The Family Tree of Life … wait, what?

The Family Tree or The Tree of Life … whatever you call it the symbol is deeply embedded in religious and spiritual beliefs. You will find it popular for genealogy and history buffs, elementary school home projects and with artists of all kinds.

The definition is as wildly varied as is each tree. Rarely depicted in exact form or feature. A basic Google search brought me the following definition:

“In this way, the tree of life is a symbol of a fresh start on life, positive energy, good health and a bright future. As a symbol of immortality. A tree grows old, yet it bears seeds that contain its very essence and in this way, the tree becomes immortal. As a symbol of growth and strength.” unknown

I’m sure you have heard the joke about the family tree being full of nuts. It’s generally the absolute truth and is especially for my own. A few weeks before my epic trip up north my mom sent me photo which would make a permanent mark on us all, literally.

My phone was blinking with a message waiting as it often does, only this time it was my mother. Some people might roll their eyes or sigh seeing another text from mom but not me. I love them. I guess after years of not speaking little blinking lights seem to have the positive power to keep all the old darkness away.

This time she sent a photo.

She had found a piece of jewelry online, or I think that was what it was. I have since lost the texts, little did I know such a simple thing would turn into a worthy story. I don’t remember the words but I complimented the piece. I had just purchased something similar while on vacation. I had hung it in my kitchen window days before our conversation. An interesting coincidence. The symbol she shared was a Triple Tree of Life design.

Whether it was she or I who decided it would look amazing as a tattoo I do not recall. I will give her credit as she is the visionary among us.

She decided we should all get this tattoo of 3 trees and set about to sketch it. She proclaimed her tree to be the middle and my sister and I would be to the left and to the right. Her image came to live in a circle and she began to add leaves separating each mature trunk and expansive branches. She asked what leaf shape I preferred and I chose the hearts. My sister would be assigned the scroll shape leaves.

And so it was shared and agreed, we would get these trees symbolically tattooed to our individual bodies to represent the true roots and togetherness despite growing into separate entities.

That would be that except for the fact that now we needed an artist willing to do the same design on separate occasions and for a reasonable price. Oh, and a tiny detail, I happen to live in another state, they each in separate cities. I was going to be in town for a short window so my appointment had to be scheduled in advance.

Like a true champ mom had her appointment first. I wish I could have been there but alas the miles add up and I wouldn’t be there for weeks.

Second my sister got hers, a little larger than ours, much as she does everything. She laughs louder, is a little taller, and has bigger chickens. (It’s not a competition, sis.)

When it was finally my turn I hobbled in, limping on a broken foot with the fam. Mom, Dad and my sweetheart in tow. For the record I didn’t know the foot was broken at the time, not that it would have slowed me down any more than it did. I didn’t need the entire clan for support either but I won’t lie … I did enjoy the entourage.

Mom introduced me to the artist as the daughter from out-of-state and reminded him she promised to bring me in. Now here I was. She was so excited, proud even to be presenting her family to the man with the needle gun.

It’s a special gift she has, to walk into an establishment and become the official honorary host. She takes charge in the mom-est way ever and she does it so well. She shows us off and takes ownership even though we are moms ourselves and tower over her in height.

It might also be a red-head thing. It’s sort of endearing.

I was invited into the artists chair and I happily plopped down, arm up on the rest and head back taking it all in. There was a glass case to the left against the wall with piercing jewelry in it. On top of the case was an entire brown bear skin with yellowed teeth and claws. The bear skin seemed shockingly out-of-place yet so at home there perched menacingly about 8 feet in the air. I didn’t ask about the bear but may next time.

My eyes shifted to a back room which I suspect was the piercing room. I suggested mom get her nose pierced. She didn’t miss a beat and declined. It was hard to rattle her.

We continued to chit-chat with the artist about my current ink, where I got it and that it was unique. My mom, from her seat in the corner, pipes up with a question. Asks what the oldest person the artist had ever tattooed.

Good question.

Guy covered in ink and wearing purple gloves continues to gently press into the skin on my arm and pauses before he shares his reply.

He begins the story with how he had to help an elderly lady into the tattoo chair. A frail, tiny old woman. He might have said she had an oxygen tank or a walker or something, painted the picture of tiny sweet grey hair granny type. He got her into the chair and she advised she wanted a touch up tattoo. Not kidding. She wanted to touch up the roses on her earlobe. He described being scared to break her, being so gentle as to not hurt her.

She was a champ.

I can only hope to be that bad-ass someday.

