Saturday, October 31, 2009

Write of Passage-Day 2

August 3, 2009 - Davenport, Iowa to Sydney, Nebraska (692 miles)

"Make it through Nebraska by the end of the day, if you can."~ Josh, 8/3/09, 10:42 a.m.

Cote and I did our best to do just that, but when all was said and done, we fell short by 100 miles. We left Davenport, Iowa at 8:30 am, with fresh ice in our cooler and a hot cup of coffee from the nearest McDonald's. The plan was to hook up with Cousin Josh and Aunt Deb somewhere along I-80 during the morning hours. They were traveling east, coming home from Yellowstone National Park, where Josh had been working for the summer. He had lived, breathed, and explored this incredible outdoor wonderland for the past 60 days. Cote and I were excited to see them, and we couldn't wait to hear his stories.
Our paths crossed in Iowa City, 10 am. A McStop was just off the exit so we pulled in for an hour of coffee and conversation. How strange it was to meet up with family in a place so random, so far from home. They asked about our adventure, our plans, and climbing trees. We asked them about Yellowstone, its hidden treasures, and what to see if we only had two hours to spend there on our way back home. Josh's advice was priceless--"If you only have two hours in Yellowstone, here's what you do......Drive inside the park, and find a huge boulder. Stop the car, go over to the boulder and sit on it. Then put your head in your hands and start crying, because you only have two hours to spend in Yellowstone."
Since Cote and I had made a pact to have no set plan, no schedule, no "must-do" on this rite of passage, we accepted Josh's advice as much as we could, and continued on in faith, knowing all would be as it rightly should. We couldn't worry about how much time we'd have in places
we hadn't even visited yet, nor could we allow our minds to pitch forward into the unknown days ahead. Our only goal was to live the moment at hand.
After we said our goodbyes, we scooted back onto I-80 West, where cornfields and cattle dotted our landscape for the next 9 hours. The peaceful scenery led to a peaceful car ride, and once again Cote and I drifted in and out of contented silence. She snapped pictures, left and right, of nothing much at all, marking the minutes, masking the time. Then she took over driving at 2:00, owning the next 100 miles of Nebraska, while I kicked my chair back and took my eyes off active duty. Around 4 pm, the town of Kearny appeared, and we both got a bit slap-happy as there was finally something else to look at besides green fields and blue sky. We decided to take the exit, and hunt down a Taco Bell and the "Museum of Nebraskan Art," which sounded about as exciting to me as a root canal, but had caught Cote's fancy and she insisted we detour to check it out. (Actually, we weren't even sure this was the right name. We only caught a glimpse of the sign before exiting and then never saw another one again. We had no idea which way to turn, or what street to find it on). We rambled into town, laughing like a couple of school girls (which, I guess makes sense for one of us), while pointing out odd store-fronts and peculiar business signs to each other. One in particular, a huge white chicken perched above a neon sign advertising donuts, had Cote laughing so slap-happily I thought she was going to spit pieces of Crunchwrap all over the front seat.
After about 15 miles and a very valiant attempt, we finally gave up on finding the museum and headed back to I-80. We hit the expressway, and then hit the pedal a little harder....picking up speed until we were going 80 on 80. Wide open, flat green landscapes returned to greet us, only now they were speckled with large white windmills. They stood, row after row.....giant aliens stark white against fields of endless green. Their arms out-stretched, twirling slow, harnessing a power which could not be seen, to create a power within......a silent message taken to heart by the both of us, on this quiet, serene afternoon.
