Everyone Needs an Adventure Buddy

IMG_2258My husband Joe and I just got back from our second trip to Voyageurs National Park by Lake Kabetogama on the Minnesota-Canadian border. We load our big Lund fishing boat, wear our adventure pants, head up north to a resort called Moosehorn, and rent a cabin for a week offishing Walleye.   This is our second time to the resort because the owners, Christy and Jerry work really hard to make sure you catch fish and have a great time. We caught some really nice Walleyes, and more importantly, we were able to spend a really nice week together. I caught the biggest Walleye. More on that later.

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You can do these types of things whenever you want when you are empty nesters. Joe and I have been on some very fun adventures together since our nest became empty. You can read more about by browsing the Practice Fun Living and Empty Nest Shenanigans pages on this IMG_1866site. We loved raising our kids, but the reality is that those years are about them, as it should be. We spent a lot of time in those years, through all of the different phases from diapers and then school, and all of the activities such as soccer, hockey, dance, plays, band and our wonderful family vacations. It was a hectic time, and with all of the kid activities, we sometimes had to work really hard to stay connected as a couple. We did stay connected; we now have been married for almost 30 years, and we can once again appreciate each other’s company as we are back to having things more about us and what we want to do.

I look back on those family years and even though some of them are a blur, one thing is for sure. I married a really nice guy who took care of us all and would do anything for his family. We recently sold our family home in Blaine, and I was talking to a friend and I told her that IMG_1936none of the light bulbs in that house had ever burned out in 25 years. At first she looked confused and then it dawned on her that of course they had burned out, I just did not have to change them because Joe quietly always replaced them. I don’t even ever remember having to ask him to replace any. He just took care of them. I also had my last car for ten years and during that time it never once ran out of washer fluid. Another thing that he just made sure was always done.

Over the years he has had to do a lot of things for his family. I have come to the conclusion that it is not big spectacular things, but the small things that make a good dad and husband. He has not had to defend his family against an intruder or wrestle a bear or cougar in a National Park so the kids and I would not be mauled, although that would be a good story, butIMG_2178 over the years he has had to take care of all of their gadgets that break, whether phones or cars, and schedule and keep track of oil changes on sometimes as many as five different vehicles. He has paid a few parking tickets for our college students—luckily no one has ever done anything serious, and when they were in High School he had to help them with their math and calculus, since he has a PhD and actually easily understood that complicated homework.

Over the years Joe fixed many a broken door, screen, window, dresser drawers and toys. He was there for them when they needed him and he has always been a low maintenance guy. Joe loves watching his Twins baseball and he is so easy going that he seldom complains. As our kids say, he can live off of a handful of peanuts and is happy with that. He mows the lawn, pays the bills, and would drive his family thousands of miles on family vacations. He had to put up with all of the pets our kids wanted over the years and had a real tolerance for all of the noise in our house when the kids were teens and had their friends over for movies, music and games. Those teens ate everything in the house like locusts, and were IMG_2230so loud you needed ear plugs sometimes, but it had to get really bad before he complained.

We did a lot of fun things with those kids over the years, and we had a lot of fun together. The guy has skills other than mowing lawns and fixing broken stuff in the house. When we took a driving vacation around Europe for our 25th anniversary he bossed it up on the roads, including keeping up with the Germans on the Autobahn, and he caught on quickly to driving without obeying the traffic signs and weaving around the hundreds of motorcycles on the streets of Rome. I had my hands over my eyes more than once. Yes, we got a couple of tickets in Europe for driving down the wrong way in Amsterdam and in Italy, but that was my fault as the navigator and it was well worth it, for the great sites that we saw on that vacation. There was not a scratch on the car and after being in Europe for about two weeks. I knew he had this driving thing down like a local when we went to a German restaurant for pork hock night and he parked our car with two wheels onto the sidewalk, just like the locals.IMG_1917

It is good to have an adventure buddy with balls who is not afraid to try something new, and a guy with some skills who knows how to do everything from fix the computer to catch fish. We have zip lined, snorkeled, and we have sat our butts in the Natural hot springs of the blue lagoon in Iceland. We have visited the cliffs on the Mediterranean at the Cinque Terre in Italy, stayed on a farm in the Alps by Innsbruck Austria, and a castle on the Mosel River in Germany. We have hiked and fished in Hawaii, Alaska and Costa Rica and we hope to have many adventures ahead.

