Gulf Shores, Alabama

Arrived at Clay and Cori’s on Tuesday, and on Friday we all headed off to the Gulf Coast of Alabama, where we’ve spent the weekend. Clay rented a beautiful condo by the sea, with four bedrooms, for all his family to come and spend a weekend together. I’m honored to be a part of it, and it has definitely been a crash course in the Menard Family. 🙂 And they are a wonderful family indeed.

The first day we got here, I branched off from the group and headed over to the beach. The Gulf of Mexico is so warm and delightful; I’ve never enjoyed swimming in the ocean so much. I usually don’t go into the water, but this time I found myself being drawn into its salty depths, laying on my back and floating over the waves. It was so peaceful. At the same time, I was dealing with a sudden onslaught of anxiety, which had been building and suddenly decided to overwhelm me. I was feeling frustrated, anxious, easily aggravated… all emotions that are uncommon to me, and most uncomfortable. I was able to talk through many of my concerns with Kara S, and then drifted some of them off into the ocean. Afterwards, I lay on the beach and listened to another chapter of Eckhart’s Power of Now, and found myself, once again, transported to another place. Since listening to that passage on Friday, I have been changed, and have been able to not only deal with my anxiety, but more fully enjoy the Present. I have a feeling that these concepts and feelings, if maintained and applied, could change my life forever… fill me up with the Present for the rest of my life.

Today I had a fantastic time with the four kids. We all went swimming, and then later on in the evening they all piled on my bed and looked at the pictures I’ve taken throughout the weekend. It was adorable. They’re all simply wonderful, and make me light up inside. I need to learn to have more patience, however, for children, since when I do take the time to simply BE with them, it’s always delightful.

Cori & Clay’s daughter, Jeanne, is really wonderful, and I’ve had some great conversations with her… I actually wish we could have gone more in-depth, for I think we could really tap into some great things. Her and her husband, Justin, are wonderful to watch… they were married last September, and they are so in love. It helps balance out the other couple (the one with the kids), for their relationship is quite strained, and when I watch them, all of my family and marriage counseling alarms go off. I feel terrible for Clay’s son, since he seems like a really great, and essentially happy, guy… and yet his light is constantly being dimmed.

Of course, marriage has always been a tender issue for me. I have never really seen a “happy, healthy” marriage, and that is a little scary and off-putting. Also, I have never really been in a relationship that improved or enrichened my life. Yesterday, Jeanne, being completely kind and not remotely condescending, said “You’ll find a good guy. They’re out there. And they’re wonderful,” and it’s apparent that Justin is proof of that.

TOMORROW MY MOMMY IS FLYING DOWN!! Cori, Clay and I are picking her up at the New Orleans Airport around 3 tomorrow afternoon. I was nervous for a while, not sure if I was ready to see any of my family members yet, but I think it will go well. It’s been hard for me to consider giving up any of my freedom, as I will have to do now that Mom is not flying home until July 16th. However, I’m learning to accept life as it happens, and stop applying anxiety to things. God always manages to take care of me, impossible ward that I am.

So much more to say, now that I’ve got myself going, but I’ll keep it to myself for now. Tonight, I posted some older photos onto Flickr. Call it homesickness, but I call it “fond remembrance,” since I truly have no desire to return home yet. It was sweet, however, to go through my old photos and give them a place on my Flickr account. I wanted to ensure that they were saved somewhere safe, and also to share them with you all.

Peace & Love

Oh baby, oh baby.

There is something simply… magical, about holding a baby.

I have had more contact with babies in the past couple months than I have had in my entire life. First, there’s Trygg, Annette’s baby boy, who is only a couple months old. Then there is Caitlin, Jeanmarie’s 5-month old baby girl. Finally, there is Gabriella, Corey and Laura’s girl who is also 5 months old. Between the three of these adorable bundles of sweetness, my heart has been overwhelmed to the point of bursting.

I was just upstairs with Corey in Gabby’s room, trying to feed her, then rock her to sleep. The music was wafting and the turtle lights were shining, but she would have none of it, probably because I’m a new person with new scents and new smiles. She kept reaching her chubby hands up to touch my face, too curious to relax herself enough to sleep. And it’s those miraculous moments like that which just capture my heart and make me dizzy.

They are these little creatures…. full of curiosity, with smiles and giggles and ridiculous amounts of adorableness. They completely change people’s worlds, and reorganize their priorities in ways nothing else can. What was once all-important is suddenly meaningless, and time becomes a brand new entity, completely enveloped by caring for this beautiful little creature who trusts you completely and implicitly. I find that beautiful and overwhelming at the same time.

I’m sure this has been a great way to begin my trip, spending all this time in households with new babies. I can not only appreciate life in a new light, but also my freedom. There is nothing that ties you to one place and one person as a child does, but there is also nothing more re-awakening and breath-taking. I can now continue on my journey with my eyes a little wider, and my heart a little more curious to explore.

Newfoundland, PA

I got into town around 5:30 yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon. Newfoundland, PA welcomed me with open arms, and breathtaking shades of light and shadow that reminded me why I had left everything behind in the first place.

The drive had been easy (only about 3 hours) and I felt… nauseous the entire time. It was a mixture of first-date butterflies and life-altering seasickness. I had left. I had actually packed my car, got behind the driver’s seat, and drove away. The “dizziness of freedom” that Kierkegaard often mentions had it’s grip on me good, and I was indeed dizzy. Dizzy with freedom, dizzy from lack of food, with possibility, and with all the other things that dizziness and freedom imply.

When I pulled into the driveway, with it’s weeping willow standing sentry and sunflower seeds tucked deep beneath the soil, preparing to breathe, I shut off the ignition and sat. There was no movement from the house, and I was surprised when a green car pulled into the drive and settled in the garage. Jeanmarie.

I really didn’t know what to expect; how can one make expectations of such things? All I could rely on were my instincts, which had failed me many times in the past and had been started to be put into question. But there she was, with her red curls and smiling face. Just like in her pictures – perhaps a bit slighter. I was surprised by her apparent resemblance to a daisy that could be carried away by a breeze, and yet assured by her eyes that she was firmly settled into the ground. No one was wisping her away.

I felt instantly comfortable in her and Brian’s house. It was small, but the floor plan was open and the walls were palpably brimming with human emotion.

I would expect no less from Jeanmarie.

Which I soon discovered to be her writer name, and I was caught between calling her that and calling her Happy, which I personally found to be a name rife with unfulfilled expectations… especially for one has complicated and authentic as she.

I met Caitlin, her beautiful baby with ethereal blue eyes and curly wisps of hair (who is quite obviously going to be as stunningly lovely as her mother). For the next 30 hours she proceeded to cry and coo and giggle and scream and eat and fuss and poop… and, overall, be ridiculously adorable. I will definitely be leaving a piece of my heart with her… that, and a moo woobie.

Yes, a moo woobie. 😛