Joy In The Tiny Things

I’m excited to link up for the first time with Stasha at The Good Life for her Monday Listicles feature. This week’s prompt is:  List ten tiny (or secret) things that bring you joy. While I work on finding some secret pleasures, here’s my list of tiny joys:

  • Half-Priced Play Dates:  I took myself to see a matinee of the play Other Desert Cities yesterday and was thrilled to combine two of my favorite activities:  watching great theatre and snagging deep bargains! This funny, heart-wrenching play, about a writer about to publish a memoir unflattering to her family, was half off for day-of matinee tickets. Joy for taking advantage of a perk of living in a big city.
  • Texts from Ava (9 yo) during the play:  “Mom I miss you so much. I think I’m gone too much. I love you.”
  • Getting Away with Something:  Specifically, not getting a parking ticket even though my meter had run out twenty minutes earlier. Joy and gratitude for the parking angels watching over me yesterday.
  • Being Woken Up by this Face: Her delight at surprising me warmed my heart. (After we replayed the moment 12 times, my joy waned; hers did not.)

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  • Daddy Daughter Dances:  Incomparable bonding time for my husband and daughters; three hours of blissful alone time for me!

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  • Fancy Red Coats & Grandparents:  I never would have spent the money on these coats that the girls will only wear twice, but seeing them dressed up like this – priceless. Thank you, Grandma & Pa!

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  • Rhys-isms:  Every time we park in a parking garage, our daughter Rhys (4 yo) excitedly reminds me to get my ticket validated before we leave the store. She yells at everyone within earshot, “Get your card ‘reviolated’! Don’t forget to get your card ‘reviolated’!”
  • Our Neighbor, Giovanni:  Though we rarely exchange more than simple pleasantries, every time it snows, he snowblows a path to our cars for us. Every time. Better than parking angels.
  • Secret Hobbies/Self Portraits:  I find our 4 yo’s photos on the camera regularly yet never see her playing with the camera. She’s has a good eye, no?

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  • Handmade Valentine’s Day Cards:  From my husband. On my pillow. Still smiling!

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Turns Out, Winning Is Everything!

After last weekend’s Super Bowl, while everyone else is talking about the implications of Beyonce’s pole dancing performance, I’m left wondering if the San Francisco 49ers knew they weren’t only competing for money, fame and a gaudy, bedazzled ring, but for their very lives.

Research shows that Nobel Prize winners live an average of two years longer than their equally brilliant fellow nominees. Similarly, Academy Award winners live nearly four years longer than other actors. (Hmmm, perhaps the added longevity has something to do with walking across a stage?)

I'll take two!Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I’ll take two!
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Winners outlive losers. Had the 49ers known this fact, would they have played differently? Granted, available research says nothing about Super Bowl winners.  And with the advanced dementia so many football players will have to live with as they age, perhaps they don’t want extra years. But I do!

I’m getting old. Four extra years could make all the difference in my life. I want to be alive (and moderately alert) to meet my grandkids without my daughters having to get knocked up in high school.

So far I’ve been a winner in life. I have a loving, hard-headed husband, two amazing, healthy children, a nearly fully-functioning mind, and the financial means to afford therapy for those parts of my brain predisposed to short circuiting. These wins should buy me a couple of years at least. But what if that’s not enough?

Just when I was beginning to believe that winning isn’t everything, that it’s worth it to show up, play my heart out and contribute, win or not, I find out nope, winning not only feels better, it adds years to your life.

I’m in search of some extra years, stat!  If winning will bring ‘em, get out of my way.

Does it matter if my opponents are formidable or would any wins work? I’m not above getting a win off of a child or a friend. If major award winners live up to four extra years, how long would I get if I beat my kids at Twister? What about Chess? Would my extra time if I won a Yeah Write competition be measured in days? Weeks? Oh, the glory of life!

