Summer Intentions

My friend Krista recently posted a printable Summer Intentions worksheet. It was exactly what I needed to help me start to shift gears mentally from the end-of-homeschool-year/tax-return-deadline madness into summer anticipation. (You can find the worksheet on the sidebar of her blog.)

Her thoughts about summer intentions reminded me of a post I published seven years ago (seven!) about our summer schedule; when berries, beaches, and farm visits anchored our weekly summer activities. Slowing down for summer, lazy-hazy simple childhood stuff was all the rage in my world then. It might still be all the rage in my world, if I had younger children.

Summer isn't what it used to be when my kids were little. There's way more media in our lives, for one thing. And I don't remember the last time I went berry picking. More significantly, we've moved, several times.

Over the course of family life values shift, priorities change, people change; the kids grow up.

I don't subscribe to the theory or belief that life is worse today than it was in the past, in both my personal story and the larger story of society and culture. Life is largely what you make it, and it's always changing, and there have always been challenges.

So this is not a pining for the past, or pining for that simple schedule of summer's yore. Though I do pine for the surety I had when mothering preschool through pre-adolescent kids.

When I look back on my posts circa 2009 (and thereabouts) my words seem confident and certain. That lasted for a few years.

And then I experienced a lot of life upheaval, undermining my overall sense of security. We hiked the AT, I had a midlife crisis and our darling children grew into a bunch of teenagers with minds of their own. I'm not as brazenly confident anymore, but that helps me to rightly place my trust into hands and a heart much bigger than mine.

I adore my children. I love to be with them. They are my favorite people in the world. I feel most secure and safe, most loved and understood with my family. We are very close. And because of that, they also drive me crazy, so I frequently cry and hide in the bedroom. (I think our teenaged girls could say the very same thing, the crazy, crying, hiding part.)

These aren't the easiest years of parenting, but Damien and I remind ourselves often, it could be a lot worse.

We've been planning for this summer since winter. It's what I do to survive dark and cold days. The best parts of winter are skiing, hibernating and dreaming about summer.

Damien and I have wanted to take the kids out west for years. We are from the west. All of Damien's family lives in Alberta. And almost all of my extended family lives in western Canada. And we love big mountains, big nature. (Given all this you might curiously wonder why we live in Quebec. See this post for the answer.)

Originally, in our crazing-making (for me that is) adventuring days we thought, "heck, let's spend 6 months out west after our AT adventure". Not immediately after, we want to maintain our Quebec residency and that requires staying put for half of the year. But we thought after banking time in our home province we'd spend 6 months traveling through the western US and Alberta and BC.

Then we clued in (crisis will do that) that I needed to be rooted. I needed to make home. I needed more security than our adventure-motivated decisions were giving me. So instead of traveling out west we moved to Montreal to establish home and find community for the remainder of our child-raising years.

But we still wanted to make a trip west. Our children haven't seen their cousins for many years. They've never experienced the western mountain ranges. I miss my extended family. Plus, Damien works with people in the western US and Alberta. He wants to spend time with these people. We just needed to go. But living in the city, raising three teenagers on one self-employed income, yikes, it's financially tight. So we weren't sure we could do it.

In fact, in the early New Year, I "put my foot down" on travel because I am so tired of our financial situation, which feels precarious to me all the time. This is not necessarily the truth of the situation but the way I'm wired craves a ton of security. I want to follow all the best financial advice so I can achieve the most secure outcome for my life, but it is simply not possible to do everything "right" in this regard, or any regard. Life is too complicated, not to mention we are not entitled to any of it - life, liberty, happiness, breath. It is a gift, all of it.

I'm just being perfectly frank about this. I have security hang-ups, hence my anxiety, but the flip side of a hang-up is an honest-to-goodness need.

