Normally, when someone speaks of their summer images of surf, sand, fun in the sun, picnics, and just general fun outdoors comes to one’s mind. Well, it comes to my mind, anyhow.
The thing is, I will most likely be doing very few of those fun things this summer. My husband lost his job the week before Easter and was unemployed for 9 1/2 weeks. Thankfully, he’s now back at work. However, he can’t take a vacation until September. By then our 11-year-old daughter will be back in school, which will then preclude us from being able to leave town. Last summer we went to Maui. Then last November we went to New Orleans. Both were awesome trips, each very unique, and for me, both were quite spiritually fulfilling.
I have discovered that with this summer that will be spent completely at home I had fallen into a trap. Perhaps this trap was invented by the travel industry. Maybe it’s somehow engrained into us by society. I’ve no idea. The trap I’m speaking of is “home-isn’t-any-fun-so-we-must-leave-town-in-order-to-find-fun-things-to-do.”
How many of you have fallen into the same trap? I took this picture as we sat down for our first dinner in Maui last summer. It’s idyllic, isn’t it? There was the sound of the surf not 50 feet from our table. You could smell the plumeria blooming in the trees all around us. The ocean breezes caressed our faces. Fond memories, one and all.
This summer what are we doing? I’ll tell you. Every summer I work with our daughter. I prepare her for the coming school year. This is why she excels year after year to the point that moving into middle school next year her teachers instructed us to enroll her in all Pre-AP (Advanced Placement) courses. Since she was averaging 4 to 5 A’s per report card, we agreed with their assessment.
As with every summer, the first weekend school let out Ariel and I headed to the bookstore to get her work books. I started working with her last week, giving her a couple of weeks to have nothing but fun to start her summer. I am now very shocked and downright furious with the three teachers she had for the fifth grade. I am discovering her vocabulary is lacking. Her math skills are not up to snuff, and her reading comprehension isn’t where it should be. Those workbooks are arranged so the first few lessons are meant as review. The child should always know all this material and be able to breeze on through it. However, Ariel is having problems. LOTS of them.
Now I know my summer will be spent cracking the whip over the poor child, who through no fault of her own, is having all sorts of issues with division, fractions (“Mom, we did those, but I don’t remember any of it”), not knowing that “create” and “destruction” are antonyms, and so on and so forth. I am so dismayed with her teachers, who never once communicated with me she was having any trouble whatsoever. In fact, they stressed how well she was doing. Well, I guess if you’re teaching a fifth grader on a 3rd or 4th grade level and the child is intelligent, they are bound to do well. I had no idea that’s what had been happening. The fifth grade teachers for this year had decided to abolish homework. YES! The time-honored tradition of giving a kid work to do at home so they could practice the concepts they were learning in school – ABOLISHED FOR THE YEAR!! She got a few assignments here and there, but nothing like she did every single year previous – even in kindergarten she had homework every single day. I discussed this with her teachers who assured me Ariel was doing fine and would do very well moving on to middle school, so well, in fact, that they insisted she be placed in all Pre-AP courses.
Now Mom is freaking thinking, “there’s no way on earth this child will be able to remain in Pre-AP, she’ll get moved back and this will traumatize her for life.” I was in Advanced Placement in 8th grade and my best friend got moved back. She NEVER got over it, and although after we moved on to high school very few people knew about it, she carries that stigma with her to this day. I do NOT want that for MY child.
So now Mom’s cracking the whip, and suddenly Mom had become the BAD GUY. Oh, Mom is MEAN because Mom wants her kid to do Math. Mom is horrible because I force my kid to do these reading assignments and answer questions about what she’s read. Wow, and we haven’t even gotten to the grammar section of her workbooks yet! So just she wait. She’s in for a real treat when it comes to grammar, not one of my specialties, either. Then again, neither is math. Thank goodness for those answer keys that come tucked in the back of each work book.
So there I was on Friday, the day before my 47th birthday, feeling sorry for myself. I was going to be stuck home all summer long with a surly child who did not want to do her workbook assignments and who was repeatedly insisting I was mean as I repeatedly patiently explained to her how her teachers had let her down, how she had to get up to speed if she expected to do well in 6th grade, and how important a good education is to everyone in our family and that one day she will be going to college if we have anything to say about it, and believe me, we have PLENTY to say!
I was sitting in our breakfast nook that overlooks the backyard. Back in April, 2008 as my mother was in a long-term care facility recuperating from a severe blood infection that nearly killed her, we had a deck built. It’s a very nice, large deck with room for a dining room-size patio table with a ceramic tile surface and six comfy patio chairs. Our propane grill is also on the deck. There’s also a lot more room available. I was sitting there thinking that with all that had gone on with my mom, who ended up getting a second blood infection and died January 20, 2008, that we hadn’t had any time to really use that deck. After she died, my dad moved in with us as it was sadly apparent he had no idea how to take care of himself. He put himself in the hospital with gastric interitis a week after Mom had passed. That was it. We moved him in and I was looking forward to spending time with him. That’s when it became apparent something was very wrong with him. He developed dementia and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He passed away September 20, 2009.