Yes, winning these contests would mean I’d be stealing years away from my less fortunate family and friends. But those losers have more time to spare. Mine is a life or death mission. Now that I know winning imparts the benefit of extra life, move over people. You’re on notice.

What’s going to give me the most life for my effort?

The chances of me winning a Nobel Prize or Academy Award are slim at this point. (Though I am open to embracing either of those distinctions. And I’ve already found the perfect dress.) In lieu of a Pulitzer Prize jackpot, I’ll have to piece together additional life by winning smaller competitions. Here’s my plan:

  • Secure Publishing Contract = 6 months per book
  • Conduct Media Tours for my books:  National Media Outlets = 1 month per; Local Media Outlets = 1 week per
  • Publish Magazine/Online Articles =  1 week per
  • Win “Freshly Pressed” Distinction =  1.5 days per
  • Win at anything against my husband =  10 hours per
  • Win at board games and hide ‘n seek against children =  2 hours per

Am I not thinking grand enough? National Book Award? Oprah Book Club 2.0? New York Times Bestseller List? I’m feeling younger already!

Seeing that my life depends on it, perhaps I should start writing my award-winning novel … In the meantime, anyone up for a friendly game of tag?

 

Not For the Faint of Heart

My husband, Mike, is the one with a concussion, stitches and cracked teeth, but I feel like I got hit by a Mega Bus. Not one to ignore an opportunity to make someone else’s crisis about me, here I go…

I keep having flashes of seeing Mike unconscious on the stairs, bleeding from his head. I burst into tears at random times. I feel a sense of dread and alternate between feeling patient and loving with the girls and incensed at their constant noise. Rhys (4) dropped her doll over the stairs to Ava (9) yesterday, and I nearly lost my shizz. When I come home after being away for a couple hours, I’m scared I’ll find Mike on the floor again or dead.

This is the price of being attached, of loving. I hate this price, always have. I hate that once we open ourselves to love, we stand to lose. We are vulnerable to hurt; to the whims of the world, of life, of nature. After our daughter’s bike accident last fall, I thought God and I had a deal. Apparently, I still have some learning to do.

I'm all for love, strength and courage, but could live without the vulnerability love brings. Photo  Credit: http://pinterest.com/yazoah/

Could I take a pass on the vulnerability love demands?
Photo Credit: http://pinterest.com/yazoah/

Coincidentally, before Mike’s accident I was reading the book, Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor, about a young woman whose husband died after hitting his head in a freak skateboarding accident.  She was pregnant at the time of her husband’s death and somehow wrote this heartbreaking, compelling memoir in her spare time. Reading Natalie’s poignant words was helping me feel grateful for my husband; appreciative of his simply being in the world.

I have so much relief and gratitude that I’m not in the author’s shoes, yet at the same time I feel panic that something horrible will happen. And I have to be on guard. As if.

Life may be trying to teach me that I’m really not in control. I surrender. Sort of. I’ve been holding on too tight, walking in terror much of the time. Instead of trying to control my terror, I want to learn to embrace it, live with it, give it a seat at the table, but not the head of the table.

I want my terror to serve me, rather than the other way around. I don’t know what benefits embracing my terror will offer, but I want to find out because pushing it down isn’t working and controling offers no benefits other than pause and paralysis.

My brain tells me I don’t want to open my heart any more, yet I will. I will because I am the hero of my own story and the hero opens up her heart and reaps the benefits and the sorrows. Life didn’t work any better for me when I played it safe. Life didn’t deliver the promises I longed for until I was willing to be vulnerable. Now that I have those promises, I have to learn to live with this fear of loss.

I’ve wanted all the pluses of attachment – joy, love, excitement, a heart bursting with life and joy. Got ‘em. But safety isn’t one of those promises. Is love still worth it? I think so. I hope so.

What is the alternative? A life of searching for an attachment that won’t leave me hurt or aching? I didn’t feel the same vulnerability all those years I was yearning for a spouse and children. As long as I was longing, I was in control. Once attachment set in, I was toast; no longer guarded against pain and fear and hurt.

