Crossing paths

Unexpectedly I found myself in the sites of a happy, fun, outgoing ball of energy who’s enthusiasm was contagious and intoxicating.

He was the type of person who can get an entire bar singing together, instantly take over the lead for a group of people and make things happen, he was the mayor of wherever he happened to be. When he smiled his eyes twinkled with just a touch of glee, and he smiled a lot, especially when he laughed. When we danced, he lead with confidence and joy, spinning me on a crowded dance floor that felt like our own personal world. I couldn’t stop smiling, or laughing.

It was a whirlwind!

It wasn’t about pickup lines, what he did for a living, or how many drinks he could buy. It wasn’t about the car he drives, the degree he has or if he was wearing designer clothing.

We laughed, we danced, we sang. We connected.

He saw me. He truly looked at me, not through me as if waiting for something more important or entertaining to come along, he actually looked into my eyes when we talked. I was in the center of his field of vision, the world felt so far away…

…and it was intoxicating.

He was traveling, alone with a buddy, across Europe with multiple stops planned for their trip. I was traveling alone, across Europe as well, with multiple destinations on my agenda. But we were both here, in this very bar on a pub crawl, in this obscure country, at the same time.

Coincidence? Fate? It’s hard to decide.

When he finally kissed me, it was electrifying. I could feel his energy almost transfer into my body as soon as he touched my face, and my endorphins released immediately. It’s the only way I can comprehend how to explain it. Like magnets, drawn together without any warning, that spark.

I was starry-eyed…for the first time in a very long time.

I felt twenty years younger.

Do you remember those early days of young lust? That quickened pulse, dilated pupils and almost swooning when he held your hand or put his arm around you? Just the intensity delivered by a kiss alone? The electric energy sizzling all around you, even while you danced and sang to 80’s music in a crowded bar, remember?

I had forgotten.

Forgotten maybe, but it was not lost. It was all still there, just buried under layers of self-doubt and low self-esteem, from years of training and practice. I was no longer the young woman of my youth getting gussied up for a night on the town, complete with makeup and a form fitting party dress, ready to take on the world and anyone in my way.

No, this was a completely different version, a version that I never expected to be when I was in my twenties, but here we are 25 years later. Older, wiser and just a little bit jaded. Add in  splash of “who cares?!” with a dash of “fuck you” and that’s what your fifties look like.

No makeup, jeans and a t-shirt, fresh from the geothermal spa (without a hair brush) and carrying bags from souvenir shopping with my wet swimsuit sitting in the bottom. I didn’t plan for my day of adventure with any concern for my appearance. I was a mess! I had stopped thinking about myself that way lately, attractive or desirable, stopped considering that I may have the opportunity/option to meet someone while I was enjoying one of the many fine drinks along the pub crawl way. It was a stopover, not a destination.

I was all about being functional, not fabulous.

Definitely not on the prowl or looking for a love connection, just trying to make the best use of my nineteen hour layover. But isn’t that the way it usually happens? The less effort you put into it, the less you care about the results, the better your return? It sneaks up and surprises you, out of nowhere.

Because you’re relaxed. You don’t care, you don’t have expectations and that makes you open to opportunities that you never realized were possible.

We truly enjoyed each other. No pressure, no deep conversations or confessions. Easy.

After closing time, which was nearly daylight, while the crowds filled the streets before wandering off in all directions, we wished each other well and went our separate ways, to our next destination. Two nomads, exploring the world while taking in the cultures of each stop along the way, crossed paths to spend a few hours in each other’s orbit of happiness and discovery.

Single serving companions, for one night only, a limited time offer.

A magical moment in time, and the time was up. It wasn’t the love story of the century, it wasn’t even longer than a few hours on a pub crawl, but it re-energized me and made me see myself in a new light. I felt lighter, happier than I had in a very long time, and confident.

I could appreciate who I am, and how I want to live my life, I can dream big and go boldly on my own to meet my future self. The universe was speaking to me, it was assuring me that the world is big, so big, and so very full of interesting and amazing people, the opportunities and possibilities are endless!

There must be someone out there just like me, who embraces life the way I want to, exploring the world and the people in it with the same fascination and appreciation. Someone that will see me, understand me and want to be a part of my orbit. In fact, he’s probably on a plane right now, heading to Zimbabwe, or the North Pole, and eventually we will cross paths and hopefully our paths will merge for the rest of the journey.

I’m willing to explore the world to bump into him someday.

My year of “Yes” begins

It’s only been one month since the idea occurred to me to challenge myself, break out of my old habits and comfort zone, embrace new challenges and new social connections. I jokingly referred to my new look at life as “my year of yes!”.

