Not a Vacation: Part three.

Due to recent events, including a certain husband splitting open his knee and being out of commission until further notice, blogging once again has been put on the back burner.  On the front burner: taking care of the kids, an injured partner, and animals.  Overall, channeling all my energy into being present and being aware of my own tank.  Ah, life.  But here is a late post on our time in California when we all had perfect mobility…

I had posted previously about not having a plan.  What I did have was an intention.  Actually it was a prayer.

Dear God,

I have not travelled with a young adult fresh out of adolescence, two teenage girls, my fiery Leo, and a son going through the 9 year change.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know when to have ice cream for dinner.

(Because well, ice cream is the best temporary bandaid and distracting indulgence besides breast milk and tin foil.  There are days I really wish I could still whip out a boob to make an ouchie feel better.)

And any extra advice would be awesome. Thanks.



How could we find a rhythm that worked for everyone’s particular needs?  Some of us don’t eat breakfast before 10am.  Some of us need two breakfasts by 10am.  Some of us need to move.  Some need to lie down and relax.  Some of us want to do a bit of shopping.  Some of us would rather take an ice pick and stab ourselves. Some of us are too cold to spend the day outside at the beach. And some just don’t want to hike in the forest during a wildfire  (well, just one of us but in hindsight, I completely understand).

#2:  Mom, it’s getting smoky. I can’t breathe.  Please can we turn back. The ranger said not to go south.

Me:  It’s not smoke, it’s mist and he said not to go TOO far south.  We are only going about 4 miles south.

#2: MOM!

Me:  We’ll be fine.  And what if this is it?  My last chance to see go see the redwoods in the Cathedral Woods grove.  Besides, the Rangers know where we are and it’s not that smoky.

#1:  Did you say something Mom?  I couldn’t hear you above all the coughing.

It does look a little hazy in this picture.


On our first day together as seven, I get my prayer is answered and I receive a little advice.

All of us are looking at a map.  I want some nature but I also need to make an international call in the afternoon so I also want a little cell service too.  Another wants to go to a secondhand bookstore.  One wants ice cream, of course.  One wants to see the Mission District.  One would like to wander.  One is jet lagged or hung over or both and is happy to not move so much. One is just happy to be all together and doesn’t care what we do.

My heart begins to beat faster as my mind starts to anticipate an exhausting day where no one is happy.  Then as if in neon lights, one word flashed before me, or more like one sound whispered in my ear, when in my mind, I was already imagining my late afternoon temper tantrum.


I stopped and listened.  They weren’t asking for much.  And what if I could just choose to be happy now and let the day unfold?  To throw myself into YES and WHY NOT?  I also stopped and expanded my vision. I saw a rare moment.  This opportunity to shift myself at the beginning of our time together.  I could imagine a day of synchronous flow where everyone would go to sleep full – a fullness of being together and of being enough.

This is our normal. Why change because we are in a different location?

In that moment, I was going to let go and be present without expectation.  In that moment, I decided to simply appreciate our life.  With this attitude, our days turned into exciting mysteries and adventures and it felt so natural.

No stress. No major fights.  No lectures.  The only bickering that happened was due to the endless musical chairs in the two back rows.  But nothing like some eye rolls and heavy sighs thrown at them by me to defuse the situation.  It’s like going to YELLOW alert, a warning.  Nothing is worth fighting for that will get mama to RED.

Some unexpected surprises that maybe wouldn’t have happened had I attached myself to a plan:

  • Only after unexpectedly climbing a mountain to make a call, we see dolphins in the ocean. True story.  I got my nature fix – beautiful ocean views and cliffs, but had to climb up a rocky mountain to get cell service and had a lovely call with women about a project very important to me.
  • Attending the huge Dia del Muerto parade in San Francisco and having the best burrito on church steps with the best people including family and some friends that drove all the way from Sacramento to say ‘Hi.’
  • A big breakfast with family in San Francisco before the goodbye which the kids say had to make this list. I agree.
  • Sea Lions lounging under the pier in Santa Cruz
  • Hiking in the Henry Cowells Redwood Forest during a wildfire happening just south of us after locals telling us maybe not a good idea that day but instinct prevailed over common sense yet again.
  • Hugging some of the oldest cypress trees in California and marveling at their structural and haunting quality:
  • Seeing zebras graze wildly at sunset (Do I look at the dozen zebras or the sun setting into the Pacific Ocean? Best dilemma of the day.)
    • Zebras on one side…
    • Ocean sunset on the other…
  • Having game-changing conversations with locals in Santa Barbara at a coffee shop (Thanks Ashton and Cathy!)
  • An impromptu hike in Santa Barbara which was recommended by Ashton where at the top, kite gliders were jumping off and gliding into the sunset.  It already has inspired one daughter to try it as soon as she can travel without me so I don’t have to watch.
  • Stumbling into a small bookstore to find this amazing book by Mary Beard: How Do We Look
  • Chris fulfilling another dream of playing volleyball with his kids in the Manhattan Beach – the mecca of beach volleyball.
  • Exploring tide pools just as the tide went out – perfect timing to stop – and climbing rocks in Laguna Beach.
    • This photo is SO staged.
  • Walking 7 km to Balboa Park in San Diego while Chris was in his conference which was a breeze for my people that had been hiking a little bit each day and we had no idea how many gems we would find there like an art museum where 17 and under are free, a Japanese garden, a busker teaching the kids how to make gigantic bubbles…
    • His happy place…
  • All of the stops on Highway 1…
  • Finding the perfect long sleeve for one daughter and hoodies for two others.
  • Surprising courtyards and secret trails leading to dead ends, cliffs, tide pools, and other surprises.

It was a beautiful time together that really spelled out what is essential to our family and how we don’t change much of who we are or are expectations based on being in a different location.

I decided to look up the word “trip.”

Here is what I find on

trip (v.)

late 14c., “tread or step lightly and nimbly, skip, dance, caper,” from Old French triper “jump around, dance around, strike with the feet” (12c.), from a Germanic source (compare Middle Dutch trippen “to skip, trip, hop; to stamp, trample….”

The senses of “to stumble” (intransitive), “strike with the foot and cause to stumble” (transitive) are from mid-15c. in English. Meaning “to release” (a catch, lever, etc.) is recorded from 1897; trip-wire is attested from 1868. Related: Tripped; tripping.

trip (n.)

“act or action of tripping” (transitive), early 14c., from trip (v.); sense of “a short journey or voyage” is from mid-15c.; the exact connection to the earlier sense is uncertain.

This was trip and not a vacation.  We skipped and danced around California together.  We treaded a little lighter when our hearts became heavy with news of the fires.  We slowed our pace and began to appreciate the trees and having each other a little more.  We stumbled onto the most beautiful pieces of this earth because we were curious and open to mystery.  We were in search of all things beautiful as we all sank into gratitude for just being together.

There were many moments when I would look up and see my people all together holding hands and laughing or posing silly or getting excited about another taffy store.

When we look at our life, we are on a short journey or voyage every day.  We stumble and trip because sometimes we look too far ahead or we stumble onto  miracles themselves.  We tripped the catch that held us all in a space from the past to allow us to be a new family together.  We slipped and trampled and fell into a new cadence together while discovering how each of us like to move in the world right now.

Last thoughts on our trip and some updates on recent events next…






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