The Answer is in the Dunes

The days after my trip have left me with a mess of maps, notebooks, pictures and memories. As I arrange myself back into everyday, real, adult life, I hold onto a longing for the freedom that is the open road and no plan. My vacation was completely immature; an itch to satisfy curiosity and wake up every day to an adventure. I took my baby,my toddler and two teenage girls away from their comfort zones. I risked tantrums and eye rolls and bickering about who has to lean over the seat to grab the truck Jackson has thrown for the twentieth time. We ran out of everything, diapers, milk, cell phone data, patience, money, batteries, tolerance for camping and even sunny days.
Being back to adult life now, I can only relive the journey by writing about it. There are so many pictures and moments and stories that I am excited to share. We did it. We drove six thousand miles in two weeks with four kids. We are better people because of it. The best place to start? right in the middle.
July 14,2016

We are driving somewhere through Idaho. Potatoes, Napoleon Dynamite. Why do I keep saying Iowa? What do I expect? Even now, I can’t fully describe Idaho. It was everything. Farmlands sprinkled with mountains and corn and windmills. Lava rocks, desert, sand dunes. The landscape has more colors then Sherwin Williams and every hue glows. It was surreal, like the way Dorthy must have felt when she walked out of her house to a world suddenly filled with color.

I looked over my shoulder and the babies were peacefully asleep. Tired out from a morning of swimming and another day of new experiences.  They were snuggled into their car seats in the midst of a snoring contest. The girls are in the way back. Like typical teenagers they have headphones permanently attached to their ears and some electronic attached to their hands. Their faces are fixated on the window. The miracle of Idaho. More wondrous then the appeal of YouTube. More interesting then the feed of Instagram. They stopped to stare. We all did. We couldn’t stop looking. The radio was singing Band of Horses to us.
“But no one is ever gonna love you more than I do. No one’s gonna love you more than I do”

I looked over at Josh driving and held his hand. We were all here, in this moment in complete awe. I knew it was coming. I felt the urge in the back of my throat. Tears. I don’t even know why. The sky, the water, the mountains, the music, my family, the moment. It all hit me. And for the first time in a while, I cried over something good.

“Where are you going on vacation?” random person asks.
“We are going to Oregon. Driving from Ohio. For two weeks.”
The reactions were priceless. Some were more polite (while inner questioning of my sanity)
Driving? Yes. With four kids? Yes. 39 Hours. Each way. Six thousand miles, in two weeks. Where are you going to stay? With friends some nights and some nights we will camp. Some are perplexed. Some are vocal. Some are in awe and some tell me they took a road trip as a kid and it was their most memorable vacation. I hear the voices, and the doubtful ones are the loudest. What were we thinking?
The truth is, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Josh and I had one of those nights where we probably drank too much wine and started fantasizing about this magical family road trip. I became Clark Griswold and started thinking about this adventure to Wally World. (Or in our case Oregon). The writer in me took over. It became this Kerouac meets Hunter S.Thompson meets Harry Potter dream world I cooked up in my head. I don’t know what we were supposed to find driving for days and exploring the Northwestern part of the United States. I knew it was missing. It became boggled up in the stress of our life. For me, the stress has become cumbersome. The kids felt it, and Josh felt it. I could no longer function as adult. I needed a break.
Today, we have comfortable settled into our nomadic, gypsy life. We faced uncertainty and found the flaw in our lax attitude toward planning. We had our Wally World moment (that’s for a whole other story). Today, I found the point of this trip – the journey, the adventure, started to reveal itself.  As I actually see “purple mountains and amber waves of grain” I know that my soul feels this. It is happy to the point of tears and every day we are out on the road is another  brilliant  fucking adventure.

We arrived at Bruneau Dunes State park. It was in the middle of vast farmland and we had been the only car on the road for miles. The landscape opened up and there they were: Sand dunes. I had never seen such massive sand dunes before. There were maybe thirty campsite and enough people there that it wasn’t creepy but not too much for over crowding. The sites were shaded under trees in an otherwise desert area. The dunes outlined the landscape like they were looking over the sites and the land ensuring this was a safe place to be. There was no attendee just a card we filled out that claimed site 21 just for us. As we unloaded our tents, I made a pact that I could run to the top of a dune. no problem. (easier said than done). Olivia was anxious to swim. (her goal everyday). We found a lake and it was what exactly we needed. This was our greatest camping experience. It was the reason we took this trip. After our nightly ritual of cooking hot dogs on a fire followed by S’mores, the girls took Jackson in the tent and he fell asleep nestled between them watching the Lego Movie for the millionth time. (next road trip note: have more than two movies downloaded to tablet). Cece was snuggled in my arms asleep with her thumb in her mouth. I didn’t want to go to bed because it would mean the day was over. Josh and I sat there in our American flag camping chairs with our wine under a clear sky sprinkled with stars and the sound of a coyote howling in the distance. We are halfway between Denver CO and Eugene OR and miles away from everything else we know.