My friends laughed, and I laughed, but then when opportunities came up – social invites, new ideas, new skills, new social invitations, things that I had turned down in the past – those words came back to me. I have been gently, and not so gently, reminded of the promise I made to myself, to make this the year of yes, more often than I expected! Lesson learned: be careful what you say out loud amongst your friends and family.

Prodding me. Pushing me. Challenging me. Reminding me. It all comes back to this.

So to follow through with my vow, I have taken a sewing course to finally learn how to use my beautiful, expensive, sewing machine that I have owned for over seven years! I could only thread the bobbin and possibly do “practice” stitches, but never tried making anything or even putting in a hem. I truly wanted to learn before now, but never made the time to do so, or found a way to make it work with all of my other perceived “important commitments”. Suddenly, there was a Groupon with a beginners sewing class on offer, and I couldn’t ignore it or pass up the opportunity. It was only three classes, for two hours each evening, but that’s all that I really needed to not be afraid to try it. I actually MADE SOMETHING. An apron, that was made with my own hands and in a fabric that I chose. I felt like a blushing middle schooler in Home Ec class when I was done!

I also realized that I have lost the ability to read an entire book in the last few years. It seems that I can only pay attention for so long before my mind wanders and I think I have more important things that I should be doing, or I get distracted with family things or feel too lazy and just watch TV. I was down to reading magazine articles and snippets online, and feeling as if my brain were shrinking! So, I took on the challenge to read 25 books in 2016 through Goodreads. Going from zero books in 2015 to twenty five in 2016 sounds daunting, but I am hungry to read! I am working on three books simultaneously now, and it feels great!

I recently went to a bridal show with my soon-to-be sister-in-law, and during the vendor visits I agreed to take dance lessons at Arthur Murray Dance Studios. I originally agreed so my brother and SIL could get a free lesson towards their wedding dance lessons, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance and never made the time – or had the real opportunity since my husband had no desire the last twenty years. Who knew that you could take dance lessons alone? They promised me a young, good-looking instructor…now you’ve got my attention!

I signed up for and have successfully participated in my first ever public crossfit competition, the Trodo games, and finished with my team to earn the “grit award”. It was by far one of the hardest competitions I have ever been a part of, and I seriously underestimated what it would entail. I almost quit during the first WOD and truly felt like sitting down and crying, but it got better and I did it. I survived, and I am honestly looking forward to the next one! Maybe now I will make the time to take my training seriously and actually eat better to feel better.

And the latest challenge from a good friend is to wear makeup everyday for thirty days to see if it will change my life, or at least the way I feel about myself. I am the average SAHM, honestly. Most days I am in some sort of t-shirt, with jeans or yoga pants and casual shoes – no makeup. Everyday. It’s been interesting to say the least. I have tried each day to do something with my face, even if it’s just mascara and some blush. So far, after only one week, I am feeling more confident in myself. I take an extra minute to look at myself in the mirror (maybe I’ve forgotten who that strange woman looking back at me really is?) But within the first week of this challenge, I have realized that my makeup is pretty basic and could stand to be updated, or should I say, more age appropriate? I’m probably using the same techniques and colors that I did when I was a teenager, and that wasn’t last year let, me tell ya. Time for a makeover. Bobbi Brown, here I come!

All of this is just the beginning. It’s more than a resolution, it’s a promise to myself to be better to me, kinder and more forgiving of myself. I have been living for everyone else but myself for a very long time – usually it was my own doing, but sometimes completely out of my control. Or so I thought. I just turned fifty a few months ago and an idea became crystal clear shortly afterward. I only have one life, and only so many days and nights left to it. I should do what makes me happy, what brings me joy, and share it with those that make me happy and bring me joy. It’s time to let go of the negative, the exhausting, the sadness and make myself open to the positive, the exciting, the joy and all of the new opportunities that the future has in store for me.

 

A too good to be inside kind of day…

Today was a good day. A “too good to be inside” kind of good day.

The temperature was around 78, the sun was shining and everyone was smiling, laughing and playing. Then it was time to get to our “activities”…sad faces, sniffling noises, dead man walking…

But maybe, just maybe, we don’t really have to go…do we?

Sometimes you’ve just gotta say, “what the heck?!” and do it – or actually don’t do it. Blow it off! Play hooky! Have fun and live a little, for goodness sakes!

So we did. And I wish that I could say that I felt at least a little bit bad about it, but I didn’t. I actually felt great about it.

