Back. Home. Kinda.

Thirty-three days and 4062 miles later, we're home.

Except it doesn't actually feel so much like home right now. I mean, our stuff is here and our creatures are here and there are friends and family and school. But somehow, it feels like it's just masquerading as home. Familiar, but not quite exactly right.

Burners refer to this feeling as Post-Playa Depression. Articles pop-up reminding us of the little things, especially NOT to make any important decisions within the tender weeks after you return.

Monkey Re-Entry Rule Number 1:
Wait three weeks before you make any life-changing decisions...
Step 1. Take a shower, hippie. Shave, shower, steam everything off. Take two. Or three. Then go to sleep. You need it.
Step 2. Clean your gear. Wash your clothes, car, stuff, or pack it up into the Burner corner of your house. Pack it away and dry it out. Recycle, do your garbage, and wash your dishes. Get it put away.
Step 3. Breathe. Go through all your Burner stuff from this year, sort and organize, and then happily stash it away for good memories for later.
— Albert Kaufman

Many schedule decompression events (from small personal things to large regional events) to come together with other Burners and try to ease back into the world as we know it. There is a whole culture around coming back to your life. The last time we went to Burning Man, I really didn't feel it. I thought it was some radical Burner thing. That said, I was only on Playa for four days last time. This time? Ten. Last time, that was my whole trip. This time? Thirty-three days away from home. 

IT FEELS DIFFERENT.

But I'd like to submit it's not all due to Burning Man. For me, it's about taking a step out of my life and then being forced to return and cope with all the things. Before we left, our lives had taken a huge hit and we were in crisis mode. Everything felt broken and raw and like you had to hold up a shield to any conversation. Leaving town was the smartest thing we could have done for our family. Being away meant we could focus on the things that mattered RIGHT NOW. We could alter our perspective and look at the world with wonder again. We could stay in the company of good friends and not talk about it, if we didn't want to. We could start each day plotting our route and our survival and spending long hours sitting next to each other. We sang loudly, we car danced, we listed to audio books, we argued about things until we dissolved into giggles, we refereed fights between the girls with the words, "We're a family! We need each other! I need you to show love, dammit!"

Home feels different and that's maybe a good thing. It's like a jacket that has been let out a little too much and now we need to take it in or learn to fill it with our curves. Now we need to rethink all the things. We need to make plans. We have to reevaluate what comes next. 

Good news is, we can do that. And it's going to be epic. 

 

Photo of me and the Mister © by Erich Remash. All other images © Elaine Gingery.

What love and loss can give

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Our last full day in Nevada City was spent honoring the fella that started it all. My Mister comes from a pretty amazing family and just a couple of months ago, we lost the patriarch, a fine gentleman of 99-years who went by the nickname of Zacco. With us in town on our Epic Road Trip and the rest of the family close enough to make a day or overnight visit, we gathered together on what used to be family land to tell stories, laugh together and say our goodbye. It was a long, emotional, and beautiful day with the family and at the end, Zacco's ashes ran in the same water as his wife's, who we lost 17-years-ago.

telling stories

It was a fantastic way to end this part of our trip, knowing our daughters are surrounded with the kind of people who can stand together in a circle and honor the past while looking to the future with such care and sensitivity. My girls are learning how to hold up in the face of deep loss (which we've had too much of this year) and reach out to those around them for comfort and support. This year has been so damn hard for them and they are so much stronger than I could have ever imagined. We've joked that this year is giving them more character than they know what to do with, but in all honesty, they are showing me how much they already have and what fine people they are. I feel so lucky to share my life with these people.

Today we leave our strong girls with their Grandparents and head East to the desert, where we'll spend a little over a week in Black Rock City. Weather reports claim it'll be an excellent week to be at Burning Man, but I have no faith in such things. It'll be what it will be. And we're learning that not knowing and sometimes being uncomfortable is just how it is. This is what loss is teaching me: to sit in discomfort, hope for the best (even though it won't always deliver), and find my way through with the love of those around me.

The rest isn't up to me, anyway.


Prepping to Burn

 Making family memories on the shore of Crater Lake

Making family memories on the shore of Crater Lake

Since we ran away from home on rather short notice, we're getting ready for our pilgrimage to Burning Man on the fly. Mark stashed a full tool kit on-board and has been making repairs and modifications to the trailer in campgrounds all over the West Coast. The looks you get when you whip out power tools and start attaching stuff to your moving home... it's kinda worth it. I even took a Sharpie to the car-top carrier and added a couple of Burning Man symbols for kicks, after we found ourselves hollering at a passing bus with a big image on the back.