The day Dad passed away I was also looking out at our deck thinking, “wow, what a great deck, but we’ve never really used it with all the time I spend in the hospitals and nursing homes. Wish I had time to use my deck.” Ten minutes later I got the dreaded call. Dad had just died. As I hung up the phone in tears I heard his voice. He said quite simply, “it’s okay now. Go ahead and use your patio.” To Dad, it was a patio. We call it a deck. So I knew for sure it was him and not my mind playing tricks on me.
Time has passed. My husband and I were planning a trip to England for this summer, my spiritual home. I’ve had 3 past lives there of which I can recall some vivid details to the point I found one of my former houses, still intact and now a lovely B&B in the Somerset countryside. I was excited beyond belief I was going to get to go back, having last been to London in 1991. Prior to that I was in England in 1989 for a 2-week tour of England, Cornwall and Wales that had the theme of “The Real and the Legendary King Arthur.” We saw all the places mentioned in the stories. I felt I’d died and gone to heaven. Perhaps more on that in another blog. I had some interesting experiences there – one involving a crop circle, the other my own personal ghost in my hotel room.
Happily planning our trip and about to start making reservations, Stuart came home with tears in his eyes to tell me he’d just lost his job. I remember all the pamphelts of the London tube system, day trips to Stonehenge and Bath, a trip up to the Cotswolds, all slid off my lap and landed willy-nilly on the cold tile floor. I looked down at all those lovely photos of places I had either never seen or dearly loved to see again. I cried more over that trip than my husband losing his job. For me, the day that trip ended was the day my dream of returning to my spiritual home died. At least for the time being. There’s always next summer.
So, no trips, no weekend getaways as my husband doesn’t like to travel for just a couple of days unless it’s to see his parents in Austin (something I loath doing as they’re fairly negative people who are quite judgmental of what I do and what I believe).
Friday, as I sat there looking out at our deck I told the Universe, “I’m going to have a nice vacation this summer and it will be right out there on our deck. So, let’s make it happen!” Then I let it go as Ariel needed me, the dinner needed to get cooked, the dog needed to be played with – duty constantly calls when you’re a mother, even if you’re only a mother of one, as I am.
Saturday was my birthday and Stuart took me for lunch at McDonald’s, then it was shopping for me. He gave me a Sony Bloggie, a pair of Sketcher’s Shape Ups (which really do seem to work, I’m so shocked and pleased!), and then dinner out, the evening ending with a wonderful full body massage courtesy of my husband. All in all a great day. I was too busy to spend any time out on the deck.
Sunday was Father’s Day and we shopped again, this time for Stuart who wanted an iPhone, but changed his mind and didn’t want the new one. He wanted the same model I have, so we found it for $99 at WalMart. We had to go to 2 WalMarts to find one and once we did he got the last one they had. While we were there he wandered off and came back with a cart loaded with two chez lounge chairs for our deck. I immediately thought back to what I had told the Universe. Stuart hates to spend money, being a banker and also having security issues, so for him to splurge on additional patio furniture when we don’t use the patio was pretty much downright insane of him. As he came up to me he said, “I figure we have this great patio we haven’t had much of a chance to use due to all the bad stuff going on with our family these past few years, so I figured I’d get these chairs and we can spend more time out there.”
I smiled. Yes, the Universe DOES work in MYSTERIOUS ways 🙂
So this summer I’ll be out on my patio enjoying the view of my rose garden, half of which died off in the winter hard freezes we had this past winter, but they’re coming back slow, but sure.
As I gazed out into my yard early this morning I realized that a real vacation isn’t a place. It’s a state of mind. Relax. Enjoy the moment. That’s how you really get away. You can go to the most exciting or romantic location you can dream up, but if you’re weighed down with the concerns of your life how is that a vacation?
While I stretched out in my new lounge chair sipping an amaretto ice coffee I had just brewed, I sighed. The humidity, ever present around here, was causing my hair to clump in an unruly manner. My bra was collection perspiration. I wasn’t extremely comfortable, but as I drew in a deep breath and caught the faint whisper of the scent of roses from my rose bushes, I smiled. This is my summer vacation and I can take it any time I want, as many times as I like throughout the day and well into the evening. There’s no airplane to catch. No uncomfortable hotel bed. It’s just me, my deck, my roses, and the Universe.
This is what I plan to do with my summer. What about you?