I dropped off my middles son’s golf clubs to him at the course so he could play his first nine holes of the season, then swung by to pick up my other middle-schooler from school to take him along with the youngest to go out for ice cream.

Dairy Queen…aaahhhh.

We ordered from the walk-up window, along with half the town that showed up, and sat under a tree in the shade enjoying our first taste of something like summer – but not quite. Then we went for a haircut (only by request) and headed home.

On the way home my middle son called to be picked up and we all agreed that we needed tacos for dinner. He got a 97 on his Spanish project today afterall – now THAT’S worth celebrating!

A quick shower (my oldest is at that age, for better or worse), grabbed the keys and we were off! A taco dinner at our favorite place that my husband usually protests going to, but he’s not home to make that argument, so we went. And it was great!

We laughed, we talked, we goofed around driving there and back. We made plans for spring break to go camping and exploring. We slowed down and just enjoyed being a family. No real plan, no activity to get to, just us and that was all we needed.

These are the days that I hope my kids will remember – not just the big events, not just the bad events – the good times that came out of nothing more than just an idea on a “too good to be inside kind of day”. Those days when we blew it off to do something we wanted to do, not went to something that we had to do. And don’t get me wrong, most of those “have to do” things are things that we chose to be a part of, but some days you’ve just got to let it go and enjoy the sunshine, the smiles and the laughter. Sometimes it’s what makes us a family.

Too many reasons, too little time

I realize that I made this blog, and that I promised (to myself) that I would write on it if not daily at least weekly…but that hasn’t happened. Thank goodness it wasn’t a “new year’s resolution” or I’d be really upset! (that 15 pounds is still clinging to me, so we know how those work for me, don’t we?)

And why? Not because there aren’t enough random and crazy thoughts swimming through my head daily, no. Trust me, there is plenty of that going on. It’s the time. I know that I have more than enough time to make it happen if only I would make it a priority, but I have too many “priorities” on any given day that I sometimes lose touch with which ones actually count.

Add to that mix the idea of three boys with multiple demands, activities, deadlines, etc. and some days my head is spinning and I am just glad that I got the laundry done and didn’t forget to pick someone up from some afterschool activity or missed a meeting.

The challenges of motherhood, I know. Some are better at it than others, this I’ll readily admit. But what I want to know is “Why??” What’s the secret? Do they function on two hours of sleep and secretly stay up all night sewing Boy Scout badges, making bake sale posters, organizing lists and tables to keep track of all of their to-do lists?

Who has that energy?? Who cares that much?? And who is keeping track of it all in the end? Is there a contest that I don’t remember entering that chooses the winner of the super-Moms??

Sorry, I’ve given up enough of my sleep time during the earlier years of my children’s childhood and I have enough challenges trying to remember the three things I need at the grocery store without a list to begin once again to deprive myself of sleep now. (as a side note, I just took a quiz to see if I have ADD and my results? “you may or may not have ADD” really? Huh, I sort of thought so)

Sigh…

But that still doesn’t excuse me from not making the time to type a little something each day, or each week, onto my blog. It’s good practice to put something into writing, to journal an experience, to share with the community, etc. At the risk of making a “resolution” I am going to go on record today that I will make a bigger effort to do just that, write more regularly on my blog…

…if I remember and if I have the time. (I’m not staying up late to do it, that’s for sure)

You can’t feed the baby, but you can feed the mother

Why is it that new fathers, or not-so-new fathers for that matter, seem to think that their presence after the birth of  a baby is unimportant? They hang around for the first couple of days to bond and help, then go back to work – that much I get, you need to support the household – but after that their lives don’t change much. They work, go for drinks with their buddies, go fishing or golfing (both all day events) on their weekends or days off and can sleep off a hangover while their wives take care of the kids if they need.

Too often I’ve heard the lament, “it’s not like he can FEED the baby” while a young father is out with his friends, when they have made the choice to breastfeed. And I say “they have made the choice” because I would hope that both parents were  a part of that decision and are in agreement. But is being a father, or parent for that matter, just about feeding a baby? Only about taking care of basic needs for a newborn infant or a crabby toddler? I think they’re missing the mark.

Something that gets lost in the experience is the idea that both parents are a part of this new life. You BOTH have new responsibilities – and not just to this new, demanding, messy, sometimes cranky alien that has overtaken your house with all sorts of new-fangled furniture and entertainment options. You both have a new responsibility to each other, too. While it may be natural for the mother to be the caregiver to the baby, especially in a breastfeeding situation, it doesn’t seem natural for the father to be the caregiver to the mother at this time. Why is that?

