Saturday, January 21, 2012

Life List

I have been in a few bookclubs over the years. For different reasons, they have fizzled out. The group dynamics didn't work out anymore, no one made time for the group, or people stopped reading the books. After one bookgroup broke up, a small group of us were disappointed and still wanted to get together so we decided to start the Whatever Club. The idea was similar to a bookgroup - we decided to get together each month and each month would have a host. But, instead of reading books, the host would pick "whatever" they wanted to do.

It was a blast! One month we had a wine tasting, another month we all came in our pj's and watched a chick flick (and passed around the kleenex), another time we tried a new restaurant, and then one month we decided to go to the movie The Bucket List and then get together for dinner afterwards to share our own personal bucket lists. My friend Margaret hosted that month and she had little notebooks made up with the tagline "My Bucket List". Underneath that it said "The Ten Things I Want to Do in This World During My Life Are:" and then we all filled in our own list.

Years ago I travled to India for work with a small group and at dinner one night the subject of Life Lists came up. It seemed that everyone had one but me. Not a mental one or a physical one. Every now and again following that, I would make a mental note to myself of things I wanted to add to my list. When this opportunity came up again to really think about what was on my life list, I immediately had a few thoughts but then struggled to come up with ten. As we began to share our lists that night, we each found ourselves saying "Oh that's good! I'm going to add that to my list!" It felt a little like you were cheating though...like you should come up with your list all on your own. I have kept that notebook that Margaret made and often refer to the list and add to it, check things off, and delete items. So far I have taken a summer off to spend with my kids (I never thought that would be possible), I've painted a frame worthy picture, and although I didn't attend a mass with the Pope, I did get to see the Pope in person, which is good enough for me. I have also since crossed off sky diving and taking a ride in a hot air balloon. A few weeks ago I heard a story on the news of a girl that went bungee jumping and the rope broke. Amazingly she is alive but I decided that the risk isn't worth it to me. I don't want to plummet to earth trying to get my parachute open or while trying to stay afloat in a giant balloon. I'm good. But I do still want to swim with dolphins, travel to Australia, go on a safari in Africa, and zip line through the rain forest.

Last weekend, the kids and I had an opportunity to do something that, although was not on my bucket list, was on my kids list. Each year during Martin Luther King weekend, Tim's parents take their 3 kids and their families away skiing at Bretton Woods. And each year, the kids watch the dog sled rides go by and ask if they can do it some year. For Christmas this year, we gave them a gift certificate to finally go on a sled dog ride and I joined them. It was a life list worthy experience for several reasons.

It was an educational ride. We were introduced to each of the 8 dogs by name and told what their job was. The dogs in the back, who were brothers, had the job of steering the sled. And like true brothers, they spend the entire time wrestling and knocking into one another. The dogs in the front, were responsible for steering the pack. The dogs behind them were the co-captains who helped to steer the pack. And the dogs in the middle were the powerhouse dogs. Once that was all clear, we got into the sled, me first, then Jack, and then Mimi...all sitting up but laying back on one another. We had a big blanket tucked around us and then the excitement began! Apparently, these dogs just love to pull the sled. They love the cold weather and this is what they live for. As they were getting hooked up, all the other dogs at the station started barking like mad. They were excited for the group that was going out and they also wanted to go out themselves. And when I say they were barking like mad, I mean, it was deafening. When the musher gave the sign to pull out, we took off like a rocket!

It was very much like a roller coaster ride on snow - up and down hills, around turns, and across fields. About half way into the ride, Chase our musher stopped and asked the kids if they wanted to drive the sled. I thought they were going to pass out from pure excitement. Mimi went first...she climbed in front of Chase and he gave her some direction. Then he told her to ask the dogs if they were ready. Oh, they were ready all right....they were prancing like they were about to wet their pants. Then she said "Hike! Hike!" and they took off like bats out of you know where. She had a great time and then crawled back into the sled with me while Jack took the reins.

This was one of those moments as a parent that I have not experienced yet. A moment where you see your child totally in their glory, really experiencing a key moment in their life, a moment of pure joy. When I looked up at him, he had this smile on his face that I have never seen before. He was completely unaware that I was watching him because he was so absorbed in the moment. His whole face was lit up, his cheeks were apple red from the cold, and he had this smile of pure bliss on his face. It's a look I won't ever forget. As a parent you hope your child's life is filled with many of those moments, although knowing from experience, that when they do happen for you, they aren't commonplace.

This made the dog sled ride well worth more than the monetary amount I paid. When I was retelling the story to Tim and my mother in-law later, I got choked up. It meant a lot to me to see him enjoying that moment so much. It was how you should look after you cross off something on your life list.

