Thursday, December 30, 2010

Things I Thought About Today

I realized the other day that a new freckle was born on my thumb. One day it wasn't there and the next it was. It wasn't gradual...it just appeared. I have ALOT of freckles..it's the Irish Girl in me...yet, I notice all my new freckles. I now have one on my left hand on my index finger, my middle finger, and now my thumb. They are all at the base of my fingers. Today I wondered if I will eventually get one on my ring finger and pinkie finger? I inspect them every day...I'm pretty sure they will appear some day...and I'm excited to see them.

Another thing I thought of today...and this is for the ladies...why do we grow fur like monkeys when it gets cold? Be honest with yourself...you let yourself go in the winter and your armpits and legs are a bit more furry than usual. I noticed in the shower the other day that my legs hadn't been shaved in awhile. In the summer I am scrupulous and shave them almost daily. Not so much in the winter. I actually don't even think about it once it gets cold. It's probably like animal instincts taking over and trying to grow my "winter fur". I'm not sure at what point my brain shuts off and I don't think about shaving but it happens. It might be Labor Day but I can't be sure.

My sister's kids came to stay for an overnight visit the other night, which both my kids and I enjoy each Christmas vacation. The next night my sister took the kids to her house and after 5 kids being kids for 24 hours there was silence today. It was nice, I have to admit. But I spent the night dreaming that I lost my kids on a bus and I wasn't sure where they were. My dream was probably only 20 minutes long but it felt like hours. I am not the only one that feels their loss when they aren't here. Our cats get out of sync. They do a lot of pacing and they follow me everywhere, staring at me. I imagine that inside they are screaming "Where are the kids???" "Do you realize the kids are missing??" and "Where did you leave them??!" When the kids come back they relax, rub up against them and then say to me silently, "Where did you find them?!"..."Were they just outside?" and "Thank God you realized they were missing!". I recognize that the last paragraph may induct me into the Crazy Cat Lady Club but honestly, I'm pretty sure the cats are asking these questions....you should see them when the kids aren't here.

Today, since the kids weren't here I slept in with my Baby Drowsy Cats. Nothing like two furry bodies laying on you to make you fall into a coma. I finally dragged my body out of bed at 9:45. Old Kelly would have stressed that she slept "half the day away". I would have frantically tried to do all the things I had planned on my to do list without success and would have spent the entire day chastising myself for sleeping late and "enjoying myself". When I got up late today I immediately made peace with it. I wasn't going to get as much done as I had hoped but it was a day to myself that I was going to enjoy. I didn't let myself feel bad for taking time to sleep...I obviously needed it. And I didn't let myself feel bad for all the things I didn't get done as a result. Oh well! I didn't clean the bathrooms today. Let's be honest...I wasn't dying to clean them in the first place....and I can do it tomorrow...no one will be harmed or die as a result. I got the things done that I "absolutely" had to get done and I let the rest slide. It was a good day...and I felt rested. That's good progress for me.

What are the strange things you thought about today? It's actually interesting when you stop and ponder the things that go through your mind during the day. It's quite an assortment of topics!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Barbie Pool Rocked!!

Well, here we are close to Christmas Eve and it reminds me of anticipation of years past. The excitement...the gifts...the energy of Christmas! When I was about 9 years old I found a Barbie blow up pool that my mother bought ...God, I wanted that so bad! It was hidden under her bed. Every day after school (I was a latch key kid), I would unwrap it..very carefully, blow it up, have an awesome pool party, dry it out, and then wrap it back up. I did this for about 4 weeks and my mother kept believing that hiding things under her bed was working. When I finally opened it on Christmas it was like something I had never seen before. I had those kind of skills from a young age...what can I say?

Fast forward to two years ago....we are opening gifts and at the end of the frenzy Tim says "I have a family gift" and he goes out to the garage to retrieve it. Now, we have always had family gifts and they have always been bought by me and have been games...this was so exciting! That Tim came up with a gift on his own and it was a mystery...well, that was almost incomprehensible...almost.

He comes in with this box...not wrapped..with a bow on it and I immediately think "Okay, it's not a trip to the Carribean"...cuz that would be an awesome surprise. Instead, it was ....and you should sit for this...it was a hard wood vacuum floor cleaner. Yes, you heard me right. A family vacuum.

It was as if that package represented a leper...we threw it away from our bodies. "What?!" we cried... "A What?!" Tim excitedly explained "These floors are a mess...we can take turns cleaning them now! How can you not love this?"

What the What??? How can we not love a chore appliance? Really? Does he want to clean floors for fun? He can't even clean the bathroom or his closet...why would he want to clean the hardwood floors? To this day he talks about the disappointment he felt when we werent't excited about his "gift" and we talk about the day he gave us an appliance. Neither memory evokes happy family memories. He has never gone out on his own to buy a family gift since...and quite frankly, that's ok.