It is good to have the right adventure buddy. We encourage and reassure each other and more importantly we have fun together. If you cannot have fun together, a marriage will not last for 30 years. I have found that you have to find common interests, and the key is that you enjoy being with the other person.

IMG_1880We enjoy many things and we can still have fun at things we have been doing for years. We work together on the planning and preparations for our adventures and we have a list of future adventures that we already know we want to try. Last week at Kabetogama, as usual with our fishing adventures, there is a lot of trash talking about who will catch the biggest fish and the first fish. I make him take pictures of every fish I catch, no matter how embarrassingly small it is. I did catch the biggest fish this year and have been rubbing it in since we are back, but he reminds me that he caught the first fish. Most importantly, we enjoy our time together. We go with the flow; we enjoy not only the adventure, but the planning, preparations and getting there and back, and talking about it afterward even when it is trash talking about who caught the biggest fish.IMG_1861

Picking the right adventure buddy for both your vacation adventures as well as your own life adventure is crucial to enjoying your time on this earth. Who would have thought, looking from afar that the quiet guy who gets little recognition when he changes the washer fluid on the cars and changes light bulbs in the house, the guy who is mowing the lawn and paying the bills, going unappreciated and almost unnoticed most of the time, would be the best husband and dad a family could ask for. The kids and I have appreciated the things Joe has done for us, even though we have not expressed it as often as we should.

Appreciate your adventure buddy, your quiet guy who has done his duty for his kids and wife; the guy who asks for little in return, but shows up for everything from changing dirty diapers to hauling the kids stuff to college. It has been a fun ride and we have many more adventures ahead. Life can be fun with the right Adventure Buddy!

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Beaver Fever

Yes, Beaver fever is a thing. It is actually a slang name for a Giardia infection, which one gets usually from drinking contaminated water. The water can be contaminated from wild animal feces, and one can get it from drinking water from streams or lakes even in pristine country like Alaska. Before Joe and I went to Alaska on our 20th Anniversary trip, we had heard about Beaver Fever from my Mom, who was insistent that they had gotten it when in Alaska by eating ice from a Glacier that was brought into a tour boat for the Tourists to taste and touch.IMG_1810

My parent had driven up the Alcan Highway with my younger brother. The rest of us kids were already either in college or in the working world and did not go along, as we had our own lives by then. My parents drove their RV up the Alcan Highway with my mom’s brother and his family who also had kids along so it was perfect for my brother. He was young at the time maybe six or seven years old. My uncle had two boys who were very close to his age and two girls a little older then the boys. It was a perfect group to travel together.

My uncle tells the story that my brother almost got him arrested at the Canadian border. The boys all had Nerf guns to play with and frequently rode together in one of the RV’s. When they went across the Canadian border, a border guard came onto the RV and asked my uncle whether they had any guns they were taking into Canada. He indicated they did not, at which point my young, innocent brother piped up and said “Oh, yes we have guns.” The border guard immediately became interested and when my uncle tried to explain that he is talking about their toys, the guard stopped him cold and told him to be quiet while he talks to the boy. He asked my brother to show him the guns and my brother showed him the colorful stash of Nerf guns, at IMG_1807which the guard had a good laugh. It is one of my favorite stories.

It was these two families traveling together that my Mom insisted had contracted Beaver Fever from eating Glacier ice. Well I had been warned, and we do heed our mother’s warning because most often she has been right, so when my husband and I went to Alaska we were armed with the Beaver Fever warning. We had the trip all planned and part of it was a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords National park. If you have not been there, you have to see this in your lifetime. It is amazingly wild and beautiful. You take a boat out of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula for an entire day trip. During the trip you see whales, sea lions, puffins and birds of all types, and of course you see lots of glaciers and you see the glaciers calving, which is when large chunks of ice fall off. Many ice chunks are so large that the sound is like an explosion and they set off a huge wave when they hit the water. It is a really cool experience. Even the air around the glacier is wet, fresh and cool; even thoughIMG_1809 we were there in July, we wore jackets.