While men cannot breastfeed, that much is true, they can still make the house run better and help to make the new mother more relaxed and happier. Putting that all together makes for a happier home and a happier marriage.Waiting until your wife finally loses it and becomes a crazy woman making “crazy demands” like time to take a shower ALONE, or to use the bathroom ALONE, is a sign that she needs you (and has needed you for some time) and you have been MIA. And you wonder why you don’t have sex anymore??

A new father could, and should, offer to stop at the store on the way home before leaving work to pick up basics (or even dinner) once in awhile. He could easily unload a dishwasher, washing machine or dryer – it’s not rocket science, now is it? Cooking breakfast (and cleaning up afterward) on the weekend is a treat for the stay-at-home mom who is most likely grabbing a bagel or toast in-between feedings and diaper changes. When you hear the phrase, “it’s the little things that count” this was coined for the stay-at-home mom. To say that “he can’t FEED the baby” is a cop-out that has worn out it’s welcome, and place, in today’s world.

Why do you think that we have books like “Porn for Women” showing men vacuuming and ironing, cooking and cleaning? Think about it.

One other point that I think many people seem to miss is the idea that most women these days were “somebody” before they began to have children. We’re not the same generation that graduated from high-school, got married and had our babies all before turning 25. We had jobs, careers even! We had friends, and plans on the weekends, too! We had an identity that was individual and made you love us in the first place. Motherhood can change a lot of that – sometimes for the better, sometimes not – but it doesn’t have to change it all. And you don’t want it to, because that leads to a long unhappy road that none of us want to drive down.

We all need to be “fed” sometime.

Social Ineptitude practiced here

It’s the beginning of a new year and I realize that I have not yet set a goal list of resolutions for myself. Maybe that should be my resolution? ‘I will not make any further deceiving, naive, blind and/or stupid empty promises to myself in the year of 2012’. This includes the tried and true biggies: losing weight, exercising more, eating healthy everyday, not yelling at my kids, being a more positive parent on a daily basis, meeting my husbands needs and desires for what he expects out of the “perfect wife” .

Whew! That was a tough one, but I think I can manage this for a year.

Instead, I will try to be honest with myself and those around me, and stop trying to make everyone happy at my own expense. I will take the time to lounge in a bath filled with hot scented water, read a good book just because, go for that extra jog alone because it is a sunny day, and say “no” when asked to volunteer for something that I truly have no desire to be a part of. I will let those around me who feel that they should lead do exactly that, and I will get out of their way and let them bask in their own glory of accomplishment. I will be a better friend to those that are good friends to me.

Sometimes it’s not about what you should give up or get rid of, it’s about putting it all in perspective and prioritizing. The rest will fall in line…I am certain.

The best part of it

We often try to define what the “best part” of being a parent is, but it changes daily (at least it does for me) Some days it’s the way that your little one snuggles up to you while you read them a bedtime story and you can smell the scent of clean baby/child as well as feel their pudgy hands holding yours. Other days it’s the way that they come to you to solve their problems and trust that you will know the “right thing to do” – even when you’re not sure you will, but you have to try and hope for the best. But then there are times, like I’ve been experiencing with my oldest, that you realize this is one of those experiences that you will hold onto for a lifetime and be so proud that they chose to be around you.

Recently my oldest son has become interested in running and being fit. He’s 13 and has a girlfriend, so really not much of a surprise there. The surprising part is that he chose to run with his mom. That’s right – he asked me to run with him. I want to take credit for his interest in running since up until the last year I too was running and trying my best to improve my 5K times and hoping to run a half-marathon, but somehow got off track and added on ten pounds of defeat in the process.

I was flattered to say the least, and a bit worried that I would disappoint him since my form is far from what it used to be, but he has been patient and supportive and has kept asking…so I have kept going. We don’t run far – yet. But we run as often as we can, just the two of us alone in the early morning darkness sharing a secret of sorts. We talk, we run, we stretch. It’s a “kindred spirit” experience and one that I will forever hold onto and cherish. It makes me so proud to be his mom and so happy to know that he wants to be with me at a time when most of his friends think that their mothers are idiots and are getting in their way. It gives me the sense that I’ve done something right. That doesn’t happen too often as a parent.

So, I will continue running with my teenage son and enjoying the time that he is allowing me to be a part of his world and hold onto every moment like a scrapbook in my heart. That is the best part of it.

Redefining “winning”…really?

