Building Bonds with Family — Navigating Through, Episode 2

Navigating Through: Episode 2 

Building Bonds with Family

In more ways than one, our circles have tightened in the last year. And while for some family has been out of reach, for others, it’s been a constant. In this episode we hear from a new mom, Aly Nicklas, and a daughter, Paulina Dao, as they reflect on the ways in which their relationships with family have shifted during the pandemic. We also explore how getting out in the outdoors together, away from the everyday routine, helps to strengthen our family bonds—whatever family means to us.

About the series: 

This special She Explores miniseries is made in collaboration with Subaru.

The last year has been marked by loss and longing, but it hasn’t dampened our sense of adventure or our tendency to dream: of far off places, of time in movement with loved ones. And throughout, there’s been comfort in knowing a place we feel most like ourselves: behind the wheel, on the way to our favorite local trailheads, swim spots, and mountainsides.

With our eyes in the rear view as much as they are looking at the road ahead, through this four part series we’ll tell stories about finding adventure locally, reconnecting with those close to us, and taking the side roads that bring us back to what drives us: connection, purpose, and creativity.

Banner image by Arlene @arlene_horchata

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

Find the episode below, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you stream podcasts.

Featured in this episode:  Paulina Dao & Aly Nicklas

Hosted & Produced by Gale Straub

Edited by Julie Hotz

A production of Ravel Media

Resources

All Four Episodes of Navigating Through Are Available Now Wherever You Listen to She Explores

Music by Josh Woodward

Podcast Art by Hailey Hirst


Featured in this episode:

Paulina Dao and her mom

 

Filmmaker Aly Nicklas and her son and partner

Enjoy this episode? Rate us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. It’ll help other people find us. You can also share this podcast with a friend. Thank you for your support!


TRANSCRIPT

Note: This transcript was lightly edited and created using a transcription service. As such it may contain spelling errors.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Navigating Through is a special four-part She Explores mini-series made in partnership with Subaru. With our eyes in the rear view as much as they are looking at the road ahead, through this four part series we’ll tell stories about finding adventure locally, reconnecting with those close to us, and taking the side roads that bring us back to what drives us: connection, purpose, and creativity. I’m Gale Straub, your guide for Navigating Through. This is episode two: Building Bonds with Family. In more ways than one, our circles have tightened in the last year. And while for some, family has been out of reach, for others, it’s been a constant. In this episode, we’ll talk about the ways the importance and concept of family time have shifted during the pandemic for two women, and how getting out in the outdoors together, away from the everyday routine, helps to strengthen those bonds. Before we jump in, I want to acknowledge the staggering number of lives lost to covid — over half a million and counting here in the United States. Each person a member of a family, whether chosen or by blood. And while these losses may have in some part crystalized who & what we hold dear, these losses deserve to be honored in equal measure.

Gale Straub – Narration:

First up: Aly Nicklas:

Aly Nicklas:

Entering motherhood is kind of a shocking thing, or it was for me, like I had all these ideas of what it would look like and how it would feel, and then it happened, and it was so much more incredible and chaotic in a lot of ways.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Aly Nicklas is a filmmaker and photographer in the pacific northwest of Oregon. She and her partner Corey are parents to a little boy named Wolfie, who entered the world in February of 2020.

Aly Nicklas:

I was just three weeks postpartum when things started moving really fast in the U S towards lockdown.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Aly’s been navigating new motherhood alongside a pandemic, which has shaped a time that’s impossible to plan for:

Aly Nicklas:

I had to kind of immediately let go of my expectations for community, for support, for my friends and family, being able to hold my son, which is such a basic simple thing and something I wanted so desperately, and it just wasn’t possible. And it was pretty lonely. Um, my partner is, uh, a national geographic photographer and he was traveling and working for a story during that time. So I was alone a lot. And on the flip side, it didn’t feel in some ways like I was missing out on much because of the pandemic, which was a concern of mine going into pregnancy. Cause I love my career so passionately and I suspected slowing down would be a little hard. There is this enormous pressure, which I’m sure you can relate to, to always be creating, to remain visible. And the pandemic kind of just like shut that down. And, and honestly in many ways helped me get more aware of it and let me let go of that urgent feeling of needing to, you know, stay busy and to just be really present with my son in this really magical, special, transformative time. That is the fourth trimester. That first period where they’re new in the world.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Along with becoming a mother as the world shut down, Aly has also navigated through the uncertainty of the end of pregnancy and her postpartum body.