Mom was intrigued. She asks if it is harder to tattoo old people skin (yep, said that) and she mentions something about being worried she might be too old for tattoos. It is possible I guess she was fishing for a compliment. I don’t know. Forgive me, Ma, if the words are wrong there but this story is as I recall it. Also it happened.

She got good news however you look at it, she wasn’t the oldest he had ever tattooed (he laughed at her for that) and she was in the fairly young range of people who come in for ink. I think she blushed but it was hard to tell from the reflection in the glass case. I was still concentrating on the insanely large teeth on that bear skin.

He went on to say with plenty of moisture skin will be good for tattooing for a long time to come. She is probably sitting somewhere with some Skin So Soft right now. I know I have upped my moisture game. Old lady skin be damned.

It was over quickly and I marveled at how beautiful my new tattoo was. We paid and tipped well and made our way back for the party that afternoon.

We ate and drank and took pictures and ate some more. We showed off our new ink in singles and in triple to anyone willing to smile and nod.

Our tattoos are a symbol of who we are. Joined at the root but each branched to our own. My mother with her leaves, which symbolize for me life and change. My sisters scrolls symbolizing what I see in her as great wisdom, boundless intelligence and strength. Lastly my hearts, which for me represent love unconditional with a notation on some limbs a barren place for broken hearts for which I am grateful to never forget.

*Thank you to my mother for designing such a beautiful tribute to family, forgiveness and bond. Also for feeding us constantly when we visit. Those baked beans though … yum.

*Thank you to my dad who has kept us safe since we were wee girls. That’s what dads do. They also make safety videos so you don’t hurt yourself playing in the yard.

*Thank you to my sister for being ever-present in my life even when we don’t speak. Also for the moonshine that tasted like paint thinner. You’re the best sister I’ve ever had.

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Why amusement parks are family glue

I took a long weekend from work so we could escape to our favorite amusement park for a few days. Little did I know that it would be more than roller coasters and a few trips down some water slides.

This was a big weekend. The weekend. The one before the kids catch a plane destined for a location across the country to spend summer with their father. It had to be right. It had to be awesome. Alright, it had to be awesome to the kids.

And it was.

It was more than awesome. It was family bonding and moments that can not be taken back.

Alright so in true fashion here’s what happened the last couple days …
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Friday morning we scrambled to gather our backpacks and overnight necessity stuffs. Just a couple backpacks for the park and water park and a hotel bag each. We left at the crack of dawn. Alright maybe it just felt like it, with my love rushing me to get out of the bed. It’s easy for her, she just showers and miraculously is put together. I on the other hand need a team of experts and a barista to get me to look alive.

I gathered my things quickly and waved goodbye to the dogs. I explained that everyone was waiting for me in the car but the dog sitter would be by later. I gave them each the “don’t eat the sitter, just burglary suspects” look and hoped they understood. I think the little one winked. I’m not sure why but it seemed like a good sign.

Our drive was easy, our passes from last year had indeed been renewed and scored us free parking. We even found a spot right near the entrance of the park. I love when that happens. Even getting the kids past security was a breeze. So far so good.

The first day we split our little family into pairs and the bravest amoung us went to ride the brand new giga-coaster. I won’t lie, it was intimidating and I wasn’t sad to be taking on smaller rides with the scaredy cat child.
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After a few thrilling and a couple little less than thrilling rides we made our way to the water park and took a leisurely stroll ran like newly released zoo rhinos to the wave pool.
I don’t think I have ever seen more excited faces.

It’s not as if I have never taken my kids to this amusement park.
I have.

This time was the first with our little family as it is now. The first time ever for teams of 2 and a family of 4.
My love and I were called out equally, to watch new dive moves and to ride water rides with my offspring.

It made my mommy heart swell with such pride.

The kids announced that they were having such a great day, a perfect day. I danced a happy dance in my head.
I mean it.
I broke it down like nobody’s business.

I was ecstatic that my kids were having such fun. That our little family unit, on this little family outing, was so sucessful.

There wasn’t a fight, there was no whining, no complaining no sarcasm. Okay, there was sarcasm.
Lot’s of sarcasm. It was epic.

On day 2 I didn’t want to get up. Suprise, surprise. So I was rushed. Hair in a messy bun and everything from the hotel room thrown quickly into our bags.
Again, everyone was waiting in the car for me.

We got to the park at the same time but didn’t get as great a parking spot. It still wasn’t terrible and we were grateful to not have to walk from the next town to the park entrance.