We hit a late-day dust storm, around Chappelle, NE, which quickly turned into an early-evening thunder & lightening show. It started with tumbleweed bouncing across the highway in front of us, entertaining Cote who had never seen such a sight, and distracting her from the darkening skies and rising winds. Rain eventually began pelting our car, blowing sideways across our
windshield. We drove on, trying to outrun a storm that seemed to be closing in and closing out the vastly blue and vastly quiet Nebraska sky we had grown accustomed to.
Our day ended just after nightfall when we pulled into Sydney. We were tired, we were spent. Going another mile was out of the question, for the next town on our map was well past the Wyoming border. Sydney, therefore, looked like a heavenly oasis at the end of our trek across a long, corn-fed desert. We found a simple motel, grabbed fresh clothes and our backpacks from the car, and then made like snails to our room. Stiff legs and growling stomachs, were relieved by hot showers and a quickly delivered pizza.
Around 11pm, Cote closed her laptop and I closed my journal. I thought our day had come to a close as well, but I was wrong. Instead of turning out the light, Cote launched a topic at me from out of the blue. My usually strong, always spirited, and for the most part, healthy self-esteemed daughter, had a question that was nagging her thoughts and picking at her resolve.
"Why is it that some people seem to like me, and others do not. And why......why...can't I just say, 'Like me, or don't. It's up to you and I don't care.'"
The fragile shell of our rite of passage, had finally broken open. The easy-breezy feel that had blown us this far on our journey, had been replaced by hidden storm clouds of self-doubt and self-worth, that I had no idea even existed. I sat there, amazed at the glimpse Cote was giving me into the interior of her 18-year-old soul. And the mother in me instinctively wanted to fight to protect her. I bit my tongue from blurting out an age-old response..."How could anyone not like you?" Instead, I had to remember who was now sitting in front of me, opening her heart, trusting me with her fears. Cote was no longer 5 years old, and having a spat with her best friend. She was a young woman, trying to determine the steps she needed to take to define who she would be in her own eyes, and in turn, who she stood to become in the eyes of others. I could not coo, I could not coddle her in response. She was searching for something more. And I had been given the distinct honor of helping her discover exactly what that something was.
Cote was asking a legitimate I had asked myself at her age...and one I'm sure we've all asked ourselves many times over.
So we forgot about the clock, we threw time out the window, and we talked well into the night. She described how certain people made her feel, and I did too. We realized that often times it's not so much about "us" as it is about "them".....when people don't seem to like us, because "they" are the ones carrying certain issues, specific baggage. We talked about finding strength to stand in the truth of who we really are, and finding ourselves in the midst of wherever we may be, and with whomever may be by our side. Sleep eventually caught up with us, gently and peacefully. But by the time it did, our minds had been put to rest, our spirits had been renewed. And as we both closed our eyes, our vision of each other had taken on a whole new scope of clarity.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Write of Passage-Day 1

