Adventure Lost: Finding Me by Caring Less

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Driving our boat for the first time through Choctawhatchee Bay.

So, how does this forty year old mother of a very active toddler fully regain her sense of adventure, and in essence, who she is?

I have always been an optimistic person. However, after a decade and a half of loved ones dying, including one concentrated year of the passing of three very important people, my father, my aunt, and my mother-in-law, followed by the passing of a favorite uncle, caution and worry has come to overshadow fearlessness and excitement. Fear came into my life, complete with shiny white fangs and gnarly, pointed horns, growling and hissing words like: Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Heart Disease, Pulmonary Embolism, Chemotherapy; personally, with pregnancy, Gestational Diabetes and Cesarean Section. Throughout the years, fear has chipped away at my sense of “I can do and be anything,” and that is hard for me to admit! Even while writing this, a part of me is still in lotus land going – you are still an adventurer, an explorer, a positive person, and you have lost none of that!

But, my friends, part of the true adventure is admitting when the sense of adventure has started to fade away like watercolor, and then grabbing a paintbrush of bold oils and creating a beautiful new work on a blank canvas.

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Sunset, Seaside, South Walton County

There is a part of me, especially after becoming a mom, that has become so cautionary that I hate coffee tables, corners, and anything with a sharp edge at the height of my son’s head. I try to sit back and not hover, and I think I have done a fairly good job of not being the dreaded “helicopter parent,” especially as a first time mom. I admit it – while my son knows his boundaries – when Mac runs full speed down the sidewalk to the curb’s edge, right to the edge, I have to restrain from shouting out, “stop,” or more likely, “be careful.” Guess what? He always stops. I don’t have to remind him. Finding balance between hovering and letting go is something I think most parents can relate to. It can be tough. And I see so much of myself in my son: I can hear my mom’s amazement that I was always “right on the edge of everything,” and I know her anxiety. But she trusted me and gave me room to be me, and I am determined to do that for my son, too.

To do that, I have to find a part of myself that has been tempered and muted: my gypsy soul, if you will. Yes, I just said that. The adventurer and explorer. I have a feeling she’s right where I left her, twenty years ago…even just four years ago.

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Destin Harbor

My dad used to depart from his friends by shouting out, “Be Careless,” instead of “Be Careful,” and it always got a laugh. I didn’t hear him say that as often until after he had fought cancer for years. He may have said this phrase earlier in his life, but I never heard it much till towards the end. That’s significant. He, like many, in arguably the most challenging part of his life, found laughter, fun, and adventure. Even in a phrase.

So, with a little less care, and filling the glass half full of lemonade, I have started to regain who I am and laugh in the face of fear by doing things that are full of adventure, and doing them with my son!

Mac, who can climb up ladders like a boss, but going down is a different story. At the top of the ladder, he has been nervous like a kitten in a tree. However, he decided the other day that he could climb back down with my help. Finally! And it was on a tall ladder at the top of a tree house that he made that decision. Yesterday,  I was invited to paddle board while with friends, recently. It was in the morning before work, and my husband was at the office. I jumped on my friend’s paddle board for a quick ocean ride after assuring Mac he could watch me and would be fine with our dear friends whom he knows very well. He was fine and even sat on the paddle board after I returned from my short jaunt; this is huge, considering his newfound understanding of sharks, stingrays, and jellyfish: all the big bads in the water. We have a beach camping trip we are planning – our first time camping with Mac. We’ll be roughing it on a small island, but with all the accommodations of a true glamping experience. ūüėČ May wanderlust and exploration abound.

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Treehouse on the walk to Baytowne Warf Marina in Sandestin

I have firmly reset my adventure compass to find that girl from twenty years ago, from four years ago, and with a little luck and a sprinkling of fairie dust, I’ll morph into a healthy combination of the three.

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My favorite beach somewhere on 30A. The second time I went paddle boarding. Dolphins came to chat.

What about you? Have the difficulties in life dampened your spirit of adventure? What healthy ways do you keep a positive attitude?

 

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Kittens and Toddlers – Best Friends or Archenemies?

In my seventh month of pregnancy, two and a half years ago, my beloved adopted cat, Hercules, “dun r-u-n-n-o-f-t.” I was devastated. We looked everywhere. Hercules had a problem, though. He was possessive. Any other man who came into my life, he hated, like my husband and my two dogs. We all (family and friends) knew why he left. He sensed that I was pregnant, and that was the last straw. Like one of my favorite vocalists, Frank Sinatra, he was done with me once I crossed him.

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Hercules at Halloween, approx. 7 years old. I had him for a year, circa 2011.

Our suspicions were confirmed when my brother went for a walk in our neighborhood on Thanksgiving day, a few months after my son was born, and found Hercules. He picked him up and walked him back to our house. The closer my brother got to our property, the more agitated Hercules became. When I approached him, he growled and bounded out of my brother’s arms. No chance for a reconciliation.¬†He was¬†obviously well fed¬†and seemed settled at his new home where my brother found him, so that let me rest well at night.

Fast forward a little over a year from the time he left. Our son, whom I’ll call Mac Attack, was using all his new words and making animal noises. Cat and kitten were favorites.

The hubs, being a sensitive and thoughtful guy, decided to get us a kitten – one who would be a family cat. Now, I would’ve gone to the shelter or pet store and brought the first kitten home (maybe a few), but the hubs has had lots of pets, cats included, and is a savvy shopper. He brought home our little tuxedo kitten one night. My awesome SIL, aka “the animal whisperer,” found her at the pet store in her small nearby town. Meet our girl, Zoe.

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Zoe is a kitten. How do you explain to a 1 1/2 year old that kittens chase things? Nobody told me I’d have to referee between my kitten and toddler.

Zoe’s toys: Megablocks; blankets; my bathrobe belt; Thomas the Train miniature toys; dump trucks; any mouth-sized toy; a plastic slinky. And that whole tuxedo cat thing? Yeah. Tree-cats. She gets on top of everything she can and looks for ways to get higher.

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I know having multiple children can be tough. What about an only child and a kitten? You can’t put the kitten in time-out to help improve its behavior. The kitten swats at Mac Attack (we keep her claws clipped), and Mac Attack swats back.

The following ensues: ¬†“Don’t hit the kitten. But, it’s okay if she hits you. That’s how kittens play. But, we don’t play like that. People don’t hit when we play. So, no hitting.”

Seriously?

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Zoe in the Mega Block drawer. Waiting to pounce on the blocks.

Zoe has calmed a good bit, and she has her moments when she’ll be still long enough to let us pet her. Mac Attack pets her and they have their sweet moments until he puts a long blanket on as a cape, imitating the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. He turns, and sees Zoe wrestling with my bathrobe belt. A double-whammy “mine, mine, mine” meltdown.

These are some of our problems in Toddlerville, but I’ll take ’em!

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Zoe and Mac Attack prowling the slinky…who will get to it first?

 

How about you? Do you have any funny toddler-kitten stories? Or toddler and any pet, for that matter?