Aly Nicklas:

Like in my head, I was like, Oh, I’ll like ski into labor. You know, I like rip my skins off in front of the, in front of the hospital. And I think it’s good to have an idea and a plan and then to just be really flexible and flowing, which is a good mindset I think to have with parenting as well. But you know, I had preterm labor and some other complications with him. So like the last two months, I always couldn’t really go up and down the stairs too many times in a day because we wanted to keep him in. And of course he ended up coming out like a week after Suday got cozy in there, but I was pretty mellow. The last couple of months and recovery was harder than I thought, like my first walk around the block, I was like, whew, that was real way more exhausted than I’d been after, you know, running a marathon or something.

Aly Nicklas:

It was an adjustment. And I think having learning to have grace for myself in that process was a really valuable learning opportunity. I love the postpartum realness, you know, women with their like mesh underwear and their giant belly is cause I didn’t even know that you’re still at a giant belly because no one ever talked about that. And it’s such a, like postpartum, such a quiet time. So you don’t see women out in the world like a week after they have a baby, but they still look six months pregnant, you know, or at least I did, it took me about six months to start to feel normal in my body, which is totally fine. But there is so much expectation around bouncing back, which I’m just like that’s baloney, we’re bouncing forward into whatever’s next.

Gale Straub – Narration:

I just want to pause for a moment and say that on another level, I feel that too, after this tender year – a pressure to bounce back to “normal.” While Aly was growing her family at home, the pandemic has changed other relationships.

Aly Nicklas:

You know, I am the oldest child and I’m 37. So my family has been waiting for a grand baby for a long time, same with Cory’s family. So everyone is so excited about will feed and it’s unbelievably heartbreaking for us that they can’t spend time with him. My, my father had a quadruple bypass surgery emergency one in the fall and you know, not being able to go there and be with him and, you know, having this moment of not being sure how much longer he’d be around because of that. And he’s doing great now, which is wonderful, but that was really, really hard. And you know, my partner’s father passed away in the spring. So yeah, it’s been really hard. I think in, in that way, you know, not being able to spend time with family during this year where, you know, having a kid it’s it’s, you want the whole village around you. Um, you want your family. I’ve wanted my family around me more than I ever have probably in my life.

Aly Nicklas:

So that part’s been hard and, and you know, we stay in touch with them as best we can, but I feel like, and I’ve noticed this with other, with friendships too, that I just, I feel like in the beginning there was like so many zoom calls and so much connection and that’s kind of dropped off. I think we’re all a little weary of that. So I haven’t, we haven’t been as tapped in as I would like, but I’m hoping the summer fall be able to spend time together again now that our older family members had been vaccinated and everyone is healthy and doing well. And I guess that’s like the most important at the end of the day.

Gale Straub:

Hmm. Oh yeah. That’s hard though. I’m sorry to hear about your partner’s dad and, and your dad’s health issues too. That’s it’s hard to be far away.

Aly Nicklas:

Yeah. It’s yeah, it’s really hard. But again, like, so just thankful that everyone is healthy, that’s a big blessing in this year where so many people have, you know, lost people.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Nature has been a grounding force for Aly her whole life, from growing up in Alaska to incorporating it into her profession as a documentary filmmaker. Amidst the strain of the last year, I was curious how she’s beginning to fold it in for her family.

Aly Nicklas:

I was raised to view a connection with nature is kind of a basic need sort of like food and water. You know, that comes from a place of enormous privilege. Like I grew up in Alaska where wildness was unavoidable, you know, like our house backed up like endless miles of mountain ranges and forests and rivers. And, and I knew long before I had a kid that a deep connection with the natural world would be one of the biggest priorities, if not the biggest outside of feeding him and providing shelter. So Corey and I are really fiercely committed to Wolfie having those same freedoms and connection with nature that both of us had growing up. So he went out on his first hike around 10 days old, and we spent as much time as we could in this big park, near a place in Southeast Portland. I’m living in a city does make it a lot harder, especially during a pandemic, but we moved down to white salmon in the Columbia river Gorge in December. I can’t think of a more incredible place to raise a child. And now he’s out here out in nature, like every single day, cause we can walk to trails from our house, which I could not be more grateful for that. And he loves being outside and no matter the weather and is his calmest when we’re outside and it’s really calming for us too.