Learning how to meet my true needs for security, how to be secure in God, self and relationships, learning that there is nothing I can do in the external world that will make me feel secure if I am insecure within myself, learning how to use my management skills with wisdom and not a clenched heart or clenched hands, learning how to trust... this the story of my life folks. (If you're into the Enneagram, my inner workings read like the textbook description of a type 6.)

This is the backdrop for putting my foot down, "no way can we travel this summer". But Damien is creative and is willing to make sacrifices to reach a goal, and there are trickles of money that come in to the coffers from all over the place because of our varied online ventures that I sometimes forget about. And there are friends with an air bnb, and parents who offer to help, and there are business contacts to make, and travel expenses we can write off. (And gosh, do we ever need some of those!)

And so it is that we are traveling this summer to Montana and Alberta for six weeks, on the cheap. There will be lots of driving and working (this isn't a vacation for Damien, unfortunately). But for those efforts and with the help of family and friends we have the opportunity to stay in a beautiful place, visit Yellowstone, experience big mountains, see cousins, aunts & uncles in Edmonton, celebrate my mother-in-law's 70th birthday, attend a family wedding (where I will see my cousins, aunts & uncles), and camp with friends in Ontario on the way home. It's a big trip.

In the crazy of May and June I was barely able to think about this summer. And in my intense frustration at shelving professional projects and pushing my boundaries to support my team, I was actually upset that this summer would be just another thing keeping me from moving forward in my goals.

I make plans for my life, and then things don't go according to plan.

I had to put projects on hold this spring because of everything else I needed to do to support our kids, help my husband, and manage our home. And I was starting to have "flashbacks" to the previous couple years when I was making decision after decision that compromised my emotional well-being. And then summer arrived and I realized, with disappointment, that the professional projects I want to move forward this year will remain on hold or, if I'm lucky, move at a snail's crawl through the summer months. And yes, all this made me anxious. (Like I needed more of that.)

In the last couple weeks I've been working (and releasing) to change my perspective on things.

The question, How do I want to feel this summer? guiding my thoughts. Not, what do I hope to accomplish?

There are seasons for making progress, seasons to produce, and seasons to make peace with our limitations and life circumstances and enjoy and appreciate what's right in front of us.

My oldest daughter is 17, she's nearly grown. And the days in which we all pile into the car, as a family of five, to go on grand adventures are coming to a close. Not immediately, but soon. There will be boyfriends and girlfriends, employment, schooling, independent lives.

We needed to do this, now. And I am so grateful we can. We need to re-connect with family. We need big sky, big beauty. I need to learn to trust in God's timing.

I know how I want to feel this summer; anxious, uptight, and frustrated are not on the list. So my goals and intentions for this summer are pretty simple:

  • be here (and what an amazing here this is)
  • be ok with slow progress on my professional projects
  • write as many mornings as possible
  • take lots of photos
  • appreciate all the beauty I'm going to encounter (taking photos will help)
  • nurture my friendship with Damien
  • give time and presence to my extended family
  • enjoy my kids

We arrived in Montana late Sunday night, after driving west for days on I-94. The air was redolent with pine, the stars bright in the wide open sky. The space felt warm, open, relaxed. And that is how I want to feel this summer.

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  • Nana

    Nana on July 6, 2016, 7:19 p.m.

    Nova Scotia, our new home (9 years!) is beautiful with wide-sky ocean-scapes but my western Canada/Alberta-grown heart craves the big skies. Thanks for posting the photos - and may your summer BE for you, what you want and need. Look forward to meeting up next month. xoxo, Mom



  • Barbara A Tougas

    Barbara A Tougas on July 7, 2016, 4:06 a.m.