August 2, 2009: Deerfield, MI to Davenport, Iowa (412 miles)

"Let your heart be your map." ~Hannah, 8/2009

Left home just after 1:00 p.m., after attending church in the morning and packing the car over lunch. Kind of weird heading out. Cote and I were excited, but we admitted it didn't feel real to either one of us. Felt more like we were on our way to Toledo for a day of shopping. When we hit the turnpike, however, and pointed the car west (don't we always go east?), reality began to set in. As we plucked our ticket from the big metal box and resumed our speed, our bodies seemed to sigh in unison and slide more comfortably down into the cushions of our seats. Was it my imagination, or had we been holding our breaths until then?

Light-hearted attitudes and conversations continued for awhile, but before long, the miles and minutes began to pass
in silence. We crossed the Indiana border, then the Illinois. Somewhere in that quiet stretch of highway, I had a mini-moment of panic.....What if the entire trip was like this? Long periods of time, with nothing but silence and changing landscapes taking
place between us? As quickly as that fear grabbed me, I let it go, however. I cracked open the window of my mind and let the eastbound breeze take it back to wherever it came from. I knew Cote and myself far better than to waste another minute fearing something like this. We had 12 long days ahead of us, with nothing but open roads to travel and wide open spaces to fill. There was no need to immediately unpack every question and conversation we had tucked into the suitcases of our minds. Rushing things would have felt forced, fake. Later in the evening, I realized what was really happening during those first few hours of our journey.....we were relaxing, releasing, and just being. We were emptying ourselves of all those distracting details that occupy one's minds every minute of the day. We were wiping the slate clean, in preparation of the lessons that would begin to arrive with tomorrow's sunrise. We were consciously allowing our souls to be silent in the wake of what was coming.
Topping our tank off in Toledo, took us as far as the cornfields of Princeton, IL.
(At which point, I was surprised to see we had less than "50 miles till empty" reading on our gas gauge. I had forgotten that as the only "acting" parent on this 5,000-mile trek, I would be the one solely responsible for such details as when to refuel! So, I petitioned Cote to pray for a quick-appearing gas station, and then made a mental note to check the gauge more regularly.)
Seven hours of driving didn't pass without a major mother/daughter discussion, however. The topic? "The Do's and Don'ts of Texting, 101." Cote and I stumbled into this conversation basically because she has a cell phone that works, and I don't. Let me explain...Her cell phone easily holds 5 full bars of reception and a reliable charge that can last for days. Mine must be plugged in for 18 hours so I can make one phone call before the line goes dead. Her cell phone takes messages, pictures, and can calculate how much to tip a waiter for a $13.68 bill. Mine will tell me if I missed a call (but not from whom). Hers, obviously has the ability to text. Mine has the ability to serve as a pretty paperweight for the stack of receipts I keep in the console of my car. It was easy to see who's phone would get the most use throughout the course of our entire trip.....Anyway, talking about the differences in our phones led to a late afternoon discussion on texting. Cote and I talked about our views on what's right, what's wrong, what's acceptable, and what's rude when using this modern form of communication. The slight (?) generation gap between us widened a bit as I expressed the negatives and Cote defended the positives. In the end, she agreed that in the presence of certain people (namely her mother at this point), it was rude to text or check for a text. And I conceded that yes, texting was a viable form of communicating with old friends and reaching out to new ones, and even suggested that her generation of "text-ters" may be expected to skillfully use this method of technology in the business world of tomorrow. But by the time Cote and I crossed over the Mississippi River, we had dipped even deeper into the whole "cell phone/texting" code of etiquette. We talked about how important it is to think about the message you're truly sending if you text while in the presence of someone else. Not the message you are typing with your thumbs and sending with the click of the keypad. But the message you are non-verbally sending to the person who is standing physically in front of you when you do. If you stop the flow of face-to-face friendship, in order to talk to the "invisible" face at the other end of your tiny keyboard , then what are you really saying? You're telling the person you're with, "You're not enough for me. I'm going to put some of my time and attention over here." What's more, you're placing yourself in two locations at once....something that used to be impossible to do....and for good reason. For if you divide yourself between two places, you can't be fully present in the magical moment of either. You'll end up with a chunk of time and attention that has been sliced, and diced, and split apart forever. And in the end, all that you'll have to show for your "dual-communicating" is a handful of texts that could have waited until later, and an opportunity missed entirely to be one-on-one with the one you're with.
Cote and I called it a night when we hit Davenport, Iowa, around 8:00 pm and pulled in to the AmericInn motel. As we walked inside our room, she handed me two letters from loved ones back home that she had kept secret from me in her backpack.
"Sure," she said. "You get two letters and I don't get anything. How do you like that?"
I turned my head and smiled. For I had 14 secret letters of my own, written by 14 incredible women from Cote's life. Months ago I had asked these women to do this.....write words of advice and and inspiration from their own lives for Cote to read and take to heart while on this sacred rite of passage. The letters would be handed out, one by one, over the next 12 days with no mention of when or from whom. I decided to let Cote "suffer"empty-handed a bit longer, while I savored my own unexpected letters and she took her shower. I still held off while she ate Chinese take-out, "face-booked" and sent goodnight text messages to her girlfriends back home. Then, just before she turned out the light, I casually tossed her first sealed envelope onto her bed. Cote let out a whoop of delight, and grabbed the precious gift, hugging it to her chest. Her fingers slid the note out from its holder, this one from Aunt Cathy, and the room fell silent as Cote fell under the spell of words carefully written in pen, just for her......

