be this way. I have tried to change so that I can be the way those around me want me to be. I have tried to change so they will be proud of me and happy with the person that I am. Is this me, trying to gain acceptance and love? I’m sitting here thinking about it, and I think … yeah, that’s probably what it is. I’ve tried so hard to be someone else — anyone else — just so I won’t be “me”.

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But isn’t it kind of stupid to continue trying, only to fail miserably every time? Each time I realize this is not who I am, I feel a sense of utter failure. I feel bad about who I am. I feel bad that I am not normal or conventional or creative in the proper ways. I just feel … bad. It doesn’t sound like enough to describe the true depth of how I feel, but it’s the only word that comes readily to mind. How many times do I have to bang my head against the same wall before I realize all I’m going to have at the end is a headache?

Maybe, instead, I should try harder to focus on the person I am. Maybe I should try harder to learn to love her. Maybe I should look at her, in her t-shirt and her slightly ratty yoga pants, and think, “She is a great gal. She is smart and creative and not afraid to live her own life.” And, if I think this enough times, maybe one day it will sink in. And then, it will be true. I won’t be afraid to live my own life and be who I am. I won’t feel out of step with the rest of the world. Instead, I will feel perfectly and beautifully in step with ME.

A Rough Flight & The Kindness of Strangers

When we last met, I was (rather unhappily) preparing to wing my way to Hawai’i with my family. Oh, how I hate to travel. I like going to new places, having new experiences, and making great memories. But I hate the mechanics of getting there. I hate it with a passion. I keep telling myself to roll with the flow, or whatever, but I am not sure I will ever learn to do that. The whole act of traveling from Point A to Point B is stressful and overwhelming, especially when going by plane. We are three days into our trip now (well, 2.5, technically), and I am far enough removed from our airport experience to say it was worth it. It has been a fun and relaxed trip so far. In fact, I have thought of so many things I want to blog. But I have been too busy living and enjoying my family to take the time for it! Now, that’s a good vacation!

This afternoon, my husband and daughter are at the beach, enjoying sand and sun and ocean waves. I begged off, since I have little to no interest in going into the water. And I am just about the whitest person I know — literally. I am so fair-skinned I could almost be invisible. Hours in the sun are not a great idea for me, even if I slather on the extra-heavy sunblock. And so, it seemed like the perfect time to sit down and blog a little.

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So … Let’s start where any good adventure story must: in the beginning, with planes, trains, and automobiles. Remember how I said life would be grand if I could figure out a way to drive to Hawai’i? If that underwater car or a personal submarine ever becomes a thing, sign me up! Because our trip might have been a lot smoother if we had used some other mode of transportation. Sadly, Hawai’i is surrounded by water. Islands tend to be that way, after all. Right? So our travel choice was by plane. The first leg of our trip left at o’dark-thirty. We got up around 3 AM so we could leave home by 3:45 and get to the airport two hours ahead of our 6:30 AM flight. My husband thinks I’m insane because I have to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of my flight. It’s not just a suggestion with me. It’s a compulsion. I have so much anxiety and dread over going through airport security and getting scanned and talking to strangers that I need to have the mental luxury of knowing I have lots of time in which to accomplish this entire process.

We did the trip in two legs: Dulles to Chicago O’Hare. And then Chicago to Maui, which was our final destination. The first part was a little under 2 hours. The second part was a little over 8 hours. And all ten hours was pure, hellish torture.

Remember how I mentioned my daughter has strep? We got the diagnosis and her antibiotics on Thursday afternoon. We left home on Friday morning — way, way, way early on Friday morning. Even so, she had two doses of medication, and we knew she wasn’t contagious. I was worried about her flying with a lot of congestion, but her doctor told me it was okay for us to go on the plane. Keep in mind her doctor didn’t diagnose her with a sinus infection or anything like that. Initially, they told us to do the saline rinse and antihistamines for congestion. After the strep test came back positive, they prescribed the antibiotics. Which is fine. I’m not complaining about this at all. I am happy for my daughter to have as few doses of antibiotic as possible and only when absolutely necessary.

The problem is that, while the antibiotics went to work on any bacterial infection in her system and her throat calmed down, her congestion just got worse. And worse. And then, we added in a pressurized airplane cabin and all the air pressure changes from going up and down and maintaining cruising altitude. It was horrible. There’s no easier way to say it. It was just horrible. Things started out okay, but once our Chicago flight reached cruising altitude, the pressure built up and up in my daughter’s sinuses and ears, until it felt like her head was going to explode. She was in so much pain. She was in tears because it hurt so badly. I haven’t seen her in this much pain on a flight since she was a little baby. It tore me up, especially since there was very little I could do. When we landed at Chicago, we had a 2-hour layover. We were able to eat and get her some decongestant, and she felt a lot better. I breathed a silent sigh of relief that, maybe, the worst was over.

It wasn’t. Because the same thing happened on the Chicago to Maui leg of the trip. Only this time, she was in unrelenting pain for 8 hours. The pain was so bad that she ended up throwing up, which has never happened for her on a plane before. We weren’t fast enough with the airsickness bag, and barf got all over her and me. Luckily, we didn’t get any on the seats or the floor around where we were sitting. There are few feelings that are worse, as a parent, than having to sit and watch your child suffer. She spent nearly the entire 8 hour flight leaning on my shoulder for comfort, although I felt completely inadequate to truly comfort her. I did my best, and maybe just being close and knowing someone loved her in that moment helped. A little.