The point of my story...chose your holiday gifts very, very wisely. I wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

You Only Get One Life...Make It A Good One

I've had a few conversations with people in the last week who have made me, once again, really think about living life to the fullest and enjoying myself. It made me think of my "motto" which is the title of this post.

Recently, I was engaged in a group conversation, answering a question on how my "sabbatical" has been. I gushed on about my new obsession, knitting, how I took a watercolor class and have been painting here and there, and just how I had changed my personal view on what I "had" to get done on a daily basis vs. what I "wanted" to get done. Those are two very different things that take some thought to distinguish. We sometimes mix the two and often make the mistake of putting the "wanted" things at the bottom of the list, and then quite frankly, we hardly ever get to them.

One woman in the group said, in a rather exasperated tone, "Who has time to do those things? I'm too busy all the time." When asked what she was busy doing she replied "Driving my kids around, keeping my house spotless, working, ironing...." I asked her what she does for herself and she looked taken aback...not that I had asked the question but more that she had never even thought to do something for herself. She never even thought to put herself on the list. "You don't understand, " she said "I have so much stuff I have to do." Have to do, huh? Believe me, I do understand. I was the person that walked through the door after work running 100 miles a minute, barking out orders, "helping" my kids with their homework while I made a stir fry and folded laundry. Often I was up until 11 at night putting my house in order so I could start the next day on the "right foot". Believe me, I understand better than anyone that life doesn't have to be that way. Life is only like that if you make it that way. My house did not disintegrate when I stopped spit polishing it. My husband did not divorce me when I delegated to-do items to him. In fact, my whole family is happier because I am happier. It's a domino effect. I stopped short of asking this woman to reflect on the last year...what did she have to show for herself? A clean house and starched shirts? Kids that got to sports on time 100% of the time? But, what did she actually DO? Could she look back and say "It was a great year because...." and then she could fill in the blank with any number of things? Unfortunately she couldn't. Don't get me wrong...her heart is in the right place...she is doing this stuff for her family but no one should look back on their life and think "I should have ironed more."

Last week at Book Group we were discussing our "calling". I can assure you that no one felt they were put on earth to iron. However, everyone did agree that figuring out what you were put here to do is challenging. Half of the group wished someone would just tell them what their calling was while the other half said it was hard to figure out how to turn your interests into a "calling".

Fast forward to last weekend where I attended my friend Michelle's first photography exhibit at the Norfolk Public Library. Two years ago she was riding that work merry go round and couldn't get off. She was working crazy hours, traveling a ton, and definitely did not have a good work/life balance. She had always had an interest in photography and decided to do something about it. She started out slow by taking some classes and meeting people with similar interests. Within a year she was volunteering at Make A Wish Foundation by taking pictures when they needed that done and she started taking more serious courses at Rhode Island School of Design. She started integrating work travel with pleasure by extending business trips by a few days and exploring the places she visited. She has a beautiful picture in her house of a close up of a flower she took at a Seattle Fish Market that I swear is a painting. Michelle definitely found her passion and she has undeniable talent. (Check out her website on the left!).

What struck me on the way home was that Michelle was doing what she loved to do, even if it wasn't full time. I know I have gotten caught up in the idea that what we were "meant to do" should be a full time "gig" but I now think differently after seeing Michelle's exhibit. Perhaps some day she will be able to make a living with her photography but the more important thing she has done is shift her balance in life. She doesn't live to work anymore, but rather she is working to live. Her job is a job and her life is fuller. She is doing exactly what she loves and is enjoying every minute of it. Who knows what opportunities will open up to her as a result!

Living your best life doesn't necessarily mean finding your true passion or calling. To me, it just means finding the joy in life. I was recently talking to Tim's uncle Johnny who was sharing stories of the experiences his twin boys have had the last few months while spending their semesters abroad in Australia and Italy. Not only have they both had amazing experiences, but he and his wife have taken advantage of this time as well. He said "I know we have been traveling a ton and it isn't something we planned or would ordinarily do, but we didn't want to look back in a few years and ask ourselves why we didn't visit the boys and experience this with them." Exactly! Why not take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to us? I think too often we put up roadblocks for ourselves and look for reasons not to do things rather than reasons why we should do them.

Typically at this time, we reflect on the past year and think about things we want to do better, differently, and/or more of. This year I think we should all put down our irons and put ourselves on the list. This year we should all explore at least one interest that we have on the "want to do" list. This year I think we should open our eyes to the opportunities all around us and take advantage of them. This year we should stop saying how busy we are and fill our time with the things that make us happy. This year you should make your life a good one.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's Your Happiness Level These Days?