Aly Nicklas:

We’ve taken him backpacking and skiing. And I feel like he’s, he’s gotten a lot of adventure under his belt for being a year old. In some ways I think postpartum was, I was a lot slower than I thought I’d be and same with pregnancy. So it’s been like a gradual easing back into being out in the world and ramping up adventure, which feels good and right for us, you know, in this process of slowing down and rooting and building our family, I think being in one place and not traveling so much, it’s so in line with so many of my values and how I want to live my life, you know, when you’re traveling all the time and it’s one thing to the next, it makes it a lot harder to be really present and being present with my son, with my partner, you know, with our animals and with myself is become such a big priority.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Considering all that Aly has found in nature this past year while bringing along Wolfie I asked her if she had any advice for new moms who want to make adventure part of their lives.

Aly Nicklas:

My biggest piece of advice is to just go out and do the thing. It can be scary. It can be intimidating, but kids, as it turns out, I’ve learned, they don’t really need that much to be happy or to be well taken care of. We took Wolfie on a three-day backpacking trip when he was eight months old in the Malawi at the end of September, which is very much shoulder season in the back country. And it was freezing at night, like snowing, probably 15, 20 degrees. We hiked eight to 10 miles per day and it was so challenging. But afterward I really did. It was more challenging in my head before going and doing it than it was actually doing it. If that makes sense. Um, I built it up to be this big thing and, and I gained so much confidence from that trip.

Aly Nicklas:

It made so much more seem possible. And you know, we built up to that. Like our first hike was a mile, you know, in a city park. I didn’t even know if you can call it a hike. It was like a stroll, but it felt like a big hike at the time when he was week and a half old. So by the time he was eight months old, he was like ready and comfortable with it. So I think the main thing is don’t let your discomfort or your fear of discomfort almost get in the way of the rewards that you and your family will get from being outside, from being in nature and being with each other in those places.

Gale Straub:

Oh, I love that. I love the building up and cause it becomes more of a muscle that you can flex and you can also talk yourself into it when you start talking yourself out of it. Yeah.

Aly Nicklas:

Yeah. You just like, you commit, you’re like, I’m going to do this even if I don’t want to. And I think that’s the biggest thing is yeah. Committing to yourself, committing to your word, to your agreement. Like my agreement with myself with we’re going to get wealthy outside and we’re going to go do these things. And when it came to that trip, I was like, I actually have no interest in hiking into the cold with a baby. Like that doesn’t sound very fun and it was incredible, you know? So I just like held that commitment even though at the time, I didn’t really want to do it to be totally honest. I was like, this sounds scary, but it was awesome. So I think remembering that is helpful.

Gale Straub – Narration:

While today Aly is bringing Wolfie out into nature, one day, when he’s older, the roles might reverse, as they have for Paulina Dao who is now leading her mom on trips. I had the opportunity to talk with Paulina about a recent excursion, as well as how this time has helped her reconnect with her parents, who are her strongest link to her Vietnamese heritage.

Paulina Dao:

I’m just really thankful for how much of a trooper my mom is. She’s always game to put up with my shenanigans.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Paulina works a 9-5 job and is an avid weekend adventurer, documenting her outings on her Instagram and her blog, Little Grunts. Recently, she and her mom got the opportunity to take a micro adventure to Tahoe in a new Subaru Outback Onyx for an overnight winter snow shoe.

Gale Straub:

What is, what does your mom think about the writing that you do and the photos that you take and a lot of the ways that you choose to spend your time outside?

Paulina Dao:

I don’t think she really understands it. She’s just like people follow you to see what you write. People like follow you to see what you post on Instagram. And it doesn’t really make sense to her and she’s just like, you can make money off of this. But, um, at the same time, I think her perspective has really shifted from no, this is a very dangerous thing to like, wow. Like my daughter does some really cool stuff. And sometimes she takes me to do those things with her.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Case in point: the recent snowshoe trip at a cabin near Tahoe. I asked Paulina where the idea sprang from:

Paulina Dao:

The snowshoed venture was kind of just an idea that I had in my mind of being able to showcase winter to my mom, without it really being winter. She’s definitely at an age where things like, you know, skiing and snowboarding are a little bit out of the question, cause it’s just kind of hard on her body and she, she doesn’t recover as well. And, and she’s honestly just at a point where she’s like, I don’t really care about, you know, snowboarding and skiing. We can rent a cabin and all my food and you can come back and have food and I’ll just like sit on the couch and read or something like that. So snowshoeing is kind of a really awesome, like low impact way for me to get outside in the winter with my mom. Snowshoeing is something that I don’t think she’s ever done before.

