Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

The other day someone pinned a blog on Pinterest that I loved: http://mixmingleglow.com/blog/?p=1358. Essentially this woman decided on her birthday to spend the day with her family doing 38 random acts of kindness…one for each year she has been alive. She lists all the things she did and the reactions from people. Things like buying coffee for the person behind her in line to helping an older gentleman with his groceries. Great stuff!

I had a situation a few weeks ago where I was buying lunch from a food truck in downtown Boston and the guy taking my order said he’d like to give me a free drink…I just had to select what I wanted. I literally had no words. My immediate thoughts were “What does he want” and “Why is he giving me a free drink?” I almost said no because it was so weird. And it’s sad that it’s weird. Why is it so strange when people do nice things? Ultimately, the free drink guy was just trying to get me to try their ice teas so hopefully when I come back I’ll order one next time. But to me, it felt like a little gift that day when he randomly selected me.
Whether you have done a little act of kindness or been the recipient of one, it puts you in a totally different frame of mind. And you start paying it forward and doing more for others. I guess the question is, why don’t we do it more often?

After reading the blog, I decided I would try and do one little “RAOK” a day. How hard could it be, I thought? Well, last week was week one -  I thought I would give it a shot and I quickly realized I need to be more aware of what is going on around me. I certainly have time to commit an act of kindness especially with the amount of time I spend commuting, but I haven’t found any opportunities. I think we get so caught up in routines and being absorbed in our thoughts,  that it takes effort to see outside ourselves. At least that’s the excuse I’m going with for now.
Finally! Last Thursday, a guy was coming out of my work elevator with a bike. Well, he was fumbling to get his bike out of the elevator while the door kept trying to shut on him. So, I waited and then held the front door of the building open for him. He was so surprised that I waited and held the door that he said thank you three times. It made me feel good to be able to help him.

Riding my random act of kindness high, when I was at the grocery store last Sunday I found another opportunity. I heard a mother saying to her child “Hurry up! Just find someone that works here and tell him what is going on!” I looked over and found a mom holding a jug of apple cider while it dripped all over the floor. And here is where an awkward random act of kindness comes in. I went over to help her. First I took her cell phone out of her hand because it was getting wet. That was good. But, then I attempted to wrap a plastic grocery bag around the jug while she said “Ah…if I move my finger, it will squirt out all over the place”. I kept going at it with the bag until her finger came off and then the cider squirted her in the face. Okay, not helpful. Thankfully the worker from the grocery store appeared and took care of it. In hindsight this was more just an act of trying to be helpful so don't think it really counts. That and...I wasn't even very helpful.
Bottom line, this is harder than I thought. But, I’m going to keep at it. What was the last random act of kindness you did or someone did to you?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Grass is Always Greener

My kids are getting older and it makes me feel so old. I remember my reaction when people would say “Oh, my son is in high school” and I would think “Wow, they are older than I thought.” Now I suspect people are saying that about me. I hope that’s the case rather than “Well, that’s not surprising”.

As the kids get older, they are not home as much, which, let’s be honest, as parents we have been looking forward to this moment for what feels like a lifetime. However, once it arrives, it’s a little off-putting. You aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself.
Recently I found myself looking for a dog to adopt. Not a crazy young puppy, but an older dog that just needed some love. The puppies are the first to be adopted but there are so many wonderful older dogs out there looking for love. Growing up we always had a ton of animals. My uncle managed an animal shelter and he was always bringing home some crazy dog, little kitten, or one day, even a duckling (which unfortunately was eaten by a neighbor’s dog after I spent 4 hours making a pen and pond for it. Scarred for life? You betcha.) My point being that I love animals. We have a regular barn going on at the house with a turtle, 2 fish, a bunny, and 2 cats. Tim is not down with adding any more animal cages/tanks to clean or listening to me constantly say to the kids “Has anyone fed the (insert type of pet) today?!”

I’ll be honest, I’m more of a cat person than a dog person. I love dogs. I really do. They are sweet, have tons of personality, and give a lot of love to you. But I don’t love their breath, or how they smell when they get wet, or getting up at 5 am in the freezing cold to take them out….just to name a few things.  And we travel a ton so finding someone to feed the brood we have is challenging enough, never mind finding someone to take the dog because he/she can’t stay home for a long weekend by themselves like the others can. It just adds a level of complexity that I’m not sure I want to undertake.
It hit me the other day that with the kids being more independent and needing me less that maybe this whole sudden dog thing is a result of me wanting someone to need me more not need me less. Ugh. I hate when reality slaps me in the face. I am not a needy person at all. It’s just that after years of being needed so much that it’s hard to move to the next phase. When your self-identity shifts, it’s just hard to get used to. Don’t get me wrong…they still need me…and I know they will need me in different ways throughout life but this first transition part is foreign to me.