Currently we're in Nevada City, where the Mister's mom lives. With only a few days to go before we head out to Black Rock City, we're hitting thrift stores like hippie gangsters. Today I found a blue fuzzy jacket to take the chill out of desert evening, turned it inside-out so it shows all the fuzzy bits and cut out the label so I don't look like I was drunk when I got dressed. Which could actually be the case because: Burning Man. I've decided it makes me look like Sulley from Monsters, Inc. And I'm hoping to help it along with purple hair, which I think I can track down in this little town.

I also found this amazing dress like object, but had to rip a couple seams to make it work. Thankfully my mother-in-law has offered to sew up the rough edges for me, as I am rather useless with a sewing machine. I actually break them like I'm trying to destroy all the things in the universe (it's a curse). And this sewing machine, I cannot break. It belonged to my mother-in-laws Grandmother and is hella pretty and (for someone like me) hella intimidating in it's simplicity. So I don't touch it, which seems wise.

Meanwhile, we're figuring out what needs to go out to Black Rock with us and what will fly home with our children. Who, by the way, are flying without us for the first time ever. Their Uncle is going to fly with them, so we're not actually doing the unaccompanied minor thing; still feels like a big deal anyway. I had a blast of a conversation with the agent at the airline, who also has an eleven-year-old daughter, about the importance of time away from your kids. "I send my daughter off to see Grandma and she comes back a whole different kid. It's like those two weeks teaches her so much... I just can't believe it!" We also made fun of people who don't text, but that's another story.

I can't believe we're already half way through this trip. It's been so very good for us, as a family. As our girls get closer and closer to their teen years, we're looking for ways to make sure they stay connected and it turns out this was a damn good one. Their love for each other and their trust for us has grown exponentially over the last three weeks and we feel so grateful that the universe took away our jobs so we could do this trip. It's crazy to feel that way, for sure. But the opportunities we've been offered as a result have been life-changing in such a positive way.

Hopefully I'll get one more chance to check in here before I run off to the desert and hit radio silence in the wifi-wasteland that the desert can be. We have early entry for the event so will likely be out there Thursday or Friday. And then we'll say Hi in September. How are you wrapping up your summer?

running away from home

I took a break from blogging. Kind of a big one. I have lots of theories about why that happened, but I'm not really interested in spending all my time on that and would instead prefer to jump back into things, if I can. 

So we're on the road. For five weeks. Because when your life (as you know it) falls apart, you might as well run away from home. With your whole family.

It's been one hell of a year. 

We've lost friends (both physically and emotionally), we've lost two dogs (one to poisoning and one to old age), we lost our jobs (one by choice, the other notsomuch), we've run into one road block after another on the house we're trying to build; in short, we've struggled. And that's just how 2014 has been. 

We've been rolling with it, the best we can. Thankfully our marriage has never been stronger due to all we've had to navigate and all the talk-talk-talking and all the making it work, dammit. And after 14 years of marriage, a good old series of crisis can be just the thing to bring a couple closer.

How nice for us, right?

When we found ourselves unemployed at the same time and had no obligations for the rest of the summer, we set to the very serious work of running away from home. We theorized that, with some new dirt under our feet and a big dose of day to day survival, we might be able to get our heads clear enough to figure our lives out a little.

So far we've traveled up the West Coast, made a hard right at Seattle and are currently nestled into the woods outside of Spokane with some good friends. This trip has been filled with stunningly beautiful people and outrageous landscapes, both of which have been soothing to this weary soul. Currently we're holed up for most of a week while The Mister makes some repairs/alterations to our traveling home. Side bonus: he gets to cultivate one of his favorite bromances with his beer drinking, repair making, gun toting buddy. It's kinda cute.

We're trying to determine what route we'll take South. Shall we go a little more East and see Hell's Canyon? Or should we cut to the West and check out Crater Lake? These are the kinds of decisions one has to make when they've run away from home. That and, "How are we feeding ourselves today?"

The other decisions involve "What comes next?" The Mister has a job lined up for September and I have a couple of offers on the table. I have promised myself and those offering that I won't make a decision until I return from our trip. After five years in a job I was really good at but I didn't really enjoy, I'm trying to make a very clear picture in my mind about what I want my professional life to look like. It's freeing, setting this kind of intent. And the cool thing is that I feel like the desires I have already identified are totally doable. That feels a little bit like magic.

