Here in the midwest, it’s sort of a thing to spend summer weekends at a lake. Maybe it’s because we’re land-locked (at least in terms of touching an ocean; it’s kind of hard to feel land-locked in Chicagoland when massive Lake Michigan is right here), so lakes provide our only chance for beach hangs. Or maybe it’s because there are just so many freaking lakes here. But when I close my eyes and get all day-dreamy about summertime, one of the first images that pops into my head is hanging out at a lake in my bathing suit, drinking cold beer and lemonade and eating watermelon and doing all of those idealist things that define the season.
This morning, we are lake bound ourselves, for a short family trip that has become an annual event. Before we had kids, Robbie and I used to drive up to this little lake town in Wisconsin and sit on the beach, eat at the local restaurants, shop, and explore as a couple. (We even took our “babymoon” there in the fall when I was pregnant with Essley.) Then we had Essley, and for the past two summers have taken her as well. This year will be the first year we bring Emmett. For all of the collective traveling that we do and have done throughout the world, this little trip is really nothing – but it feels like everything because it is one of those summer traditions you think about all year long. And while it’s supposed to rain, like, the whole time, we’re not going to let it spoil our fun. Warm summer rain is kind of awesome anyway. (I won’t be posting about it because we’re just gonna chill and be present and stuff, man, but I’m sure I won’t be able to stop myself from sharing at least some of it on Instagram and Snapchat; I’m under @bubbyandbean for both.)
Do any of you take lake trips in the summertime? If so, where do you go?
If you’re ever in need of an escape to reset your head and find a little bit of peace in the chaos that swirls around you, I highly recommend Thailand. I have lots of stories and photos to share about the elephants I met, but today I have a different story to tell.
Although not quite intentional, when I planned this trip I realized I was returning the day before my son’s tenth birthday, which is also the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. To spend the two weeks leading up to it in a dream fugue of green hills and silent Buddhas was a serendipitous gift that I really needed, because otherwise I would be at home, reliving those long painful days.
Partway through the trip, our group left the elephant sanctuary for the day and travelled to a small offshoot, where the park personnel were working with a large group of macaques. These monkeys, over a hundred of them, had been seized from the streets of Bangkok by the Thai government and were set to be sold to a laboratory before the park founder intervened and took them in to the sanctuary with little more than two weeks’ notice.
It is, to put it mildly, a large undertaking.
When we arrived, a small cadre of volunteers was upgrading the enclosures and getting a handle on one of the first orders of business: neutering the male monkeys. This is necessary for a variety of reasons; behavioral, and the fact that as adorable as all the babies were, they didn’t need to add more to the mix.
But needless to say, the monkeys themselves were not as thrilled with the idea. They are smart. They know what the little blowdarts mean: someone gets sleepy and goes away for a bit; and they were really, really good at evading them.
Two unsuccessful hours in, as we were still watching the goings-on and waiting for someone to neuter, a small motion caught my eye. It was a bright orange butterfly.
Butterflies have long been my mother’s favorite creature; it is impossible for me to see one and not think of her. They are, and always have been, her avatar. And I, who had been studiously avoiding getting into my head on the topic, had no choice but to sit and think about her.
The butterfly eventually flitted on further into the field, slowly and lazily as if to wait for me to get the hint, so I followed.
I vaguely heard people calling after me as I wandered off, but my attention was turned elsewhere: The field this butterfly had led me to was alive.
I had never seen so many different butterflies all in one place; the green ones that looked like leaves caught on the wind; the orange one that flew like scattered flower petals; the small grey ones on the ground that sat like pebbles until, unfurling their wings, they revealed themselves to be blue.
I didn’t even notice the one on the left at first; a camouflaged creature, hiding in plain sight, watching over the three remaining orange butterflies.
When I saw it, so hidden yet just as real as the remaining three, it hit me so suddenly that my breath caught. A whisper on the wind as clear as day: She is here. She is always here, all around you, and your dad, and your sister.
I hadn’t been expecting such an obvious revelation, and certainly not in what appeared to be an empty field, but I seem to require very deliberate signs from the universe in order to pay attention.
Eventually Teri came bushwhacking to scrape me off the riverbank and let me know a monkey was ready for a neuter. I had found a riverbed where the butterflies swirled, and in that silent contemplation, I was able to get up and go back to the insanity of our lives.