The tour operator took us through the Fjords and along islands and coasts, telling us all about the wildlife we were seeing and the history of the area. We tried our best to get the perfect photos to try to capture the beauty that was before our eyes, but I never seem to get those perfect photos. I have great photos, but for me it is never as good as being there.

IMG_1808As we toured around, the boat staff served drinks and food and kept everyone entertained. So there we were on the double-decker boat tour, and as we watched a glacier calve and heard the sounds and felt the waves, even on our huge boat, the staff pulled in a large chunk of the glacier ice with enormous tongs and put it up on a buffet like table, and  started using a pick to make it into smaller pieces and made glacier margaritas with the crystal blue ice and lemonade for the kids. So there was a dilemma! Who does not like margaritas and even more importantly, who would not like a margarita made with Glacier ice from the Kenai Fjords? But what about the Beaver Fever we had been warned about? So the choice becomes either, go for it and drink the coolest margaritas ever, made of glacier ice and served in the fresh air of the Kenai Fjords and risk the Beaver Fever induced vomiting and diarrhea, or skip the experience and watch as others lined up to sip the cold fresh lime juice and orangey triple Sec, with Silver Tequila that I could see them pouring, by the half gallon full intoIMG_1802 the large covered pitchers that were then being shaken vigorously over the uneven chunks of glacier ice. I got in line still knowing I could get out of line if I decided against it at the last minute. As I waited my turn, I rationalized and developed my arguments of why this would be ok. First my mom could be wrong. After all they were traveling with a bunch of kids. They could have picked up anything. Second, if this Beaver Fever was from Glacier ice would these boat tours serve the margaritas? They take groups out in boats ever day during the tourist season. Wouldn’t their passengers all be complaining about getting sick afterwards? And if such a thing did exist, I am a nurse and probably have pills for that in my travel bag which looks like a pharmacy.

IMG_1805By the time I was halfway through my rationalizations, it was my turn and I took the chilled margarita and the first sip was amazing. It was more orange flavor than lime and by far, the best margarita I had ever had. It was not blended and yet it was so icy cold, it almost gave you an ice cream headache. It was smooth and refreshing, because the orange was overpowering the lime by a little and it did not have the severe bite. Of course it did not hurt that we were drinking them on the deck of a boat, in one of the most beautiful and wild places on earth while watching the whales swim around the numerous lush green forested islands.  IMG_1804

Sometimes you just have to take a chance and jump in with both feet, even though you know there is risk. We did not get sick at all and I am guessing that if any Beaver Fever parasites existed in the glacial ice, the Silver Tequila was enough to kill them. Of course this would be an entirely different story if we had become sick, but it still would be a story. Sometimes you just have to trust and take a chance that all will be OK. There is very little that we do when we are exploring the world that is risk free, but the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and experience new things is exciting and a big part of why we want to see those most beautiful and sometimes exotic places. Travel well, jump in with both feet, taste the food, drink the margaritas and know that exploration takes some bravery and some risk, but it is well worth the experiences and the stories.

Joan and Kae’s Excellent Adventure

I graduated from St. Scholastica in Duluth, in 1980, with a degree in Nursing and started my first job as an OB/GYN nurse at St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center, now Regions. My good friend Kae Honeman graduated that same year. I had met her in the college dorm on my first day, in my JoanCalifornia1981afirst year of college, at St. Cloud State, where I had done my general education credits before transferring to St. Scholastica for Nursing. Kae was a fun loving soul. We were part of a dorm floor of fun loving girls in their first year of college. Back then we could drink in college and it was the 1970’s, so need I say more. We never got into any serious trouble, but I do recall a Friday night where Kae pierced my ear with a hot needle and an ice cube. There was some liquor involved. I still have that extra earring spot just on my left ear and I wear one earring proudly in it, as a daily remember of those wild and crazy years with my college girlfriends.

