Prompt #5:

If we live truly, we shall see truly. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?

(Prompt Author: Chris Guillebeau)

My Response:

Reading today’s Emerson Writing Project (Trust#30) prompt welled up in me the memory of one of my favorite childhood films, The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy initially wishes to be anywhere but where she is, yet in the end she finds her true heart longing for home and the warm embraces of those places and people which comprise her real life. Coincidentally enough, I happened to be at a barbecue today at which I heard Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”—the Hawaiian version, which always chokes me up because it was one of the songs I chose in tribute to my Grandpa Don, who loved Hawaii and took us all on trips there. Travel…The Wizard of Oz…enjoying our own backyard… Today seemed to have a thematic destiny for me.

Of course, there are many places I long to experience before I die: Austria, Norway, more of Italy and France, India, Patagonia, Ireland, Japan, well, just about anywhere. Austria is, right now, at the top of my list, though. My obsession with The Sound of Music should probably be a sufficient explanation as to why. I would also love to take a road trip around the United States, stay at a dude ranch, explore more of the original colonies, hike in the mountains, see lighthouses in Maine. I am game for just about any travel adventure. Just about anywhere and everywhere sparks endless interest and desire within me. I’d love to see Greece and Turkey again or walk through Venice, Italy one more time. I will travel more one day when there are more resources for travel. Right now, our resources are dedicated to our stay-at-home-mom lifestyle with our children. We are in one phase of life; there will be the phase for more travel, and that makes me content.

The thing about me, though, is that I get extremely excited over even the smallest events or moments. I love the learning of history and culture and imagination that comes with travel to a new place, and this sets travel apart as a unique and valuable experience. However, the excitement that I feel when traveling is often equal to the excitement I feel over aspects of my everyday life. I think part of gathering our joy, the bird in our hands so to speak, is to love the life you are in and to cultivate a sense of excitement within our daily geography.

There is so much to do, see, feel, touch, learn, savor, experience, imagine right here, right in front of us—so much, that we could never do it all. Boredom is not really a valid concept in my world. I feel pity—the worst of all emotions (pity is the opposite of compassion, I believe)—for someone who claims to be bored. Every day is a fount of more sensation, more opportunities to learn, more feeling than we could ever soak up in one existence.

So I try to claim it. Claim that existence. I work on my spontaneity, and I try to find backyard treasures.

For example, this morning I surprised the kiddos with an adventure right when they rolled out of bed. The annual Balloon and Wine Festival is happening this weekend in Temecula, and this morning was the start of the balloon launching. Living on the edge of the wineries, we often see weekend balloons in the distance from our house, usually one or two if we’re lucky. Today, however, was bound to be extraordinary, and we wanted to be as close to the magic as possible. Since the balloons usually launch between 6:30 and 7:00ish AM (and are down by 8:15 or 8:30 AM), and since Eric and Katie usually wake up between that time, there was little time to spend on elaborate dressing. In fact, we bundled up, accounted for a few necessities, and jumped in the car in our jammies to “go on a hot air balloon hunt.” Katie was SO EXCITED (as was I), and she thought it was extra neat-o to be out so early in her pajamas.

We found one of the launch sites somewhat by accident, watched most of the balloons there launch, and then drove around through dirt roads and wineries chasing them and finding more hidden pockets of balloons near Lake Skinner. To say the experience was magical would almost be an understatement.

Eric watches with intent delight as balloons float overhead.

Eric and Katie amid the balloons

Excitement right out of the car! Katie has really been loving to see hot air balloons this year, so she was pretty jazzed up by this whole thing!

Balloons in the glorious Temecula sky.

Dozens of balloons…

Ready to lift…

Balloons over a winery that we found along a dirt road.

We had the chance to talk about some of the science behind the rising of the balloon.

Such a fun way to start the day!!

My mom had the idea last night to attend a fundraising barbecue in our neighborhood for a little fourth-grade girl, Bethany, who has been living with leukemia. Friends and neighbors organized the fundraiser to help Bethany obtain a bone marrow transplant. Lunch cost $5.00 with all proceeds to benefit Bethany, and we could also make additional donations.

Katie and I talked last night about having a heart of charity. We’ve given toys at Christmas a couple of times, yet I have been painfully aware of the need (for my own self) to step up my involvement in philanthropy at the level it used to be. It is an area that is too random in my life right now, and I have spent some time recently researching projects in the area. One of the biggest challenges is finding a philanthropy that I can do with my children. Even if we cannot always give gifts of money, we certainly can give of our time and effort. In our more modern climate, it can be easy for people to argue that everyone needs to look out for himself, yet I disagree. I think acts of charity and service to others make the world a better place, a kinder place, a place of goodness. When we put goodness out into the universe, that goodness is never wasted. I have long felt called to help children, in particular, and was fortunate to do so for a long time as an Assisteen through Operation Book Worm. In high school and college, too, it was so easy to find various projects; now, as an adult I regret that I feel more out of touch with what all those opportunities are. I want to teach my children what a charitable love for others feels and looks like. For me that charitable love is an important part of connection with others in this universe.

So Katie and I had a great talk last night. I told her that I would not make her give any of her money in charity—authentic charity can never be forced. We talked about Bethany and why she could use the help. At first Katie thought that, if she were to give anything, it would have to be ALL her money. We talked about how to choose when and what to give, that it is okay to set aside for charity as well as for ourselves. At the end of the talk, she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. She wasn’t sure she wanted to share some of her coins from her piggy bank. I told her that was okay, and I sincerely meant it. I know my daughter—if she has time to think about something, she often ends up doing the kind thing. She just needs to be released from the pressure of decision in the moment.

As we were getting ready to go, I gave her a little velvet jewelry pouch and told her she could use it to carry her donation, if she felt like giving. She wanted to get down her piggy bank, and we talked about what felt like an appropriate amount. I told her what I was going to add, and we figured out what we would be giving up in the real world (something we might otherwise buy) in order to do this for someone else.

We met up with my mom, and we all walked to the barbecue.

Katie with her coins in the “charity bag.”

When we got there, she got to pour in her coins into the collection. It was a happy moment for her, all positive and good-feeling. It was a time of building empathy, a means of looking outside of herself and seeing the larger world and the people in it who might be hurting. This was the start of a good journey for her as a person…

We do not need to travel the world—although it is sure nice and anyone can take me on a trip anytime!—in order to build our character. Character and adventure and love for life are here, right before us, right in our hands, everyday.

Our character is our pair of ruby slippers, and that character always brings us home to our authentic selves.