As I think about the Natalie Taylors of the world and all the parents and loved ones of the victims of Newtown, the Brazilian nightclub fire and the daily accidents, shootings, diseases and the like, I’m reminded of the saying, “Love is not for the faint of heart.”

And for me, today, there is no acceptable alternative. There are, however, helmets. And we’ll be sporting these beauties at all times from now on.

One at a Time

I hope all of you have had an auspicious beginning to 2013.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because typically they are a set-up for guilt and failure for me (and more nasty self-depreciating thoughts to turn over to our newly-promoted Elf). I usually do better to stay in the present, one day at a time. But every year on this day, I undoubtedly begin to think of all the things I want to and should do differently in the coming months.

Because this year I have a blog, just for fun, I’m going to turn several of these goals over to you, my dear readers, in hopes that writing them down and putting them into the universe will help me achieve different results this year. If not, I’ll blame you.

My Top Resolutions:

1)      I’ll create a vision board for my writing/work life in 2013 (so far so good, I signed up for a visioning workshop this weekend)

2)      I’ll complete action steps toward the vision I create for my writing/work life for 2013 (key will be having the willingness to ask for help at least some of the time when I’m stuck/overwhelmed/procrastinating – and even when I’m not).

3)      I’ll use at least one of my fifty thousand existing gift cards, merchandise credits and Groupons (Success, baby! See below*!)

4)      I’ll make soup. (I like soup. What’s not to like?)

*We used a Groupon this afternoon to visit the Sky Deck at the top of the Sears/Willis Tower! While the girls were underwhelmed by the majesty of our beautiful city, I loved every second because the Groupon was set to expire I’ve never been to the top!

Sky Deck Chicago, 103 Floors Up!

Sky Deck Chicago

Although I’m not authorized to make resolutions for others, because it works so well for me to focus on what others need to do to make me feel more comfortable in my life/space, I’ve compiled a short, simple list of resolutions for those who live in my world, frequent my physical/emotional space and rub up against me literally and figuratively (not you, silly! My husband and daughters!).

Here goes:

Our Kids:

  • Continue to “Get Your Own Damn Tissue” (We’ve made progress since I wrote about this topic, but still have room for improvement.)
  • Try at least three different ways of doing something for yourself BEFORE you ask/whine for me to do it for you (see “Get Your Own Damn Tissue” for details.)
  • Try some new foods – how about soup? Bottoms up!

My Husband:

I’ll let you know how those work out.

The best thing we did today (other than our infamous Groupon success) was have our first family meeting of 2013. I really want to have more of these meetings on a regular basis, but for today, having the one we had is exactly enough. Here are the family goals we set for ourselves:

  • We’ll strive to love, love, love each other through every emotion.
  • We’ll strive to use our words and actions in kindness and connection.
  • We’ll celebrate our victories and mistakes.
  • We’ll dance, sing and laugh whenever the mood strikes (and especially when it doesn’t).

Even if we never meet any of these goals, we had today. And today was a fulfilling, connected day. I choose to be happy with exactly where and who we are. Today.

Happy 2013 to you and yours! Enjoy!

Moving On Up: Elf on the Shelf

Elf Promotion

As we were decluttering yesterday (and I use “we” lightly for it was only me), I went back and forth on whether or not to give our Elf on the Shelf to Goodwill along with the two big boxes of toys our girls have outgrown (whether they know it or not).

He’s been in his box on a shelf in our playroom for the past five years, ever since we received him as a gift. We don’t use him in his traditional capacity (I don’t believe in his message), but I hate to give anything away unused.

Instead, he’s been repurposed (how very green of me!) and given a promotion.

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Our Elf has been assigned the enlightened and highly regarded task of holding all of our family’s mean, critical or self-limiting thoughts. Or at least mine. If my husband and kids don’t want the Elf’s help, I’ll keep him on as my personal assistant. A consultant of sorts. (Talk about job security!)