A few years after we both graduated we decide to go on a road trip adventure. We flew into SanJoanCalifornia1981n Francisco where Kae’s brother lived, and stayed with him touring around the city for a few days before renting a car and driving down the Pacific Coast Highway for 10 days. We had no agenda other than to end up in LA to fly back to Minnesota. It was good to be young and free. We had no worries, only 10 days to enjoy and meander our way through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. So off we went, tunes blaring and driving the cliff roads along the Pacific Ocean. I wish we had had cell phones in those days. We would have a lot more pictures of the beauty of that trip. Alas, technology was not as advanced. In fact we were gone for 10 days and not once in that time did we call our parents or any relatives and that was perfectly acceptable back then. That would be unheard of now, where we are used to communicating on almost a daily basis if we JoanCalifornia1981bwant to. Back then long distance phone calls were expensive.

Fairly quickly in our trip we ended up in Big Sur with its ocean cliffs and mountains. We stopped in a little town for lunch at a local bar restaurant among the large pines. I still remember the cool moist air and the smell of those trees. We ended up staying and talking with the locals and hanging out all day, playing pool, laughing and telling stories. People we had never met before became very close in those few hours. We ended up staying overnight and the next day hopped in our car and were off again on our adventure. When we saw beautiful beaches we stopped to swim, like in Monterey and Pismo beach. We stopped at the Hearst Mansion in San Simeon and toured Santa Barbara. We made our way stopping to eat when we were hungry, drinking wine JoanCalifornia1981hand getting hotels when we were tired. We passed LA after stopping at a few beaches and Sea World, making our way toward San Diego to spend a few days.

We decided that we wanted to visit Tijuana Mexico. After all it was the 1980’s and you did not need a passport. However, I am not sure why we thought, as two women in their twenties, that this was the safest decision. Nothing bad happened, but it makes me judge our stupidity level. We were told not to bring purses because of pick pockets and we were told not to drink the water. With that information we walked across the border. We shopped and bought sea shell wind chimes and tequila, and poor Kae sprained her ankle walking around on the cobblestone streets. Of course me being the nurse, I said we can make this feel better if we just got an ace wrap and wrapped it up. We looked for a “drug store” (pharmacy). Imagine the looks IMG_0887we received from the locals when we Minnesota girls were asking for a “drug store.” It took us a few strange looks before we realized what we were asking for and changed our request to a “pharmacy.” We were lucky we did not get arrested, but we found our pharmacy and with a lot of gesturing to get over the language barrier, were able to buy an ace wrap and keep Kae going.

Having shopped as much as we wanted, we retreated to a local restaurant and bar and ordered margaritas. After all we had to try margaritas in Mexico. After drinking about half of them, we realized they were full of ice and we had been warned not to drink the water or the ice. By that time, we figured the tequila would kill anything in the water and we must have been right because we did not get ill.

On the way back across the border, as I was standing in line, tired from the days activities and with a little tequila under our belt, I suddenly realized as I saw everyone pulling out their drivers IMG_0884licenses for ID, that I only had a credit card on me and no ID of any kind. After all, we had been told not to bring a purse, so I only took cash and a credit card in my pockets. I was panicked as I thought I could not get back into our country without ID, and it was getting dark by now. Kae being the ever calm and reassuring one said “You don’t look Mexican. You will be fine.” At the time, I thought the statement was ridiculous, but it turned out to be true in the 1980’s. I got to the border guard and explained that we had come shopping for the day and were told about the pick pockets and that iIMG_0886s why I had no ID. I am sure I was sweating by this time and looking real nervous. These are all bad things around border guards. The guard laughed and said “no problem” and let us through.

I entered the US without any ID of any kind and on top of it all, I had a shopping bag full of crap, like a Mexican blanket and the shell wind chime all neatly wrapped in paper by the Mexican shop owners. The border guards did not even bother unwrapping or looking into the packages. I could have had 10 pounds of hash or cocaine in there and they would not have known. They checked nothing and let me through on my word. It was clearly a different time.

We finished our trip and had dinner in LA on our last night in California. We flew back tired, but having a real taste for more travel and more adventure. Even though we both became busy over the years with our careers and then families, we shared that road trip in the 1980’s that we can reflect upon fondly. It wove courage, problem solving skills, fun and a taste for adventure in the fabric of our very being. We did not have a lot of money back then, being just out of college, but I am glad we took the time and money to explore our world together.

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My Wild and Crazy Dad

My dad was a fun guy when we were growing up.  There was nothing he would not try at least once and he never met anyone that he did not like and everyone liked him. He was a positive guy with a positive attitude. He is still fun and still positive, even though he is in his Eighties.