Monday, October 19, 2009

Write of Passage-The Journey Begins, Part 2

Alright, so we left off with the seed being planted, and the dream beginning to grow. But then what? Well, to be honest, for the next year and a half not much. In the hustle and bustle of every day life, Cote and I only spoke of climbing trees every so often. We threw occasional comments over our shoulders as we passed each other in the hall, and reminded one another that "someday" was still looming somewhere out on the horizon. Sitting down and mapping out an official plan of action never happened, though. There was too much other stuff to do. Cote was knee-deep in her senior year of high school, and I was in deep trying to keep up with what that all meant. Each day was a mini-milestone that needed to be savored, no matter how bittersweet.....from last school pictures, to final float buildings. Cote's last bump, set, spike to her final shot from the free throw line. And for me in particular, watching her come down the stairs dressed for her senior prom, to the moment I saw her walk up the aisle in her cap and gown. With each passing day, I could feel the child-like grasp Cote once kept on my hand, beginning to loosen. She was unlacing her fingers from mine, slowly and gently, one by one, and rightly so. Change was in the air. It fell upon us softly that year, along with the autumn leaves, the winter snow, and the springtime showers.
And one day it hit me.....soon we would become the faded shadows of who we used to be.
With this revelation came the pounding of an invisible time clock in my ear. The count-down was already well underway, to when Cote would be decorating a dorm-size new home and exploring a campus-size new backyard. Before I knew it, she would be out in the world, standing on her own, and making choices without the benefit of her mother's endless supply of unsolicited advice at her disposal. Was she really ready for this?....Was I?
Suddenly “tree-climbing” became crucial. But not just so we could push ourselves 250' up into the air anymore. It was now about a mother and daughter taking a journey that would weave them together, permanently and indefinitely, in a brand new way. A rite of passage that would open our eyes, our hearts, and our voices to what needed to be said, what needed to be felt. We needed time alone, time uninterrupted and time free of distraction, to talk about life, love, relationships, following one's heart, and believing in one's dreams. We needed time to talk about who we really were and who we were going to become. We needed time.
So, our tree-climbing conversations got serious. We quickly narrowed down the “when”--August, 2009. (June was disqualified because of graduation. July because of a family vacation.) The "how" was a bit more challenging, however. I had always assumed we would fly to the West Coast. It would make our trip shorter, easier and much more"manageable." It wasn't until March 2009, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, that I found out Cote had a totally different idea of transportation in mind. She wanted to drive.
"DRIVE?" I said. "Drive to Oregon? Cote, do you realize it would take us 12-14 days, round trip, to do something like that?...Think about it...14 a car...a-lone...with just your mother?"
Her answer surprised me, and then reminded me of what life is truly all about.
"Mom," she said, "It's not about just showing up and climbing a tree. It's about seeing everything there is to see along the way. It's about the journey...what it takes to get there. And I want to see it all. I don't want to miss a thing."
I sat there stunned. Her eyes held such passion and hope and determination. She believed we could really do this. For years I had been encouraging my girls to "fully participate in life everyday." I threw this phrase at them every chance I got, hoping it would stick. Now my oldest was sitting here, telling me she was ready to do just that. How could I say no?
And so, the final piece of the puzzle was put in place; we picked the date of our departure. Sunday, August 2nd, 1:00 p.m. Looking at the calendar, this would give us two full weeks before the next standing obligation in our agendas beckoned us back home. No other formal planning went into this trip, however. That part was intentional. The journey needed to match Cote's free-spirited style as much as possible. Thus, there were no schedules and no "must-dos." We had wiggle room inside this adventure for unexpected wrong-turns and detours, that of course would lead us right to where we were supposed to be. We had our destination. Eugene, Oregon. But how and when we got there was a blank book, all our own. It was wide open and ready for us to fill in, with our very own words and pictures scrawled across every page.
Well, there you have it...the history of how all this got started. It's time now to pack up the car and head west. Before we do, however, let me give you one final and fair warning. From here on out the writing style for this "Write of Passage" will become choppy. Some sentences you read may be complete, others I can promise will not. I'll be sharing straight from my journal.....notes I wrote after long days of driving, full days of "participating." You will be privy to some private conversations, you will view some incredible landscapes, and you will hear some quiet reflections that were taken from the back corners of my mind. I tried my best to capture everything. Every detail, every perspective, every hope, every disappointment, every triumph, every disagreement, every discovery.
It's time for us to get going. I hope you'll come back for the ride.
*End note: This trip did not materialize independently of conversations with Dan, my husband. Many discussions took place prior to Cote and I hitting the open road. Although I left this part out, know that these were important background conversations that held merit and weight. Suffice it to say, I had his blessing before we left. He understood my reasons, and he supported every precious mother/daughter mile.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Write of Passage--The Journey Begins, Part 1