I don't know why but on Monday I woke up completely energized and ready to get stuff done. I was at the grocery store by 7:15 and home an hour later. I cleaned my house in record time, got some little "extra" projects out of the way, and then decorated our Christmas tree while listening to Christmas carols. There is nothing like Christmas music to put you in the right mood, especially Baby It's Cold Outside by Dean Martin.

The kids were not happy when they got home and saw the tree all decorated. I thought it might be "magical" for them to come home and see it all done and twinkling. They took offense that I hadn't waited for them but I have to say, it was my most stress-free Christmas tree moment to date. I'm a control freak...we know this about me. And I like to get the lights on just the "right" way and put the ornaments in "just the right" place. You would think with my new, relaxed attitude I would have been able to withstand the family tree decorating process but...not so much. I was excited to do it by myself. Given the reaction I got I will do it with the kids next year but I have to admit, I had a great time doing it myself this year.

Anyways, back to my great day....that night Mimi had her winter concert, in which she played the oboe. I love those concerts, despite the fact that the sound of the instruments can often make ones ears bleed. I love the songs they sing and play off tune. I love how all the kids look in their concert outfits. And I have loved seeing my kids sing and play instruments throughout the years. One caveat to that...because Mimi is so tiny I haven't actually "seen" her many times because she is typcially placed behind a tall kid and she gets blocked out. This year was no different...but in my mind I imagined how cute she looked with her cheeks puffed out playing her oboe.

Later that night Mimi and I were snuggling on the couch and she said "I bet you are going to miss being home when you have to go back to work." I agreed with her and then she said "Why don't you just be an artist in your office and paint all day? I will buy your paintings and then you can stay home." I told her I wouldn't be able to paint for a living and she said "But you can do anything you put your mind to. That's what you always tell me. Why can't you just do it?" Well, at least some of what I say is actually getting through to her. She is so thoughtful and sweet and she melts my heart. It was a great moment and rather than be sad that those moments might not be as often because I'll be going back to work soon, I just wrapped up the memory and put it in my treasure box to remember later, over and over again.

After the kids went to bed I went into obsessed knitting mode and knit for about 2 hours. This summer I couldn't stop reading...well, this fall I can't stop knitting. I love it! It is so relaxing and at the end of it you have something to show for all of your time and effort. 'Course I haven't picked up too many books lately but soon I'll be done with my three piece knitted suit. Can't wait to give Timmy his Christmas present.

I didn't want the day to end...and in fact I didn't go to bed until almost 1 am. I just felt very relaxed, accomplished, and happy all day. I know I haven't done my day justice with my description above but for some reason, this day just felt "perfect". When I got up on Tuesday, it didn't feel as magical, but for no particular reason. I spent a good deal of time thinking about how one day can be so great and the next can be ordinary or not so great...and I wondered why that was. Finally at the end of the day, I came to a conclusion. I chose to make the day great and recognize the special things that happened throughout the day, rather than waiting for great things to find me.

I can only speak for myself but when things don't go right in the day or if I'm cranky, I tend to label the day..."This day stinks". Then everything that doesn't go right during the day falls under that umbrella...and I probably look for things that aren't quite right to include in my list. On Monday, I chose to make it a great day and put all the good things that happened that day under my umbrella instead. Looking back, there were things that happened on Monday that weren't great. For instance, my cats ran away with about 1/2 of my ornaments and squirreled them away throughout the house. I spent a fair amount of time hunting them down. But I chose to look at that as amusing as opposed to being a pain in the neck. Instead of the cats ruining my tree decorating they were "mischievous" and "adorably playful".

I'm a glass half full kind of gal anyways but my days are generally labeled as good/pretty good rather than great. I realized I'm the one with the power to change that though. I can label the day however I want...and quite frankly, how you view the day and the contents within that day can greatly change your outlook on everything that happens. There are some people who are born with way...they have the innate ability to just look at everything as wonderful and happy. My neice Eleanor is like this. At the tender age of 8 she is this happy go lucky, roll with the punches, rose colored glasses kind of kid. She was born that way and just being with her puts you into a great mood. I'm not sure why we weren't all born this way...it would certainly make life more peaceful.

But we can choose to be like Eleanor every day, even if we weren't born with that innate happiness. We can choose to look for happiness throughout the day, or we can choose to look for the not so great things. We can choose to look at the things our kids do as endearing and save as a great memory or we can choose to overlook these moments and forget to file them away. We can choose to title our day as a great day or we can choose to fill our umbrella with the negative things that happened that day. It's all up to us. And yes, many days it will take a great effort to remain positive and look for the little things that make us happy...but we can do it if we want to. What will you choose today and tomorrow?