I emailed a friend yesterday and she said “Can’t respond right now…holding 2 kids!” I know that if she were to read this right now she would love to be in my position. And in two years, I’ll be wishing my kids needed me as much as they do now. Grass is always greener right?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Confessions of a Bookworm

I typically feel one of three ways when I finish a book – I think “That was pretty good” and I’m ready to move on to the next one, I’m disappointed in the ending and I am mad at the book, or I love it so much that I can’t break up with it.

I love to read. I have been a bookworm since I was little. In one month this summer I read 6 books. I know people that can’t imagine finding time to read one book a month, nevermind  six, but those same people can often recount everything that happened in the last few weeks with Big Brother, Housewives of New York, and the Bachelor.  I’m just sayin’….you make time for the things you want to in life. I happen to choose books.
Mimi has definitely taken after me. Last month she read 4 books and there are times when we have to tell her to put the books down before we take them away. It sounds crazy I know but sometimes the girl has to shower or just look us in the eyes once in awhile.

Due to my commute, I have a lot of time to read each day – at least 2 hours – and I couldn’t be happier.  I have a long list of books that I want to read. Some are recommendations from friends, some come from book reviews I read in magazines, and some come from people on the train who lean over and ask “Have you read this? It’s really good!” I love those kinds of recommendations…when you just can’t keep it to yourself. For me, a few of those books are Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Gone Girl, Defending Jacob, and Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life to name just a few of the ones I have loved.
I have a friend that reads a lot and we recommend and share books back and forth. At least once a week there is an email exchange that looks like this:

Me: Ok, I’m on the part where x happens….just tell me…”does she....?”

My Friend: Do you really want me to tell you?

Me: Of course not…but if she does that it’s going to be stoopid. Just tell me. No, don’t.
For the books that are pretty good (“3 whales” on my Preppy Camper Girl scale), I usually shut the book and then immediately pick up a new one. I don’t feel invested in the characters but feel it was worth a read. I am ready to move on the minute I finish the last line of the book.

Then come the books that I really got into but have a stupid ending. I usually feel mad at the author and have the irresistible urge to call them immediately and complain. “What kind of ending is that?!” Don’t get me wrong….I’m not a huge fan of wrapping everything up in a bow at the end but some sort of closure is good. Reasonable closure. Not like the ending of My Sister’s Keeper when the girl walks out of the courtroom and gets killed by a bus. STOOPID. On a related note, if I haven’t told you the story of going to see this movie with my bookgroup, ask me about it. It’s pretty funny.

Then, come the books that I fall completely in love with and don’t want to put down. I usually finish these books in a few days because I can’t put them down. Have you ever had a book that caused you to set your alarm earlier than normal just to get up and read in quiet? Or have you found yourself making dinner and reading at the same time? These are the kind of books I love. There are times when I read one of these books and think “If one of my children came into the room with their hair on fire right now, I might not notice right away”. C’mon…it’s happened to all of us.

These are also the books that cause me to feel like I ended a relationship when I finish them. I go into a little mini depression and I can’t pick up another one right away because I can’t imagine another book being as good. I am fearful of starting a new book relationship. Or I feel like I’m cheating on the book even though things are technically over. A few books that made me feel this way were The Help, The Kitchen House, and The Red Tent.

I love the journey that books bring you on but I also can’t stand waiting for it all to unfold.  Kind of like a good surprise on your birthday. You are so excited for the surprise… there’s a part of you that wants to know…but you really don’t want to know…because that would ruin it.

I also think reading is a lot like traveling, which I love. Reading books transports you to all kinds of new places. Places you haven’t been to before and may likely have never gone to but you love, nonetheless, when you get there.

I’m always looking for new book recommendations. What are some of your favorites??

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's Raining - Get Out The Broom

On the way to work yesterday it was raining. In fact, it had been raining for most of the night. And with rain often comes wind which brings leaves and small branches down. That’s how these things go.

I was on my way to the train when I saw something that almost made me drive off the road. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a guy sweeping his driveway. I immediately thought he must be old. Old people with lots of time on their hands tend to do these kinds of things. Not all old people. I don’t mean to generalize. But admit it, this wouldn’t surprise you.
However, a young, seemingly normal guy sweeping his driveway of leaves and debris at 7:45 am in a full suit with a janitor size broom, might make you take notice, right? He must have been at it for awhile…he had a long driveway and it was all clean. Why?! Please, explain why this seems necessary? This screams crazy nut job to me. I can only imagine his wife inside making breakfast, packing lunches, and trying to get the kids out the door to school and there he is sweeping his driveway.

It’s shocking that it wouldn’t appear to be a losing battle to him when he turned around and saw leaves fluttering back onto his driveway. It’s like when I vacuum. The minute I am done and turn around to see random fuzz balls, stray feathers from my living room pillows, and pieces of hay from the bunny already littering the carpet, I want to scream. As a consequence I don’t vacuum as often as I should. I can’t set myself up for that kind of frustration on a regular basis.
Please, file sweeping your driveway under “You Know You Have Gone Crazy When...."

