Have you ever had a day that was perfect? Truly perfect?
During sukkot (yes, that is right, it has taken me until Chanukah to write about it,) I and my family met one of my very best friends and her family at the beach in Ashdod. The weather was perfect, the waves were perfect, the scenery was perfect, and the company was even more perfect.
At some point in the afternoon the two husbands left with half of the kids, and I was left on the beach with my daughter joyfully riding waves and jumping into the arms of my friend. The kids that stayed with us were happy. No one needed me, no phone was ringing, no chores awaited; it was late in the day so not too hot or cold, and everything was, well, perfect.
As I sat there I tried to take in the moment and internalize it. To keep it recorded in my memory and in my soul so that I could go back there and visit it at some when life is feeling a lot less perfect. I also tried to figure out what Hashem wanted me to be learning from this slice of perfection. What am I supposed to learn from this beach, this day, in this scenario.
I spent a good part of the day in the waves myself. Waves that were big enough to lift you up and carry you, but not out of control or “hostile”. Most of the time I was riding with ease. At one point I was socializing, enjoying myself, but distracted, and I did get carried under. I was fine, but very concerned about my hair covering coming off, so I kept my head in the water until I could retrieve it and put it back on. I looked ridiculous, but there wasn’t anyone there to notice. (At least that is what I tell myself.)
It occurred to me, while sitting on the beach in complete solitude and bliss that was is true of the waves is true in the rest of the world that God has given us:
When we are prepared for what is coming, then we stand in the right place, catch the wave and use it as an opportunity to move, enjoying the process. When we aren’t prepared for what is coming, it comes anyway, and often knocks us down and pushes us under. We often feel like we are drowning, even when we aren’t, and have a hard time getting our footing again. Especially because once that wave catches us off guard, the next one just comes rolling in whether we have gotten back up or not.
There are experiences that come and are sometimes merely crises because we weren’t prepared for them. We can’t always know what will come our way, but I think that working on one’s faith is a lot like standing in position for the next wave. Having faith that is strong, developed and ready makes it so much easier for you to meet the next challenge and “ride” it through, and working on ourselves and our character, being in tune with the calendar and what God wants from us, instead of absently just going along, increases our chances of seeing the waves before they arrive – and crash down on our heads.
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UPDATE: WE HAVE A WINNER!
Congratulations to Rachel Wilgoren on winning our Summer House Natural Soaps Gift Pack! I will contact you directly to get you your prize, and to facilitate you selecting the scents of your choice. Thank you to all those that entered… I hope you are savoring your summers and your magical places while we still can.
This is what she won.
Please say a little prayer for my parents and everyone else in dangerous areas like Cape Cod during the upcoming Hurricane. Thank you.
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It has been almost a full month since I last wrote a blog post. I am not sure if this is an indication that I have truly spent the month on vacation, or precisely the opposite.
Being at a house by the ocean that is not my own with a stream of visitors and visiting time withgrandparents has been wonderful. I am not sure I would use the word “leisurely” or “relaxing”. The lack of school structure for six kids for one month certainly might have eclipsed my ability to blog, beach house notwithstanding. I feel like I have been busy, and tired. I have spent a great deal of time shopping, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry.
I wrote last year about finding the moments of personal vacation within my family vacation, and every year this is a different experience, since the ages and circumstances of the family are always changing. I discovered kayaking this summer, because our old, dear and generous friends lent us theirs for two weeks. Out in the kayak in Barnstable Harbor, there was more than one moment this month when I could not hear a single sound. Not a child, not a phone; not even a boat or seagull. And I love the fact that my older brother showed me the ropes my first time out. No spa visits like last year. Not even some “escape shopping”.
I am experiencing a different kind of relaxation… and that is the sort of phase II with my family. What I mean is that we don’t have any babies, nor are we expecting one (right now). After years of vacationing with strollers and car seats, middle of the night nursing, bottles and diapers and bouncy seats and carriers, we are just a family with a gang of kids. Day trips are suddenly possible. The kids can buckle themselves in the car, or at least buckle each other. No sunscreen battles, or constantly running after a destructive 18 month old.
We are still in transition, don’t get me wrong; we are potty training, and still planning around the “baby’s” nap. But 3-11 years old(My SS sadly didn’t join us this year) feels REALLY different than a house full of babies and toddlers.
My pockets of personal vacation are less about escaping all of the child care because the child care is less intense. This is probably just the calm before the storm, (right Miriyummy?) given that they will all become teenagers practically at once – and then I am thinking “intense” will become a fitting description again.
I have found that as in a traditional vacation, this year has been more about an escape from much of the long list of responsibilities I have. No escape from the childcare or housework ones, of course, but a break from work, my house, my scenery, my routine.
A break that has been in blessedly gorgeous surroundings with quiet bay waves, lovely neighbors, gorgeous hikes and silent kayaking.
Wow. After all of these years I guess it has started to become a vacation.
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We are trying something new this year. We are away for an entire month. Every year we spend some time up near my parents’ house by the beach. When my children were younger we came for a week, then ten days. Last year it was over two weeks.
As anyone with a large family will tell you, once you are packing for two weeks, another two makes very little difference. We are fortunate that my parents generously rented us a house. There is just no way we would have been able to spend the month living with my parents. I want them to still love my children – and me – by the end of the month!
I am looking forward to getting settled and being able to stay that way, even if for a little while. Having said that, family vacation doesn’t generally feel like much of a vacation for me.
I have also upped the ante by deciding that this is the time and place for potty training! (That’s a post for another time.) This year I am adding to the challenges of being with my relatives, hosting other guests, trying to give the kids routine, limitations in kosher food and the sand, sand, sand. I also have to continue to work from home while away.
Still, with all of this going on, the biggest challenge for me while away is not finding time to myself. Who is used to that anyway? So far I have logged one hour of blissful reading ALONE in the sun, and a whole fifteen minutes on the beach walking with my husband while the children circled and hovered.
What is harder is finding my relationship with Hashem here. The beach in New England is relaxing and beautiful, clean and charming, with p0lite tourists and locals. But there isn’t a Jewish community, people to enjoy Shabbat with, etc. Our second day here my husband and two sons walked 4.5 miles each way to to a Chabad minyan without carrying even a water bottle. While my husband may want to try it again, the twins won’t, and I am not so keen on spending Shabbat until 3:30 with six kids by myself.
Finding G-d in the gloriousness of the ocean views isn’t too hard in a spiritual sense, but carving out time for rituals, davening and Torah is a bigger challenge here. Dressing the way I do sticks out A LOT. I have already had to answer “kippah questions”. Maybe this year, the first with no babies in the family, I may just find the right religious balance.
As for beach adventures so far, I missed the giant spider crab with her babies yesterday that my kids found, so I have no good photo of it for you. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.
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