What's on your life list?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Feed Your Soul

Everyone has their "happy place"....that one place that you just love to go to, where you feel most at home, and where you long to be when you aren't there. For me, that is the Outer Cape, specifically Truro and Wellfleet. There is nothing better to me than driving out in the Jeep to Race Point, lounging in my beach chair all day on the pristine beach, then celebrating the sunset with a nice glass of wine. I try to go there several times throughout the summer to get my "fix". Someday I would love to have a little rustic cottage there - nothing fancy - but close to the beach so I could walk along the shore every day. After growing up on the Cape all my life, the gravitational pull the ocean has on me is unmistakeable. I could never live someplace that was landlocked. I think I would constantly feel on edge...that something wasn't quite right. I need the good old Cape Cod sea air coursing through my veins to feel like myself.

The other day, Tim made an interesting observation. He said, not only do people have their happy places but they have their "happy people". It was a bit of an "aha" moment for me when I realized that is certainly true. These are people that you can't wait to see, that you feel most like yourself when you are with them (regardless of how often you see them), and that you never tire of spending time with. Timmy's "happy people" is Adam, otherwise known in our house as "Daddy's other wife". Tim starts each day talking to Adam...usually about jeeps and jeep parts. He usually talks to him multiple times a day...again, mostly about jeeps and parts. There was a time when Adam was referred to as "Adam-Lina" by our kids. I'm not sure how we ever got on this topic but the kids said one night at dinner that if I ever died, I wouldn't have to worry about Tim...he would just marry Adam and they would call him Adam-Lina. Nevermind the fact that Adam is happily married to his wife Ann.

On Christmas Eve morning I got a text from Adam asking if I needed some extra presents to give to Tim...he said he had bought too many things for him and felt like it was overkill. Yes, take a minute and re-read that. As we headed out to church for Christmas Eve service, we opened the door to find a pile of crudely wrapped jeep parts. There were wires and pipes protroding from crinkled paper that was being held together with at least a whole dispenser of tape. These were Adam-Lina's "gifts"...old jeep parts for one of Tim's jeeps. Timmy was giddy. Only Adam could give him jeep parts and make him so happy. He is definitely Timmy's Happy People.

As I thought more about it, I realized I not only have a happy place and a happy person, but I also have a "happy day"....a dream day that I constantly dream of being able to fit in. For me, it's a day of pure indulgence, to do whatever I want, when I want to do it, and completely by myself. It's like a gift to myself. And, I think anyone who reads this can understand how difficult it is to find that kind of time but I do try to fit it in one day a year.

Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to indulge in my happy day the week between Christmas and New Year's. My sister and I try to "swap" kids for a few days around the holidays and/or vacations. This gives the kids an opportunity to see each other and it gives us a little break. After having her kids for a few days, I drove them all down to the Cape and came back in complete silence. Aaaahhhh. It was so nice. The next day, I knew it was my one chance to have my one happy day in 2011. So, the next morning, I slept in, shuffled to the couch in my pj's, and snuggled under a blanket. I read for a bit, then caught up on some shows on DVD, and then had lunch...eating on a tray on the couch. That's totally against the rules in our house. I have to admit, I had to keep fighting back feelings of guilt. I found myself thinking "I shouldn't have slept so long..." even though I only slept until 9:15. I read magazines, watched more tv, and then finally I got all my supplies out and painted. I don't think I have painted more than two times last year. It felt really good! At this point I was still in my pj's...hadn't even brushed my bed head. I took a quick shower, got into some comfy clothes and curled up on the couch again. I had to fight back thoughts again of "wasting the day away" and mentally making a list of all the things I "should" have been doing but I was committed to myself for the day and I wasn't going to let those feelings ruin this once a year opportunity.

Now as a general rule, I don't like watching movies or tv shows more than once. I also don't like re-reading books. I already know what is going to happen so the show or book immediately loses my attention. However, it struck me on my Happy Day that I wanted to watch Dan In Real Life with Steve Carell again. I'm not sure why I like this movie so much but it is really one of the only movies I have sat through all over again, with my complete attention focused on it. When Tim got home, I was completely wrapped up in it and I don't even think I looked up. Without saying a word, he joined me on the couch and got lost in it too.

Afterwards Tim offered to get us take out and we shared a bottle of wine. Well, I should say he suggested we go out to dinner but there was no way I was going out of the house on My Happy Day. The entire day was so relaxing!. I love my kids tremendously, but having a day without kids, a day where I don't even speak all day long, to just be Kelly again, to not be responsible for doing anything or having to be anywhere, is truly a dream for me. No matter what your Happy Day looks like, you should make a promise to yourself to at least find one day to indulge in your Happy Day. It's just one day. Surely you can make time for that.