There so much more I could say about this trip, but I have to give myself a reason to return to this blog, so will end on a note about magic:

It's everywhere. 

Those who define love

3generations

Last time I bothered to write, it was about the impending loss of my Grandmother, which hasn't happened yet. She's holding steady. The last couple times I saw her, though, I couldn't understand her speech, she didn't appear to have any idea who I was and spent most of the time I was there agitated. The girls have no idea how to be with her and honestly, I don't either. I have never been any good at sitting still. I have to be talking and doing all the damn time and with her, that's not always the way to be. Clearly it's a skill I should learn.

But it's my Grandfather I really came to write about today.

Sunrise

I find myself at the edge of another emotional precipice.

This one is spelled "Alzheimer's".

For me, it's only a shallow fissure, running up and down the map of my skin, parts crumbling painfully while other sections are almost imperceptible. I see it more clearly in my Aunt, the Designated Power of Attorney, or the DPOA as they sometimes refer to her at the care facility. She is heavy in this. She carries a binder so dense it has its own gravity, within it every medical decision, note, symptom and complaint for both of them, going back to 2006. "Someday," she tells me, "You'll have to make a binder like this for your parents."

strong, powerful girl-folk

7 days: 7 ~ super Anya

Amazing things have been happening at the Wannabe Hippie house. These children of mine? They just keep becoming more and more awesome. The little one has turned seven since last I posted and, not surprisingly, learned to fly shortly thereafter. She's strong and sensitive and lovely and strong willed and smart and difficult and expressive and won't take the world for any less than she deserves. It's amazing to watch her grow these days as each day brings me someone more complex and unexpected.

And we wonder why kids are growing up too fast...

me and my girls

As my big kid approaches her last year of life in the single digits (she'll be nine in JUNE!) I've noticed that people have started to view her friendships with boys as something more. Now, when she's playing in the yard with Sajen or Noah -- friends she's had since Kindergarten, mind you -- adults start making soft little "aww" sounds and remarking on the young love. But I can't see how the playing she's doing now is that different from just a year or two ago.

This last weekend my friend Lisel wanted to take her son Owen to see the current play at one of the theatres where I work, but she needed someone to watch her younger son. I had been wanting Lily to see the show as well, so I dropped her off with Lisel and Owen, packed her other son into the car with Anya and we went for a walk at the lake while the big kids saw the show. When I mentioned this to another adult, they commented about how nice it was that Lily was having a date.

Really?

And then I realized that this was pissing me off. Why is it that we have to do this to kids? Why must we demand that their relationships with the opposite sex mean something more or different than those they share with friends of the same gender? Is this attitude what forces kids into younger and younger romantic relationships? If we just kept our mouths shut, would they be able to enjoy the innocence of childhood longer?

And besides forcing our children into romantic relationships before they are ready, doesn't this harm women seeking equality in the world? Doesn't our assumption that their interest in each other is romantic exclude them from seeking out long term, healthy, mutually beneficial relationships from members of the opposite sex? If a woman feels that reaching out to someone for help, friendship or something other than sex will brand her a "tease", will she find herself deeply limited in her resources?

Or do people really believe that men and women can never simply be friends?

What's your take? Are we damaging our kids with this mentality or is it really no big deal and I should just get over it?

 

Tables, they turn.

Last night while getting ready for the big school Gala I came out of our bedroom to show the girls my outfit. I was wearing a great thrift store dress with a pair of brown boots and I thought I looked pretty amazing.

Thrift store dress
This dress, only without the jeans.

"Mom, I love that dress. But you're going to be out late and I'm worried you're going to be cold."
"I'm going to wear a jacket, Lil."
"But your legs. Your legs will get cold."
I glanced down and my bare knees and realized she wasn't wrong. We'd be having some wicked weather in sunny SoCal and tonight was supposed to be epic.
"I... I don't know what to do about my legs."
"Do you have any tights?"
I am not a girly girl, so having tights is not a given.
"Um, maybe?"
"I want you to go check your drawer for some tights."
"OK."
I found two pair and brought them back, now rendered completely unable to make a decision without the aid of my eight-year-old. "Which ones?"
She carefully considered them both. "The black ones. Go try them on and let us see."
"OK."
I came back a few moments later, black tights under my boots. "How's this?"
"That looks great, Mom!"

And I got more compliments that night then I have in years.

I swear, it's all downhill from here. Before I know it, she'll be in charge of everything.