    I loved living with my teenagers. It's a time when you just 'hang out' with your children as young adults, enjoy their conversations with you, adult to adult, their funny jokes, adult style teasings, their interesting friends, and their new and different choices of activities. These young adults can open your eyes to your world in a different way. It's exciting and it's over way to soon.They suddenly aren't just your little kids, but they become your real friends. Don't look back and pine for those little, dependent babies, but rejoice in this new world of adults that you have created. All too soon, they will leave and find their way in the world, (the empty nest), and then you will have all the time you need to find yourself and concentrate on your professional self development.

    i remember the time when I came to the realization that my mother nurturing days were coming to an end. It was when my first child moved out. It didn't really hit me until then. The other three were still home, but the realization hit home. I could do the math. How many years before they were all gone? What then? That's when the BIG QUESTIONS hit me..."Who am I?"....Why am I here?...What is my purpose in life now?...Where do I go from here?...What are my likes?

    That last question was the weirdest one. I realized that throughout my childraising years I had put my own interests, desires, personal wishes aside, sacrificed myself so unselfishly for my family, that I no longer knew who I was and what I wanted. And that's OK, right even. But now, it's time for self nurturing, reconnecting with the spouse at a different, more personal level....closing 'the gap...that the vanishing children left....with my spouse...for the next 20-30 years of my life!!!!


    • Lori C.

      Lori C. on July 8, 2016, 5:08 p.m.

      This comment is so spot-on with my own feelings/thoughts... Well said...


    • renee

      renee on July 8, 2016, 5:33 p.m.

      I hear you Mom but I also have sacrificed myself for my family (husband and kids) and it wasn't very right (for many reasons, including sin) and it hurt me, and our marriage. I'm still recovering from that experience (and I believe our marriage will be stronger) and because of that I hold on to the importance of personal & professional goals and development, in the midst of family life and my full-time work as homeschool mom. 

      Also, financially for our family it's important that I move in this direction. We could really use the extra income. 

      I know I will have more time for these pursuits as the kids get older, but Damien and I intend to be as involved in our adult kids' lives as much as they will let us, and grandkids will come along, and I will always be supporting Damien and my kids, and their kids, and my time is never completely mine, so I do want to move forward on my goals in each stage of my life and not wait till the nest is empty. It's important to me.

      I love having teenagers, so much fun and independence, but the last few years have also rocked my confidence and I do pine for the confidence I had when my kids were younger, when I was the center of their world (smile) even though it drove me nuts to have so much (so many people) depending on me. Damien and the children mean everything to me, as you know. But along with that I want to have a strong sense of self, in all stages of my life. 

      I appreciate your wisdom and experiece Mom.


  • Krista

    Krista on July 11, 2016, 9:29 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this, Renée. But one more little thing to add to your travel itinerary is a few hours strolling Whyte Ave with an AB friend;)


  • Kathy

    Kathy on July 23, 2016, 4:22 p.m.

    Renee -

    I'm so very thankful to have found your blog!   I take a lot of Heather's workshops and was going through the 30 Day Vegan posts when I ran across your post about trail days, etc.  One thing leads to another, especially on a morning recovering from a huge family day with an iPad fully charged in my lap!  I have just spent the last hour or so perusing your blog, and I feel so so connected to you by your writing, as a woman and a mother.  I feel the tensions you feel between getting away from the home via travel in order to BE with your family (the family that is fleeting in its present form),  and missing that familiar, grounding rhythm of home that soothes our nerve endings and brings rest.  My husband must travel for his work, and my boys (ages 16 and 13) and I go with him every single time.  It's exhausting but bonding and almost always includes a nature adventure like hiking and fly fishing. .   We return, the boys refreshed and I worrying about our homeschool, the bills that may have slipped through the cracks, and oh yes, the lack of veggies during our travels and the need to feed resistant sons nourishing food, all the while exhausted from being out of my home! But I wouldn't have it any other way...probably (ha!).

    This travel tension is just one way I connect with you, but I don't want to leave a comment the size of Texas, so I'll stop with that one for now! I just want to say that you express what I feel, and I'm quite sure many, many women/wives/dedicated moms feel, and I am grateful. Feeling isolated just does not have to happen when women like you dare to speak raw honesty instead of sugar-coated "should isms ". Take good, good care!


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