We met Baïka a couple of days ago – at the time, looking rather scare. Here she has settled with her gentle owner, Antoine. They live in Gorbio. The rapport between these two is lovely to see. Lucky dog, lucky owner.
Hi! My name is Truman, just like the 33rd President of the United States. I may never get to live in The White House, but I hope to win the position of First Fido in a forever home this Pawsidential…
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Baïka is one and a half and lives in Gorbio. A beautiful gentle dog who really didn’t want to look at the camera. Come back tomorrow and you’ll see she did eventually settle thanks to her owner.
NJ.com is reporting that the federal government has busted a dog fighting ring that operated in four states as far flung as New Mexico and New Jersey. Under the Animal Welfare Act, it is a federal crime to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive, or transport dogs intended for use in […]
I’ve talked before here about my feelings on being present with my family and friends and how, as with the majority of us, I often find myself sucked into social media, my phone, and just technology in general when I should be more actively engaging with loved ones. It’s a problem I think most of have, and although it’s an incredibly easy one to solve, we have to make a conscious effort to do it. So last month I decided that my little family was going to take an evening to have a belated birthday celebration for my husband that involved spending time outside (the weather was just finally starting to warm up) and powering down our cellphones, iPads, and television. It would just be the four of us hanging out in an intimate setting on our back deck, enjoying one another’s company.
My biggest goal (aside from turning off all devices!) for our casual early evening hangout session was to decorate our deck in a way that would create a warm, comfortable, inviting aesthetic, so we’d just naturally feel present and engaged as a family. I wanted to keep things simple, but fun and colorful as well. I started by hanging a vibrant felt “Happy Birthday” banner to set the theme. I bought a pretty yellow daisy plant and arranged that on a smaller table, then (finally!) brought some indoor plants outside for the season. The final step was to (literally) add a warm glow to the space with some of my favorite items from TIKI Brand’s new Clean Burn tabletop product line. I put out a pretty teal colored small Clean Burn Tabletop Firepiece, and for the the focal piece of our family celebration’s decor, I set out our large TIKI Brand Clean tabletop firepiece. We love this piece so much because it’s like our own little backyard fire pit that fits perfectly on our deck table. The flame is rich and bright and provides light and ambiance, and along with all of our other other TIKI Brand pieces, created such a wonderful vibe for our mini party. I also set out three of their Glass Table Torches for pops of color.
These TIKI Brand tabletop fireplaces are so cool you guys. One of my favorite parts is the Clean Burn Torch Fuel they use. It creates a gorgeous bright flame, and one bottle provides a whole 24 hours of burn time. And best of all, the formula is totally plant-based (!!!) with no petroleum-based ingredients – so the burn is clean, without excess smoke or unpleasant petroleum odors. And I love the that Firepieces themselves use reusable Roundwick burner-systems that provide up to three hours of burn time with every fill (and also reduce risk of fuel spillage). They’re so quick and easy to set up, and once they’re lit, they’re good to go for the evening.
We had such a great time at our first outdoor family evening together of the season, watching my husband open gifts (or, in truth, watching my daughter open them for him), eating chocolate birthday cake and strawberries, talking, engaging, laughing, and connecting with one another. By completely turning off our phones and electronics and replacing that cold blue light at which we’re so used to staring with the warm glow of our Tabletop Firepieces, it was easy to be completely present and let everything else fade into the background as we just relaxed and savored the experience. My husband said it was actually the best birthday party he’d ever had (a relief since it was so easy compared to some of the more elaborate, stressful birthday parties I’d planned for him in the past). And best of all, the evening inspired us to make it a regular occurrence this summer to power down and hang out on our deck together as a family. I highly recommend doing the same with your loved ones. By doing something as simple as turning off your electronic devices and creating a simple outdoor space with a nice warm ambience, you’d be amazed at how profoundly different an experience you can have with the people you care about.
And speaking of connecting with friends and family, TIKI Brand has created a event called The Night of the Power Down that will take place on June 26. I will be participating and I hope you guys will be as well! You can find more info here: Tikibrand.com/Power-Down.
Here’s to a summer full of real life experiences with your favorite people!
This post is in partnership with TIKI® Brand. All opinions are mine. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.