Like the day before, we split in pairs so that the adventurers could use their season passes for early ride privileges on the new coaster. The more level headed child and I went straight to the water park so that we could get in and get our favorite location claimed before the masses came.
We were met at the gates with a very colorful family. The mom may or may not have been a star on that show “Here comes Honey Boo Boo” I’m not totally sure but there were some clear similarities to the mother. They seemed polite but eager and we waited in the #1 and #2 spots at the gate. I was worried I might have to kick a leg and trip a reality TV star but they headed a different direction once inside the gate.
Lucky break.

I secured our prime location, some drinks and snacks and we were soon joined by the adventurer crew. I listened intently to tales of the feeling “the free fall” and “almost coming off the tracks.” Whatever that means.

It didn’t take long before the sun beating down and the intense crowd began to take their toll. My sweet, happy family started to get cranky, sunburned and begin to turn on each other. It was time to ride some more coasters and consider the drive home.

We left the water park and began to notice the sky was becoming dark. Ominously black.
Then it started to rain. I began to second guess trying to ride any more rides as we took shelter in a vine tunnel. with about 50 other people.
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We waited out the storm and then ventured out, damp but our spirits were unbroken. We found a cute diner and the kids ran off together to ride a neighboring coaster.

Finally, a moment alone.
It was short lived but long enough to chat and we collectively decided to head home after the kids exited the last ride.

It was not our first trip, with,the 4 of us, but it was so much more meaningful than any other.
There was bonding.
I don’t just mean the sticky dried coke on the souvenirs cups kind of bonded. I mean actual love and good energy and laughter.

I didn’t just get a killer tan, I got family time. I don’t know which I’m more excited about. In fairness red heads don’t tan like this.

The thing is amusement parks really aren’t just coasters and crowds. It’s a chance to bond, reconnect, and fall in love. I am pretty enamoured with my crew right now … and my tan.

Date Day! Our “not so romantic” adventure to Triple Falls

Today was date day! A real date day not just the wine and dine kind of date (or in our case the beer, wings and game type). The kind of date you look forward to in advance, with a plan and romance and time just for each other.

We decided on a hike to a near by water fall area and a little picnic on a side trail somewhere along the way. We would bring sandwiches and those little single bottles of wine. It would be just us and it would absolutely epic.

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Triple Falls DuPont State Forest

Only our big date day didn’t go exactly as we had discussed. Nobody brought the sandwiches, nobody bought the wine. We didn’t even decide which falls to go to ahead of time. The weather wasn’t quite warm enough yet in the day but we still had the convertible top down. We had such good intentions.

Then this happened:

Her: (for the 5th time) ” I need directions, I don’t know where I’m going”

Me: “then maybe you should pull the ******* car over and put the top on. I’m freezing my ass off and I’m trying to find the directions!”  Have you ever tried to read your phone with the open sky glaring down on it? You can’t see a damn thing. I was doing my best, it just so happened that I expressed it poorly and in a loud, possibly hysterical tone.

Her: “Then maybe we should just go home then.”

Me: “Fine.”  Well, that escalated quickly.

It didn’t take long for us to warm up and tempers to cool off. We laughed at each other and headed on to our destination.

Once we arrived we realized everyone and their dog had the same idea. We were not going to be alone. Even if we had remembered the tiny bottles of wine we would not have enjoyed them in solitude.

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Hiking in DuPont Spring 2015

There were couples, singles, families and kids of all ages. There were dog walkers and gangs of old folks with walking sticks. There were booty shorts and similarly questionable hiking attire plus backpacks a plenty. I am absolutely sure one group even brought the entire Ancestry Family Tree. There were parents and grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws and outlaws. Inside one particular group there was also a heavily guarded picnic basket. For a moment I considered ditching my date and joining the clan. We had after all forgotten our sandwiches. and a girls gotta eat.

Then there were all the lesbian couples. I’m not kidding. It was like we missed the note that said “Les Meet! Friday hikers start here!” There were so many. It was like we out numbered the heteros. I’ve hiked these areas a few times and I’ve never noticed this phenomenon. I would have noticed.

It wouldn’t be a big deal except there is this special way lesbian couples of my general age group great one another in passing. I like to compare it to when dog owners with the same breed meet up. Each eyes the other and quickly confirms that their bitch is obviously superior. Clearly. This is confirmed with a mutual nod and smile. It’s a little strange but true.

Even with all the head nodding, kid avoiding and old folk passing it was a great hike. We had a good time and we laughed like we did when everything was still brand new. We even made a sandwich and beer stop after the hike was over. Who needs wine for romance anyway.

At the end of the day we were happy to have had the time together, and that is exactly what a great date should be. It isn’t about what you did, but more who you did it with. I’m already looking forward to next time.

*head nod, smile*