Paulina Dao:

I mean, I think she’s done it like once or twice. Cause she used to be like the mom who was really into going onto like field trips with me and my siblings. And she would always sign up to be like a chaperone for like, like science camp, like in the Marin Headlands or science camp in Yosemite. And I’m like 90% sure. She went with us with somebody in my family to Yosemite, but she says she didn’t. So she was really excited to, to get out and try snowshoeing. And at first she was a little bit apprehensive because she was like, Oh, like, I don’t know about getting a COVID test done or taking time off of work because she’s been working a lot. And then she kind of just said to me, you know what, I’ve been working too much. It would be really great to be able to get outside and spend some time time with my daughter. And she’s turned on all of her out of office emails and then drove out to meet up with me in Sacramento,

Gale Straub – Narration:

Just like she was there for Paulina to take her to extracurricular activities as a kid, Paulina’s mom made the time for the snowshoe trip. The stories we’re hearing today are a reminder that our bodies will always continue to change. Paulina mentioned snowshoeing being a good, lower impact sport for her mom, and Aly shared that her body changed in pregnancy and postpartum. It’s good to respect that and to also be proud of ourselves when we try new things and push our limits, no matter what point we are at in our lives.

Gale Straub:

Is there anything that you, you learned about her when you were on this trip together?

Paulina Dao:

Yeah, I learned that she’s a trooper. Um, I think growing up, I was always just like, Oh my gosh, my mom is like so embarrassing. And like, she was always like super duper strict and I felt a lot of resentment towards her when I was growing up just because, you know, like she had this vision of what she wanted her kids’ lives to look like. And she wanted us all to be really successful, grow up and have good jobs and be able to take care of ourselves. And so it kind of like that pressure of just like always being on my a game made me really resent my mom, but like now, like that I’ve had, but a lot of time away from that. And I don’t see her as often and we don’t live together. I’m just really thankful for how much of a trooper my mom is.

Paulina Dao:

She’s always game to put up with my shenanigans. I kind of forgot how long has this snowshoe trip was. I wanted to go to this really cool hut at the top of this peak in the Tahoe area. I did it at some point last year. And I remember it being like not too long, like maybe a couple miles at most pretty flat, but then that’s also coming from me. Uh, somebody who goes out a lot does a lot of hiking, whereas my mom does not do that as much. And she’s more of a walk around like the neighborhood walk around the local park where it’s all pretty flat and I’m just like, Oh yeah, mom, you know, like this is super chill. It’s going to be flat. Like, there’ll be a little bit snowy, but it’ll be totally fine. And then maybe like a mile or two it and I was just like, huh, like this look a little bit further away than I expected.

Paulina Dao:

She was just like, why are we going uphill? And I’m like, we’re not going uphill. This is super flat on this fire road, but she kind of just kept pushing herself and pushing herself. And she complained a little bit or like was kind of poking fun that I kept saying we were almost there. We were almost there. And then finally we kind of just got to a point where she recognized she did not want to go any further and it was starting to get out of her comfort zone and she was able to vocalize that. So we could turn around and go back to the car and have snacks and treats and stuff.

Gale Straub – Narration:

When you’re a child, you need someone to take care of you. And when you’re older, you might just get the opportunity to return the favor.

Paulina Dao:

I would take control of the situation and be responsible and carry all the things. But then, you know, like her mom instincts would also kick in and she’d be like, Hey, like why are you carrying so much stuff? Like, are you eating enough? Are you drinking enough water? So it was, it was like a really interesting balance that I’m just like, mom, like I’ve done this a million times. Like, don’t worry about me. Like this backpack is chill. Like I carry a lot of way all the time and this is something that I’m going to do again over and over. But you know, if you’re not comfortable and you’re not having a good time, this is something that you’re never going to try again. So it’s, it’s easier for me to kind of shoulder a lot of the burden and be a little bit uncomfortable than it is for, for her to be uncomfortable.

Gale Straub:

Hmm. Do you think you will, we’ll go on a trip like that again in the future?