We are in full swing of a new school year, and with that is also a new season of sports for our three boys. Well, actually only for one of our boys, the other two are waiting it out to see if something comes along that is worthy of giving up time with their iPods. (grumble, grumble…)

Our youngest is only six. He’s still at that age when it’s all exciting and fun and he’s just glad to be out running with other kids his age. He’s always loved soccer in theory, but now he has to put it out there and actually play a match for an hour. He has to keep control of the ball while he runs against a group of other boys and block shots while he is protecting the goal. And all of this in a seeming brew of chaos of red and blue on a field that looks as if it goes on forever. Whew!

The thing that struck me as odd was the “agreement” that was required to be signed by the players parents and guardians. Some of the listed things required good sportsmanship, no name-calling, respecting each other and other teams. I’m all for that, and glad that someone has the presence of mind to put it into print so the maniac parent who may be at the match screaming at their kid and making unkind remarks to the other kids may realize that their behavior will not be tolerated (trust me, they’re out there and they are just as frightening to the other adults as they are to the kids playing). No, it’s not those points that I have a problem with, it’s the one listed in the middle of the list “we will redefine what winning means”. Really? Has it changed since I was in grade school? I had no idea!

According to this agreement, winning is about playing your best and giving it your all. It’s not about keeping score, it’s not about being the best necessarily, it’s about playing your best…and having fun. Sounds good for the most part, but is that really what “winning” means?

I may seem like a “militant mommy” with this, but winning is winning. When did it become a negative attribute to want to win? Or to keep score for that matter? And when was it deemed acceptable to make “everyone a winner”??

I grew up knowing that when I played a game – even so young as playing checkers or cards with my family – that someone will win and some (or generally the rest of us) will lose, and I was okay with that idea. If it mattered to me to be the best at a game or sport I played more and practiced to get better. If I didn’t have a passion for it I found something else that I might like better or was better suited to do.

Isn’t that what we are expected to do in life in general?

My connection with this to our grown-up world is to translate it to the workplace of adults. Let’s say that you work in an office doing what you do with a team of other people doing generally the same thing. You all started out making the same amount of money the day you were hired – that’s fair as long as you all have the same education and qualifications for the job, right? Now, six months later you’re all reviewed. During that six months you have put in 60 hours a week to work on big projects for the firm and have helped them secure better clients because of it. Your neighbor in the cubicle next to yours has gone home every day at 5pm, never worked a weekend or holiday, and is working on everyday menial tasks that could be done by a monkey.

The firm informs you the day of the reviews that they are going to give everyone equal raises across the board, regardless of work ethics or workload of the individual. And all promotions will be done on the same timeline regardless of the time and/or effort of the individual. Would you stay? Or would you be firing up your laptop to rework your resume and start looking for another position in a company that values your hard work and good work ethic?

I’m guessing that you wouldn’t sit back and say, “well, that makes sense, because we’re all part of the same team and should be paid the same…we’re all winners! And I’d hate for monkey-boy to feel bad about himself because he didn’t get the same raise or promotion as me, that would be bad for his self-esteem.”

I’m not saying that we have to be brutal with our kids – I’m as guilty as the next parent for wanting at times to bubble-wrap my kids to protect them in some instances – but I try to hold back and let them figure it out and learn from their experiences. Losing is part of that life lesson, and the sooner that they get a taste of it the faster they will decide if they want to keep trying in that sport, activity, etc. If you think about it, it would save a lot of sanity for all if kids were given the choice to realize their talents (and shortcomings) and to make the decision to push harder in something that they love. Also they may try something else that they may excel in to replace it instead of  floating along in a sport or activity that they may not be cut out for in the long run. It’s okay to play sports for fun in your own backyard and not play them on the field that keeps score. It’s okay to like something that you’re not good at and to keep doing it for your own personal satisfaction.

I guess that I worry that we are raising a society of “perceived winners” which gives us too many privileged, pouty, slacker adults to contend with in the end. This heavy sided fulcrum of “winners” will not help us as a country (or generation) to move forward or excel in many ways, if at all. The same percentage of real winners – or top workers, top athletes, top students – will be expected to excel and to drag the heavy weight of the rest behind them, so that nobody gets their feelings hurt or feels bad about themselves. Is that what we want for our kids? I don’t.

I want my kids to fight for what they believe in, to push to be the best in what they love, to try new things.  But I also want them to know that they may not be the “best” at it and that THAT’S OKAY. You can’t be the best at everything. You won’t always make the team or be chosen for the group. You won’t always get a medal or a trophy just for being on the team. That is the stuff that you have to earn, and when you do earn it it will mean so much more to you. Life is not a carnival with consolation prizes just for showing up. Anything worth doing is worth doing well – and sometimes that means doing it better than anyone else. Or as our family likes to say, winning.