While I don’t believe in the Elf on the Shelf in his usual holiday context, I’ve decided he can believe in us and serve our family’s needs throughout the year. When a self-defeating thought or belief enters my consciousness, I’ll give it to the Elf and let him hold it for me on his shelf. Here’s how he works:

Me:  sitting at my computer to write:  “I don’t have any ideas. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t deserve to be a writer – I have it too easy, too good, what do I know about life and writing? Who do I think I am? I’m a ‘wanna be.’ And a crappy mother too.”

**Print**

Me:  “Here you go, Elf. Hold these shitty thoughts for me so I can enjoy my day and my writing time. Thanks.”

For me, putting these beliefs into words and turning them over to someone can help free me to enjoy and create. Elf is an always available someone, and he’s perfectly suited to the job. I mean, he’s been underutilized (but not overpaid) for years! Let’s give the kid a real job, a worthy position suited to his strengths.

I’ll load him up with all the self-defeating, critical messages that sprout in my head. And maybe I’ll offer his services to others. For a fee. He can become a profit center … Ah, the possibilities are endless!

My kids can use him too. When they feel scared or angry, they can leave the Elf a note explaining their fears. Or, more likely, their complaints (his job responsibilities are flexible). They can kvetch to the Elf all they want. He’s up to the task.

Ava:  “I hate my sister and don’t want her touching my stuff. I’d rather be an only child.”

Me:  “I hear you, honey. But my job responsibilities have changed. The Elf is now in charge of the Complaint Department. Why don’t you tell it to the Elf?”

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Sweet little guy, welcome to your new life! Enjoy!

Elf will smile. Rather than his traditional role as cajoler and threatener, Elf will become a source of love and comfort.

Ava (our 9 yo) thinks it’s mean to load up our Elf with all our mean thoughts. But is it better for us to keep them inside? I think not. And our Elf seems to have adjusted well to his new role. Of course, he’s probably happy to finally be out of his box after all these years.

With Elf’s help, I’m betting 2013 will be our year! Yay, us!

And, yes, I’m well aware I had too much time on my hands this morning!

Let’s Hug a Teacher Today

Hug a TeacherOur nine-year-old daughter’s Science Teacher, John O’Rourke, posted this on his blog this morning:

“Today is an especially tough day for parents, teachers and students.  Words are probably not enough but I put together a few thoughts that I’d like to share.  If there is some sort of perverted “good” that can come out of something as horrific as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it is that I am now more convinced than ever that I am supposed to be a teacher.  I love my job and am grateful to be able to influence the lives of your children.  This tragedy has forced me to think about what I would do if, God forbid, I was faced with such a situation.  And I, and I imagine all teachers, would do everything possible to protect your kids.  I also came to the realization that now, more than ever, they are also my kids.  Every year I come to know and love your children and would do anything to keep them safe and protected.  Nobody should ever be afraid to come to school and I will continue to work to make sure that your children feel good about coming to school.”

I admire and appreciate your commitment and love, Mr. O’Rourke, and thank you for your service to our children. God bless you and every teacher today charged with the awesome, overwhelming responsibility of loving, teaching and protecting our children for those precious hours they cannot be in our arms.

While I don’t have adequate words to express my admiration for the work you and your fellow teachers do, I can tell you that my heart feels a tiny bit less constricted knowing you are in my children’s lives. Every inch of my heart thanks you.

Any teachers you want to hug today?

The Big Reveal

We told our daughters about our upcoming “surprise” visit to Disney World. I’ve been waiting for months to watch their little faces light up with excitement when we told them. Thankfully, they did not disappoint.


They radiated joy! And glee! For exactly ten minutes. Then they started fighting over hanging their favorite Christmas tree ornaments. Fun for the whole family!

I was left wondering if it was too soon to start threatening to cancel Disney? (While threatening isn’t my thing, it is sooo tempting!)

Alas, it’s too late for that … we’re off! Disney, look out!