He grew up in Montana originally, and then his family moved to Buckman, Minnesota.    Dad was very talented musically.  He could play guitar and when he sang he sounded like Johnny Cash.   He actually played in a local band with a woman who played accordion and concertina and IMG_0507sang and they had a drummer. He quit the band when we were young and I think the staying up late on weekends in the local bars playing music became a problem for a guy taking care of a young family. However music was always part of our family activities.  We even had guitars along when we were camping. Yes, we actually did sing Kumbaya around the campfire with our cousins.  Everybody had a lot of kids, so camping was a few adults and then a boat load of kids that were all different ages. Everybody got included in everything no matter what age. Those were fun times!

He and Mom raised us on a beef cattle farm by Pierz, Minnesota, in which they took great pride.  My dad’s main job was driving truck for a road construction company and he drove everything from the large belly dump trucks to hauling heavy equipment. Many times he had to be gone during the week, living in our Winnebago travel trailer and coming home on weekends. So my Mom, a strong woman of German heritage, and we kids took care of the farm and cattle during the week. Beef cattle were fairly self sufficient in the summer.  Towards the end of the week we would have made plans for our family adventures.  We went camping, swimming and boating.  Dad got a large truck tire inner tube at one point and blew it up and we took turns trying to IMG_0510stand on it while swimming in the local lakes. He was with us the whole time trying to stand on it too. We all took a lot of dunks in the lake before we mastered that.

When we were teens, my Dad bought a boat and a pair of water skis and we all learned it.  Dad was first to try since it was his idea.  He mastered it in no time and was skiing on one ski.  We had a lot of fun with that boat in the 1970’s. He was always encouraging us to try new things and he always exuded complete confidence in our abilities. My mom was the same way and taught us to drive tractors and ride horses. She went along with all of our shenanigans.

We were the first in the neighborhood to buy snowmobiles, also in the 1970’s, and we used an old cover of a washer to pull behind the snowmobiles with a long rope like a snow saucer.  I amIMG_0508 surprised we survived that swinging around in crazy fashion through our snow covered farm fields.  When our neighbors and cousins got snowmobiles we would have large get togethers in the woods and start a campfire, roast hot dogs and drive snowmobiles at night.

For big family adventures  we planned vacations around farm work and Dad’s road work. I remember we went to Colorado in a long weekend by driving all night long.  When we reached Greely, Colorado, there were lots of young people driving and walking along the roads for a concert in town.  We experienced the beauty of Colorado and had great family time together.

IMG_0509There were very few things that my dad did not try and very few that he did not master.  He and Mom were excellent dancers, and he taught me to polka with him too. My grandpa, his dad, spent a lot of time at our farm too.  Grandpa and Dad built us a teeter-totter that not only went up and down, but also around.  It was dangerous looking back at it, but it was really fun and no one got seriously hurt.  They also built us a harness for our German Shepard dog. We hooked him up to the red wagon, with one of us sitting in the wagon and the others driving bikes in front of the wagon, and that dog would run like his tail was on fire down our long driveway giving the kid in the wagon the ride of their life.  The dog loved it.  When we brought out the harness he got all excited.

My dad is still an adventurous guy.  Even though he is in his eighties, he likes to travel with their RV and go fishing and camping. He and Mom still attend fun community and church activities, go out to dinner, and play cards with friends. He is still as fun as ever and still finds friends no matter where he goes.  He has taught us to be accepting of everyone, to explore the world, show kindness, be adventurous and not be fearful to try new things. Life is a gift.

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Adventure is in the Genes

I came to the conclusion that we all get our spirit of adventure in an honest way.  My parents, who are now in their eighties and have been married for over 60 years, were putting on th34aeir adventure pants long before REI invented them.  They were married in their early twenties and started off their life together with a three week driving adventure to Yellowstone, the Canadian Rockies, and Colorado.  They made a big loop, taking their time and traveling in a mint green Buick. They have awesome pictures to remember the event and I have attached some of them.

They looked so Fifties, with my Mom’s rolled up jeans and Dad looked like James Dean.  Extremely handsome and more importantly, they were both fun and adventurous. My Mom 37balways said that they each gained 20 lbs (exaggeration also runs in the family) from eating so many potato chips and malts while on vacation.