Ok, you may have asked yourself by now, "How did this all get started?"
How is it that Cote and I spent two weeks driving 5000 miles together, to climb trees on the west coast, the summer before she left for college? Well, let me just say.....the whole thing began when I made a simple comment about two years ago. It was an off-the-cuff remark in response to an article I had found in my latest issue of Women's Health magazine. It was a "YOU CAN DO THIS" article, a monthly column designed to challenge the reader to push herself to new and never before imagined limits, both physically and mentally. This time it just happened to be out on the limb of a 250' Douglas fir. The picture posted here was the one that stopped my fingers from flipping any further through the glossy pages of my magazine that day. I couldn't believe my eyes. I had never seen a more beautiful tree, and I had never in my wildest dreams ever considered it was possible to climb one.
I devoured the article, word for word. When I finished, I looked over at my oldest daughter, the one who has loved to climb trees since she's been tall enough to reach the bottom branches (tiptoeing on wobbly step stools, of course), and said these now infamous words......."Someday you and I are going to climb REAL trees." I proudly held up the article so she could see just how serious I was, and like any normal, enthusiastic, open-minded 16-year-old, she looked at me and said,"Yeah, right Mom."
But something happened that day. A seed was planted, an idea took root, and a dream began to grow. I cut the article out, placed it in a special folder, and every so often I would reread over the author's incredible account of what it took and what it was like to climb these massive trees. I didn't know how and I didn't know when, but I knew someday Cote and I would have our own tree-climbing story to tell, a version written just by us.
When I tucked the article away that day, I tucked a few extra dollars into a plain white envelope as well. I did this almost subconsciously, and then I started adding to it whenever I could. A few dollars here, a few dollars there. Whatever I had left over at the end of the month, or whatever I was willing to pretend I never had. On the outside of the envelope I wrote these words by John Muir...."In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." Someday Cote and I would walk into a forest glade, far from home, and find the answers to questions we didn't even know we were searching for. The journey we would take to get there would be filled with adventure and riddled with unknowns. Yet we would discover more about ourselves, more about each other, and more about this big beautiful world we live in, than we could have ever imagined was out there. All we had to do was open the car door, buckle up, and press the pedal forward.
I think I'll stop here for now. I'll give you a break, and I'll give my mind a chance to relax/regroup. I'll come back and finish the "beginning" of this story, the next time I'm here. There's only a little bit left to tell before we actually pack up the car and head west. I hope to see you then....

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A New Day

Welcome to the Write to Remain. I chose what seems to be a fragment of a title simply because of the deep meaning these words hold for me. I'm here because I love the written word; I love reading it, I love writing it, and I love what it offers.....a sense of permanence and presence. I have also learned over the years that when I write, I find I remain more at peace, I remain more hopeful, and I remain more centered....with the world and with myself. Finding the time to write, however, is not always easy in this fast-paced, non-stop reality we live in. My hope is that by creating this site, I will be inspired to put pen to paper daily, that I will hold this place and time write...and to remain.
I'm glad you decided to drop in. Please stay as long as you would like, come back as often as you can. I plan on being here. There has been much floating around inside my head that for years I have longed to put down on paper. Believe me when I say I have plenty of material to work with. All that I ask is that you be patient with me. I'm new at this. To be honest, just a few months ago I had never even ever visited a blog site. Now I'm trying to create one of my own. But with encouraging words from some old friends and from some new acquaintances, I'm ready to give this a try. You should know, however, that I'm not used to doing this....putting my unedited writings out there for the world to see. I'm literally (ok, figuratively) taking my "blogging wings" out of the box for the very first time. I'm not exactly sure how to put them on, nor am I sure how well they'll work once I do. But I know I'm ready to find out. So hang on, as I push myself off the edge to see if I can really fly.

One of the first stories I hope to share with you is the "Write of Passage Journey" I took with my daughter Cote, this past summer. She and I spent 14 days in August traveling to the west coast and back, driving highways, byways, and deserted country roads. It was to be her Rite of Passage into womanhood before leaving for college this fall. But in so many ways, it was a time of growth and self-discovery for the both of us. I journaled the entire experience....everything from our accomplishments and disappointments, to our highest hopes and deepest fears. From climbing trees in Oregon to sleeping in our car inside of Yellowstone. You'll be able to read all about it if you decide to come back and visit, which I truly hope you do.

So, I guess this is it. It's a new day.....there's a slight breeze beginning to stir the air. It's time.....time to stretch those wings, step off that edge of security, and see if I have what it takes to fly...........

Powerful Words

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable. ~Kahlil Gibran