Writer’s Block

November 22, 2011

There is a feeling like a word on the tip of my tongue that I can’t quite get out. It is a thought that is stuck floating around my head unable to be closely pondered. The pursuit has come to a fork in the road unsure which direction to go. Do I go with the safe route which has always been the easy way out, or do I take the unknown direction to the land of oz? (Hopefully finding my brain, heart and nerve along the way). For the last month, I have thrown my heart and soul into this blog. I got up earlier (like ten minutes), got dressed up and even did something I was not used to doing, I planned in advance. The pursuit and my life became intertwined like two silk strands of a spider web. I wove little tales and trapped the bugs into my web of daily life. Then something happened, something I did not expect….writer’s block. I turned on the faucet and no water came out. The other day, I saw the first sign of the holiday season, the Salvation army bells. I dug into my purse, looking for loose change. Maybe the only reason I was there was to rent a movie, but I still wanted to start off my holiday season right. I dug into the crap trap that is my purse. I dug through receipts, reward cards, coupons, wallets, earrings…but no change. Not a dollar not a penny. I sat the purse on top of my car to get a better angle for me to reach my arm in. Still, I couldn’t find something that would satisfy my need to put into the red pot. Finally, I gave up and gave the bell ringer an apologetic smile. I guess that is what I have been feeling the last few days. I am reaching into my life digging for something that I just can’t find. Since I have started doing this, the one thing that I have feared the most has happened….I ran out of things to say. My thought path became blurred and I have lost sight of my master plan.

Thank you for bearing with me. Maybe the reason I spent the last ten years wishing I could write regularly was that I knew what I would do when things got tough….I would quit. Giving up on writing is what I consider to be taking the easy way. When the going gets tough…I get the hell out. I needed to go beyond my normal way of thinking tonight if I was going to salvage the confidence I have gotten by doing this. I have always taken the easy way…so now the other road is not that easy. This is the learning curve that I have created…so I will have to learn to see both sides of it.

Anyone else not have any clue how to ask for help…or what to do when someone offers you help. You want to take on the world alone…but you take on too much. I am pretty sure that sums up motherhood. You are the one they turn to for advice..the one who has all the answers. There was a time when I truly felt like an adult..that was the time my mom turned to me for advice. I felt so wise and important…like my opinion truly mattered. It started what kind of jeans she should buy and turned into important life decisions like jobs and money. Pretty soon, I was like her equal..or better yet a friend. I thought about that tonight when I asked for help. Who do you ask for help with writers block? I asked the artist of the house. Layla has quietly been typing up a storm. She discovered the wonder that is Microsoft Word…or as she calls it Ms.Word. She told me she is very excited to be typing up her adventure stories. Like me she wants to find a publisher to turn her stories into a book. I asked her if she ever got writer’s block. She looked at me perplexed. “Sometimes” she admitted. ‘What do you do?” I asked, “Where do you come up with your stories? You always seem to have something to write…do you ever wonder what to write next?” Layla: “Well at school at recess, me and my friend play adventure games so I come home and write them down. We are pretending to be a cat named Willow, a dog named Cutie, another dog named Sandy and a cat Fang. Then we always come up with ideas so I come home and write them down. I write my ideas while I am thinking…and sometimes I change my ideas.” She kept going on and on and on..mostly about cats, adventures, dragons, gills, amphibian skins…..” I looked at her…mostly the look in her eye as she looked off to one side. “So you just have a really big imagination?” I asked. “Yeah,” She smiled.

The recipe for creativity is difficult to make. It takes a pinch of determination, and ounce of dedication..a cup of patience all stirred together with a ton of imagination. When I get stuck in the rut of everyday life, it is not always easy for me to see beyond it. I don’t know how to make a world where cats talk and where a dog named Cutie calls all the shots. I am going trust in Layla’s imagination because I am sure she has enough to go around. Any kid smart enough to know the best way to enjoy a cake pop from the night before is to hide it from Daddy is worth paying attention to. For those of you who are writers..I would love to hear your story. How do you get through writer’s block? How do you find inspiration in the mundane? Learning to write is a lot like training for a marathon. It is not a sprint…but a slow and steady pace. There will be days when you excel at it and go that extra mile or two (pardon the cliche) and of course there will be days where you truck along and work your way through it. Writing has become too much a part of my life to give up I am going to have to take the different road, the scary road..the Alice in Wonderland road…and finish the race.

Since Layla is my inspiration for the night…I put up a picture of hers. Her art has become much more of a process and I don’t get the weekly pictures that I used to. It has been a while but here are one of her pictures.



What are some ways you get through writer’s block?