They have never shied away from adventure and in fact embraced the unknown and unexpected when traveling.  Mom and Dad have been to every state and most of them more than once over the years.  They have been to China, Japan and rented an RV and took a driving trip around Australia.  They took a cruise through the Panama Canal and drove the road to Hana in Hawaii.  Even though they were farmers from Pierz, their world was very large.  They are still active getting together with friends and going fishing and traveling with their RV.  They just don’t go as far anymore.38a

Their lust to see the world goes way back. In 1947, Dad and his only brother and parents traveled out West through the mountains in a 1942 Plymouth.  He did most of the driving, his brother read the maps and did the navigation, and his parents sat in the back seat – even though he was only 16 years old at the time and the mountain roads were gravel and narrow. You could not have paid me enough to sit in the back seat of a car while any of my 16 year olds had control of the car on Mountain roads. My grandparents had complete confidence in my dad and his abilities, and he lived up to their expectations.

35eHe bragged when we were young that he got his driver’s license from the Postmaster in town when he was 12.  The only test was the Postmaster asking him, if he could drive and he said “yes” and so he was given a license.

My grandparents also traveled a lot.  When I was growing up they took driving vacations every year and sometimes flew to their destinations. They went to Florida and brought us back a letter holder that had flamingos on it and sea shells.  My parents still have that letter holder. They also brought us a sea shell that they taught us to hold to our ear to hear the Ocean.  I still have that sea shell.

46aMy grandparents and parents gave us a gift. They showed us that travel is fun, that the world is a big and beautiful place and they taught us not to fear the unknown, but to embrace it.  They taught us to use our time on this earth wisely and to never waste an opportunity to enjoy our time off.  As simple as the lesson seems, so many struggle and worry about work more than it deserves.  The work will get done. We are not here to work our lives away. Time is your most valuable commodity. Take control of your time and seize the moment to enjoy your life!

Not Real Adults

Our family adventures gave our kids the self reliance to go on their own adventures as they became adults. When our youngest, Jenny, graduated from High School she was 18 years old and my son, Ben was already in college and was 20. The two of them and one of Ben’s friends, who had been at our house on and off for years, came to us with a plan for an adventure of their own. They wanted to take a two week driving trip to Glacier National Park, Idaho, and back through Montana and Colorado. They borrowed our Tahoe and took the GPS and mapped their route, through theIMG_3604 national Parks and federal campgrounds and all of the sites they wanted to see. Ben was studying geology and he knew specific areas he wanted to cover. They took the cooler and did mostly camping, but occasionally stayed at a hotel for showers and better beds. They made plans for the amount of money they needed and packed everything up and off they went. They stayed in contact, so we knew they were doing well and they posted pictures frequently on Face book and Instagram, of the gorgeous campsites, mountains and streams they were seeing. They actually planned ahead and took organic shampoo and they cooked over the campfire. As parents it was a little scary, but we knew they had the skills to handle the adventure and we were proud that they had the self confidence and drive to plan and go on this adventure. Everything went well and they returned with great stories and we could tell that they had bonded and seemed even closer than before they had shared this special adventure.DSC_4535 After they had returned, I happened to be at a neighbor’s garage sale. She had a son Jenny’s age. He was at the sale hanging out with some other friends. He asked how Jenny was doing andIMG_3389 I said that she had just gotten back from their adventurous driving vacation out west with her brother and his friend. He was really animated and excited and said that he had seen Jenny and Ben’s pictures on Instagram and mentioned one particular one with their orange tent in the foreground and the mountains in the back. I told him they had come back with some great stories about how they had gotten lost at one time, but Jenny then found their way out of that situation by navigating, and how they had met one guy in the campground who had taught them to bake bread in a Dutch oven over a campfire. The young guy’s mother was overhearing our conversation and asked me with a look of disbelief. She said, “They went by themselves?” I told her “yes,” and repeated the details, “my son who is 20, his friend who is also 20 and Jenny who was 18.” She repeated in disbelief again, “but by themselves? I said “yes.”  “With no adults?” she said. I said “No, they are all adults. Jenny is 18 and the other two are 20.” She looked at me and said insistently and in a firm tone with her forehead furrowed, “No I mean real adults.” I responded, a little confused and in a slow way, “They are real adults. “ She walked away shaking her head. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t tell this story tocriticize her as a Mom. God knows raising kids is not an easy job, we all make mistakes and there is no perfect way. But what struck me is that we try so hard to protect our children sometimes that we lose track of the reality of their age. In fact her son was also 18 and even though she felt he was not a “real” enough adult to be trusted to go on a road trip to some National Parks in the western United States, in fact he was adult enough to walk to a local recruiting office, join the military and be surviving in the deserts of the middle east and, all of that could be done without her permission. The one thing I have learned in hindsight is that our kids at every age would always live up to our expectations. When we showed confidence in their abilities, they had confidence in their own abilities and could be successful. We taught them early on that mistakes were OK and trying new things was essential, for a fun and full life.