Paulina Dao:

I hope so. I think I would definitely have to do a little bit better research on, on my end or find something like a really cool destination for my mom to, to go check out. But she talked a lot about how she’s just really excited to be outside and not at her desk. And she’s just really excited to try something new and growing up, we spent a lot of time driving through the Tahoe area. My mom would toss me and like a bunch of other girls from my volleyball team into the back of the car and leave to go to a volleyball tournament, like what it was dark out. She’s always been the one driving and being awake and it was kind of cool to be able to repay that favor to her and show her around some of my favorite spots in the area. Um,

Gale Straub:

And were you the one driving too?

Paulina Dao:

I drove pretty much the whole time. Um, I don’t know much, much to her dismay cause she was just like, Oh my God, she activated mom mode again. She was like, Oh my God, it’s going to be snowy. Are you going to be okay, I’ll move on. I’m like, I’ve driven through snow before. It’s not a big deal. Like we’re in a Subaru. We have all weather tires. It’s not snowing. The road is not icy, calm down.

Gale Straub:

Any advice to share for anyone listening who wants to encourage a family member, especially a family member who’s of a different generation to spend time together, outside in the way that you and your mom did.

Paulina Dao:

Yeah. I think it’s one of those things where having pictures help and having it be like a trip or a trail that you’ve you’ve done before and you’re able to gauge the most difficult parts of it. And then being able to, you know, sit down with the family member or whoever it is to outline the entire trip and say like, Hey, like this is something that I would like to take you on and here’s what we’re going to do. And then also just setting expectations on what the trip will look like. So it might not be the most difficult hike or like the most difficult trail or, or whatever, but just being able to kind of shift your mindset from like long, hard days, such as spending time with a loved one is really, really helpful to me. But I think it’s also kind of like advice that I would give to people who are trying to introduce friends or, or whatnot to like backpacking or hiking. This is something that you do a lot and their experience with you is what will maybe make or break whether or not they do it again. So being able to like collaborate on what you’re trying to do and really just like setting the expectation that we don’t have to go hard. We don’t have to go far. We’re just here to have fun and to introduce you to a new experience and we can always like stop and turn around whenever we want, if it’s starting to be too much like that is totally okay.

Gale Straub – Narration:

For many of us covid has made us think a lot about what we have taken for granted, that time is precious, and connecting with the ones we love is priceless. I’ll let Paulina tell you in her own words, what she has been thinking about.

Paulina Dao:

One of the thoughts that I had was just when you’re growing up, you think of your family members, the people who raised you as kind of being invincible, and you never think that they’re going to get older and not be around anymore. But now at an age where my parents are getting older and it’s kind of just like a little bit of a bummer, you know, their movements are a little bit slower. Their bodies don’t recover as, as easily and things that maybe weren’t super hard for them before are getting a little bit more difficult now. So just kind of thinking about that, just made me want to spend more time with my mom or like my parents in general, especially because, you know, I am a first generation American. My parents are kind of the link between me and my Vietnamese culture. And so like when I was growing up, I really kind of rejected that side because it just felt so other and I wanted to fit in with kids at school and you know, kind of like try to assimilate. Um, and now it’s, it’s just like, Oh, like my time with my parents are, is really limited. And so I want to kind of expand on that and spend more time with them and learn about them and you know, their, their family and their history and like my grant, what my grandparents were like. And just so that way I don’t lose that connection to, to where I came from.

Gale Straub:

Thank you for sharing that.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Family means a lot of different things to everyone out there listening. It might be who you’ve chosen to spend your life with. It might be a reliable voice on the end of the line or a virtual community that helps you better understand yourself. No matter what family means to you, I hope this episode gave you the opportunity to reflect on who you’d like to keep you company in the passenger seat on the way to your next adventure.

This was Episode 2 of Navigating Through, a four-part She Explores miniseries made in partnership with Subaru. All four parts are available in your feed now.

Featured in this episode are Aly Nicklas and Paulina Dao. Learn more about each interviewee via the show notes or on the landing page at She-Explores.com.

Each woman featured is an existing Subaru owner or had the opportunity to test drive a Subaru vehicle, exploring outdoor adventures close to home. For this episode, Paulina test drove the twenty-twenty Subaru Outback Onyx. Learn more at Subaru.com/outback.

Music in this series is by Josh Woodward.

This episode was hosted and produced by me, Gale Straub, with editing by Julie Hotz. Navigating Through is a She Explores mini-series and a production of Ravel Media.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.