Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mississippi to Maine: Day unknown (Atlanta)

We are all tired. That is simply all there is to it. Tired and off schedule and ready to be back home. Of course, in a few days, the children will most likely be "bored", vut that is o.k.: be bored.

I'm not a very "fun" mom at the moment. Bickering, grumping, yelling (happy) and drifting around (rest stops) are not even remotely acceptable at this stage of the game. Traffic is too heavy. Running out in the street or lagging behind is just not a good idea. I'm tempted to tether the four year old to my waist. I did it with my now grown children and once to Bright Boy, when he was nearly five. He was so ashamed. Here's this four year old with the hang dog head gently saying, "Mom, I won't get lost". We were in New Orleans five years ago. And yeah, I was afraid. That memory of that sad little face, keeps me from strapping his younger brother to my side. Bear might not even notice...just continue his ricocheting through life, oblivious. But I don't.  I hold his hand when he'll let me, and otherwise send him ahead of me and holler at him when he starts careening towards traffic. Miss Muffet might have a hearing problem. Seriously,  I'm starting to wonder. Everything is at a very high vocal volume with her: loud, louder, and full on yelling. In the car, it seems magnified ten fold. "Sweetheart! STOP YELLING!" Yes, ironic. I hear it and cringe.

Ugg. How to be a "kid whisperer"? That is the next task at hand for me. To train them in kindness and gentleness and by example. "Look into my eyes, so that I know you are listening."

And, no, if I told you, ___, to be quiet, I do not have to answer your question.

God willing, tomorrow will see us home.

Mississippi to Maine: day unknown (Winston-Salem)

Last night we stopped at H's home and oh, what a joy that has been. It is hard to put into words all this woman has and is teaching me: humanity, compassion, grace. We shared lovely food and this morning,  I had the best cup of coffee in my life. She was a true friend, in that she offered me rest and comfort, at a time when I was weary and in need of conversation and peace. We are on our way again, about to leave Trader Joe's, and the best thing I take with me is a stronger sense of self and contentment in the present moment.
Thank you, H and C, for your hospitality!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mississippi to Maine: Day unknown (Chamersburg)

And so is life: beautiful and inspiring and bumpy and scary. And that is just life.  Thankfully,  I'm learning to roll with it instead of being overwhelmed by it: good or bad. It started yesterday with heavy traffic and my tire light repeatedly coming on. I'd pull over and check. Then pull over again. My "easy drive" kept getting stretched put by road construction and my pulling over. And then less than 10 miles out from our host's home, it happened: the car jiggered and shuddered and began to make a horrible "crunching" noise. We were driving at 60 miles an hour on the Merritt Parkway.  I do not know what to do, but to get off and get on a side street.

The check engine light comes on and I do a quick assessment,  while sternly telling the children to be completely silent. I locate a mechanic on GPS and we very slowly poke our way there. And then, I see a BP station with a garage attached: three mechanics and a half a dozen regular cars. It looks clean. They look busy. I pull in. Mario wipes his hands on a rag and comes over to meet me. His Latino face is open and he brings his diagnostic scanner to verify if what he thought was the problem, indeed was. He explained what needed to be done. He offered to drive me to another garage, if I felt he was trying to cheat me. He arranged for a driver to take me and the children to my friend's house.

And so, I let trust and common sense govern the decision. And they fixed my car for LESS than quoted: it runs great! And they gave me a free windshield wiper for my back window (replacement). AND free juices for my kids to drink.

Bridgeport,  apparently,  has a reputation for being a bit sketchy. Well, thank HP, I found a place that treated me with kindness and fairness and courtesy. TC Auto: you rock!

And then today, after the loveliest of visits with my host family, where we shared a delightful dinner and caught fireflies, and learned about an artist's life and work,  and slept soundly and saw wild turkeys in the backyard in the early morning and had ice cream for breakfast and played for too short anytime at the beach... we set off again.

I recently was given a delightful gadget: a Garmin GPS navigation system.  I plug in my destination and away we go.  Marvelous invention. Except for thw fact that it decided I needed to go to Pennsylvania by way of Manhattan.  Yeah, that Manhattan: as in New York City (insert the T.V. commercial for Pace picante sauce here) Never, ever, ever have I been in such traffic! Atlanta is a farm town and Seattle a village compared to the vast, heaving, moving mechanical monster that is NYC traffic! It took 90 minutes to traverse 7 miles. We all stared in awe at the heaping rows of buildings with the NYC skyline in the distance. We admired the graffiti and the fast-moving public trains. We crossed thw George Washington Bridge and marvelled at how high up we were and how small the boats below us. And we crawled, with thousands of other cars along to New Jersey, and crawled some more.

Earlier, as I had passed the sign for the Trappensee Bridge, my mind was saying...that is the way we should go..., vut my paper map was buried and the road to crowded and the GPS said go "this way"...

Lesson learned: go with your gut.
Other lessons learned:
- Keep your phone plugged in to the ALL times,  for it will "play dead" when you least need it too.
- Tank up before a 1/2 tank when approaching a big city. You may not have a way to exit easily
- And go potty before you get too close to heavy traffic. Have a backup plan for kids, but don't tell them. Like Pavlov's dog, say "potty" and they've immediately "got to go".
- Breathe deep. It is just traffic. Rush and traffic do not mix.
- Be proactive on your car's maintenance. Review what is due when, preferably before you take a big trip.
- Be positive. As overwhelming as driving in NYC is, I definitely want to go back. Just not in a car. Like I repeatedly told the kids as we crept along: oh we are coming here again! We just have to plan it better. For instance, we will be like the locals and use public transportation and have our route planned out ahead of time.

So, we Robinsons are coming back New York: We will get right in at the heart of you and learn to laugh and love you and your millions of citizens!

And so, here we are in Chambersburg, PA. All, save me are sleeping now, though the tension of Tuesday came out in obnoxious bed bouncing behavior. Showers and squeaks later, they snore peacefully, my weary ones. They have done so well today. It wasn't Ruby Falls or the Natural Bridge as an excursion, just a grueling day. A day where we kept our wits and good humor. A very full day of both positives and negatives.

But it ends on a positive: together,  safe and warm.