Put Your Adventure Pants On

A perfectly clean house has never been a priority for me, so I was not surprised when I went to move my bedroom dresser to retrieve a dropped necklace and found it face up, in a snow pile of dust bunnies. Some bunnies were so large that one could imagine spending time in a craft project, gluing eyes on them to look like real bunnies. Creepy for sure, but they were that large.

This would be embarrassing for many who pride themselves on their house cleaning skills and while I would never want a dirty house, a little dust here and there has not bothered me, especially when our kids were home. I would rather go walk in the woods with them and pick up fall leaves for an art project or play with the hose or in the sand box than clean house. That was true when they were older too. I would spend time with them outdoors or we would take them biking or playing sports. Even now that we are empty nesters, I would rather go on the boat or hiking or biking than clean house. I have no remorse about those choices.

While cleaning the mound of dust bunnies uncovered by my jewelry mishap, I found all kinds of other interesting things lost in the abyss of the dresser caverns. Other jewelry pieces that were never missed enough to do a full scale search and a stray button, but to my surprise, among the lost items was a photo of me standing on a Glacier in Canada.

It was taken in 1995 when I was in my mid-thirties and I am holding my baby, Jenny who was less than a year old in the picture, but is now a college student and beside me stands my Ben, who was two years old and now is also a college student and my oldest, Sara who is five in the picture and is now out of college and in the working world, making a life of her own. It was striking and it transported me back in time. I have a smile from ear to ear and we all look happy, having just exited the large glacier snow bus onto the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Ice fields, during a two week driving vacation we had taken to Canada in our Ford Aerostar van.

Glacier1995I know the word fearless is getting a little too much use these days, but it is a good word and it described what I saw in the picture. The photo was a proud reminder of our fearlessness to adventure out even with three little kids. And I have to say, I have nothing but good memories of those trips. We must have had fussy kids sometimes, but that is not what I remember and when our grown kids talk about their vacations they do not remember anything negative about them either.

I remember the trip went well. We planned ahead on these adventures, but our plan was never so rigid that we could not fly by the seat of our pants sometimes, and we could adapt to unforeseen changes in weather or unplanned events. On this particular adventure we did a large loop through Canada and saw everything from the dolphin show at the Edmonton Mall to the glaciers and mountains in the Canadian Rockies. We had three little kids, but no worries. We made our way, day after day experiencing new sights and foods and we laughed and we had fun. We would go with the flow and eat when we were hungry and sleep when tired. We played in Hotel pools and ordered Pizza.

The saying in our family since the kids were very young is “Put your adventure pants on and let’s go!” We have been on many adventures with our family and now as empty nesters, my husband and I have sought many new adventures. Our kids are not afraid to go on their own adventures through college or with friends and I like that fearlessness in them when it comes to travel.

I look into the face of that young woman, 35ish version of me and those little kids, smiling and knowing Dad is behind the camera smiling too and I see happiness and see a family who was never afraid to put their adventure pants on. I look back and I wonder how we had the guts and the brains to make those choices. I cannot explain it because I think we are very average in many ways, but I am sure glad we did it. Life is short and I know it is said too often, but those child-rearing years flew by and those kids are now gone. I am glad I spent little time worrying about dust bunnies and cleaning, and took the time to enjoy those kids and show them the world with our adventure pants on.