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And this is when an amazing, beautiful thing happened. After she threw up, my daughter went into the bathroom at the front of the plane to try and clean herself up a little bit. I followed her up there to see what I needed to do to dispose of the “yuck” bag and to get some supplies so I could clean our area of the plane, to the extent it needed it. I explained to one of the flight attendants that my daughter was having a hard time with sinus pain and pressure, that it was so severe she was sick to her stomach and threw up, and that I needed some supplies to make sure our area was clear. And then I kind of hovered outside the bathroom door, waiting for my daughter.

As I was anxiously hovering and, I’m sure, looking as socially awkward as a person can possibly look, a lady sitting on the front row came up to me. She told me she had overheard what I told the flight attendant. She asked if my daughter had motion sickness. She said, if that was the case, her family had Dramamine and would be happy to give some to us. I told her it wasn’t normal motion sickness, but caused by too much sinus pain and pressure. I explained that my daughter was on antibiotics and had taken decongestant a couple of hours earlier, so I wasn’t sure about giving her additional medication. This lovely woman nodded and said, “Don’t worry. I have just the thing.”

She went back to her family and dug through her bag, coming up with a pair of Sea Bands. These were brand new, in their little plastic case. They had never been opened. She said they were traveling with her grandson for the first time, and they had bought these for him. But he was fine and didn’t need them. She said we could take them and use them, to see if this might help settle my daughter’s upset stomach.

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So, picture this: I am standing there next to the bathroom door, trying to be inconspicuous and out of the way and failing miserably. I am disheveled and grungy. My hair is in a quick and messy bun, but it is flying all around my face. I have on no makeup. I have been up since way before 3 AM because I wasn’t able to sleep the night before we left. There are dark circles under my eyes, and I am about a split second away from crying. And I have barf all over my shirt. And this lovely woman … this absolute stranger … is standing there, holding out a thing that gives me the hope I will be able to help my child. When I told her I was worried about giving the bands back to her, she pressed the little box into my hand and hugged me. “Don’t even think about it, Mama,” she said. “We’ve all been there.”

“Don’t even think about it, Mama. We’ve all been there.” Could any one person say anything wiser than that to another person? I mean, think about it. We are living in pretty crappy times. Sometimes, it seems like we all hate each other. Sometimes, it seems like we are all so caught up in being angry and miserable that we can’t even see the beauty of life around us. I swear there are a lot of times when I think people are just looking for a reason to be angry and hateful and miserable. But there are good people out there. There are beautiful, caring, and loving people out there. Even now. When you are bogged down in the accusations and the hate and the vitriol spewing forth from every direction, close your eyes and remember that there are people out there who are capable of loving you, even if they don’t know who you are.

And I think that is what this post is really about. Because the pain and dread and awfulness of that flight will fade in time. One day, probably in the not-so-distant future, the story of my daughter’s flight from hell will become one more family memory that we trot out during Christmas or when we are all comparing the war stories of life. But I will always remember the stunning kindness of that stranger on our flight. I will always remember her hugging me tight, telling me without words that I can do this … that I am strong, and that I can do what’s right for my child … that I am not alone. I don’t know her name. I don’t know where she is from. I don’t know anything about her. But I will always remember the kindness on her face and in her heart. She will always live in my own heart. And I hope that, one day, I can pass her heroic kindness along the way.

“Don’t worry, Mama. We’ve all been there.”

The Adventure Season

Summer travel season is upon us. It managed to sneak up on me, just like it does every year. I always feel like I have plenty of time. It seems like school was just out yesterday, but, somehow, a couple of weeks have gone by. And now, my family heads out on our vacation tomorrow morning. EARLY. Like, 3 in the Blessed AM. Yeah. That type of early. For me, I would be perfectly okay with a 3 AM wake-up call if I hadn’t bothered going to bed. I’m a night owl, and will happily stay up until the wee hours of the morning. If I have gone to bed, though, forget about it. I am miserable.

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My family is going to Hawaii. Everyone I have told this to looks at me with a mixture of surprise and delight on their face. “Hawaii!” they say, “You’re so lucky. I wish I was going to Hawaii.” Guess what? I wish they were going to Hawaii, too, and I wasn’t. It sounds terrible when I type it out loud, doesn’t it? I know, it really does.

It’s not that I don’t want to go to Hawaii, specifically. It’s that I don’t want to go anywhere at all. I am tired and grumpy. And I hate traveling. There. I said it. I hate to travel. Once I arrive at my destination, I am sure I will have a great time. But I am filled with dread at the idea of actually getting from Point A to Point B. It will require spending time in large places crowded with people. It will require talking to strangers. It will require being crunched up next to someone I don’t know, all the while acting nice and friendly, when I am really pretending I am alone in my own private space with plenty of leg room. I think I should be able to drive to Hawaii. Yeah. That’s the ticket. We need to make that underwater driving thing happen … or something.

Plus, my daughter is sick. We just found out this morning that she has Strep. And I am sick, too. I hope it’s just an allergy thing. It feels like an allergy thing. Given the multitude of allergies I have, it is likely an allergy thing. But traveling when you feel less than yourself is never fun, even if you love the whole act of going from one place to another. When you’re a fuddy-duddy stick in the mud like me who hates to travel … well, it’s really pretty awful.

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I left my packing to the last minute. I did pick out my vacation nail polish a few days ahead of time, but that was about it. Up until about 10 minutes ago, I was frantically rushing around, getting the last load of clothes dried and tossing the last couple of things into the suitcase. I’m sure I forgot something. But hopefully it’s nothing vitally important.

And, for what it’s worth, my nails look fabulous. So, Hawaii — here we come! Ready or not.