The Joys of Lunch Meat, Cleats, and Paperwork

Ahhh….the smell and feel of lunch meat in the morning. There is nothing like a piece of slimy ham at 6 am to remind you that school is back in session!

I could live in the summer season forever. It is my favorite time of year. I love the heat, I live in my bare feet, and I love the bright mornings and long nights. For someone who craves organization and schedules, it somehow works for me that they are relaxed in the summer. It just feels like the days are endless, everyone is in a good mood, and there is so much more to do.  I think the thing I love most about summer is I love Summer Kelly. Bring on the fall and winter and Summer Kelly can be found under her blankie wishing the days wouldn’t get so dark so quickly. I don’t do cold very well.
So, here we are at the transition point where summer is ending and I have mixed feelings. There is a part of me that is happy to get back to a routine and a schedule. And I love the feel of a new school year. It reminds me of new clothes and fresh school supplies. Nothing like a trapper keeper to put a zip in your step!

Yesterday was the kid’s first day back to school….8th & 9th grade. Mimi’s last year of middle school and Jack’s first year of high school! On Tuesday night, I made homemade egg mcmuffins (much healthier version) for Jack for the week and on Wednesday I got up early and made Mimi homemade blueberry muffins. I felt very June Cleaver-ish, minus the apron. I made lunches and only gagged twice. Clarification, I didn’t make Jack’s sandwich, Tim did, and I still gagged twice. But I gagged with a smile.
I swooshed in the living room with their homemade breakfasts (first day of school…sure, you can eat in the living room) only to be confronted by grunts and eyes barely open. The finally got moving and it seemed like things were going fine until Mimi’s hair wasn’t “perfect” and Jack got distracted by feeding the fish and brushing his teeth at the same time.

In the end, Tim had to drive them out to the bus so they didn’t miss it. I was determined not to yell “You’re going to be late!!” on the first day.
Night one consisted of the usual “I need these forms filled out by tomorrow” and “I need a 1 1/2 “   3-ring binder with a red composition notebook TODAY”….here are your forms and here is a 1” 3-ring binder with a black composition notebook. It will do. Layer on the “I am going to join cross country afterall” and “I’m on the field hockey team now” which translated into finding the shin guards, cleats, running shoes, fill out the forms, and “where is my mouth guard?!”  Boy, I just love the first week of school…..

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Recipe for an Adults Only Weekend

For the past 3 years, on the weekend of my birthday, we have gone to Truro for Adult Camping Weekend...or ACW, as we like to call it. It's us and two other couples. Everyone has their assigned beds, we have our menu pretty set, and yes, there are jeeps involved. These things never change.

By now, we all have our favorite things that we like to do and we try to fit them all in. But, no matter what we do we always have a blast. It just takes a few key ingredients to have a great time:

Start with a Like Minded Vision - It's hard to have a fun time when everyone wants to do different things. There is bound to be disappointment. With our group, we love sitting on the beach. All day. We would never do that at home....sit for that long. But on ACW it is okay to soak up the sun, stare out to sea, be silent, read books, watch whales jump on the horizon, and fall asleep. It's okay because we all do it, all day long.

Bring a Jeep and Add a Dose of the National Seashore - There is nothing like riding around with the top down, cruising over the dunes. It feels like home. It feels less like home when you see signs that say "Recent Shark Sightings". Ignore those.

Add Some Music - music is key. From Empire State of Mind to Dancing Queen to The Cure's Pictures of Me....it's all good. We all have our "At Bat" songs....you should definitely play those.

Mix up a signature cocktail - It should be different every year but you shouldn't try to sip your cocktail out of Twizzler Straws. That causes headaches and really doesn't work well. You should also not let boys mix the drinks. For some reason they think you just add a splash of juice to a glass of booze. That can lead to trouble.

Add some great food - Greek feta dip, broccoli salad, sausage & egg burritos, mussels in cream sauce with specks of sausage, or pink and green cupcakes. Just eat your hearts out.

Then add a Dash of Dancing - After all that sitting, we like to dance. In the camper. At the beach at sunset. And again after dark. We aren't picky about the spot. I should mention we are really good dancers. I think that is why people are always looking at us when we dance. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it. I'm also pretty sure that if you turn the music up as loud as it goes in the camper, even with the windows shut, your neighbors will not like it and the campground Po Po will pay a visit.

But don't worry about the weather - You can go to the beach, eat, and dance under sunny or stormy skies. And trust me, you can even have fun with a hurricane bearing down...although it makes you think twice about being in a little metal box tethered only to the car with winds blowing at 50mph.

Give all of that a good mix and you will end up with tons of laughter and lots of great memories. It's perfect everytime!