Always Playing By The Rules?

Today I set a very bad example for my son… or a very good one… I can’t decide. Rules that, if broken, harm no one and bring great enjoyment to the breaker, seem to me to beg to be challenged. At least every now and then. But at what age is a child capable of understanding when and where this is appropriate. I mean, if Mommy breaks the rules sometimes… You get the idea. Let’s say (hypothetically) that a very pregnant mama desperately wanted to go swimming today – to be able to, for the first time in months, not feel like a two hundred pound lunk and do something completely different and fun. And let’s say that the only club with a pool that I, I mean she, had access to was closed today but this was not discovered till after getting completely dressed and ready for the pool with (her) two-year old and driving up to locked, dark doors. What would you do in this situation? Why, walk into a nice local hotel, of course, with a kid in one arm and a phone in the other, act like you belong there, and harriedly ask the janitor to please get the door to the pool for you. I mean, what harm could there be in taking advantage of an already heated and treated pool being used by no one. In reality we were doing them a favor because at least all the effort and money they spent on keeping up the pool was not completely wasted on disuse. Did my little man understand the concept of crashing a hotel pool uninvited? Probably not. Will he look back and remember and understand? Maybe. Do I regret it? Definitely not! We had a grand-tastic time and memories like these are priceless and could never be traded for a lifetime of always playing by the rules.

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A Willing Recipient of Kindness

I am an extrovert.  Anyone who knows me would never dispute this fact. My husband is an introvert. He recharges his emotional and psychological batteries with time to himself whereas I need the ears and voices of those who will listen and contribute while I process things I don’t even know I’m thinking till they’re outside my head. Most of the time we are able to find the delicate balance between our two personalities and manage to support one another according to the other’s needs even if they don’t always coincide with our own. Sometimes, however, I have to step outside of the realm of familiar faces and voices before the monotony of daily, normal interaction threatens to drive me deep into myself and I begin to shut down without even know what’s really wrong. This unhealthy threat seems to be ever-present on the edge of my emotions while I am pregnant and hopped up on hormones, tempting me to draw into myself rather than interact and release whatever is pent-up.

Today was one of those days. But rather than give in and lay on my bed, lost in a book all day pretending I wasn’t down, I got up, got out, and got better. I told Jonathan I just needed to get out of the house and I got in the car with no specific agenda or real goal other than to shake myself free of the fog I was settling into. And I realized something very crucial as I headed home a couple of hours later. I love people. Sometimes I let cynicism or impatience get the better of me and I jump too quickly to see flaws and negativity. But, in general, I am inspired even by simple interactions, unexpected displays of kindness, and windows of vulnerability that give me glimpses into someone else’s soul. I realized that, when I am sinking, I don’t always need a long drawn out conversation over coffee with a girlfriend where I try to analyze all the ins and outs of why I may be feeling the way I am. Sometimes I just need to witness humanity in its simple beauty and walk away changed by it. The smiles of the lady in the bakery who, despite the exhaustion written all over her face, has nothing by kind and helpful things to say and who wishes me luck with the baby as I buy my bread and head out the door. The ladies in the thrift store who don’t know that I’m listening from the dressing room while they recount to each other with a mixture of pride, anxiety, and deep affection stories about their teenagers on valentine’s day. Or the man at Lowe’s who, although he was about to leave early before I arrived needing help, seemed to be a bottomless pit of helpful tips and happy energy and a willingness to be of any kind of assistance – crossing the store multiple times to get something I forgot so that I wouldn’t need to leave the register and then loading my car for me in the rain – both of us laughing the whole time despite the relative unpleasantness of our days prior to this interaction. I came home smiling and cooked spaghetti for supper at my son’s request, the entire evening transformed from what the morning projected it to be. Today served as a reminder to keep my eyes open and allow myself to see, all around, the beauty that lives in people and is eagerly waiting to come out and be bestowed on willing recipients. Let me always be willing!

A Mini-Vacation In A Day

There are some days that you feel like you’ll never recover from. And then there are days that epitomize the recovery that weeks of stress require. Perhaps the later is more rare, but it also leaves a more lasting impression on your psyche. Friday was just such a day for me. It was a mini-vacation in a day without ever leaving town – or even a 5 mile radius of where I work – and it has invigorated my spirit and refreshed my mind and body in a way that I haven’t experienced in some time. I confessed to my husband when I returned home, that despite a few instances of describing my wonderful family to those who inquired, I didn’t really think of them, or anyone else, at all. It was a day just for me and I reveled in it.

It began with an early departure from work to attend a “team-building” event that had the potential to be either amazing or awkward. Thankfully it turned out to be delightful. The company took our whole department to the local Viking cooking school and had us divide into groups to take a cooking class, at the end of which we got to enjoy the fruit of our labor. The menu we were preparing was entitled “Chicago Steakhouse” and was comprised of grilled rib-eye steaks over a bed of sautéed spinach and mushrooms with a side of bacon wrapped scallops atop homemade hash-browns and spicy apricot glaze, a delicious salad with fresh vinaigrette, and a heavenly apple tart for desert. There was wine and appetizers, lots of laughter and camaraderie, and, in the end, the utter enjoyment of a job very well done.

After stuffing myself to my heart’s content and taking a few extra minutes to browse the Viking gift shop, it was on to the next event of the day – my one hour prenatal massage at Aqua Day Spa, courtesy of my husband for our anniversary. Anyone whose ever been pregnant, and even most of you who haven’t, know that there’s not much better than calming your aching and disproportionate body with this kind of relaxation. The physical and emotional therapy of this section of my day needs little explanation or embellishment, so I’ll just say that it was lovely!

I went straight from my massage appointment to their salon next door and got my first haircut in over six months. And this wasn’t just any haircut. It was a masterpiece by a hairdresser who took an hour and a half with me, carefully and meticulously getting everything just the way he, and I, wanted it to be to make sure that I “wowed” my hubby when I got home. I love my hair long, but too often I feel that I sacrifice style for length and it just hangs loosely around my face with very little in the way of interest or fashion. This time, however, he managed to leave my length and still create a style that had movement and life and intrigue. I was SO pleased. He actually apologized to me for taking so long, and I assured him that anyone who was willing to take a such time to pamper or beautify me, was more than welcome to do so and I was quite grateful!

After all of this, I returned home to find that my boys had had a fantastic day together and had made lasagna and salad for supper which I didn’t have to lift a finger to prepare or clean up. As I shared with them the details of my day, I am sure that every feature of my face and the deepest parts of my eyes confessed more adequately than my lips ever could that… I was myself again. I was happy. And I was reminded, once again that life does not consist wholly of the tasks and stresses that claim so much of our time.

Romance at Home

There is nothing that feeds affection and intimacy in a relationship like romance. Everybody knows that it is essential to a woman’s happiness. But I believe it is just as crucial to a man’s. Not only to receive it, but to give it. Even if it doesn’t come quite as naturally, the simple act of being romantic makes a man feel . . . well  . . . manly. The look of sheer pride and accomplishment on my husbands face tonight after a valiant and very successful romantic evening, said it all. He enjoyed seeing me giddy with the anticipation and fulfillment of pampering almost as much as I enjoyed experiencing it. Just before leaving work today, I received this email:

Upon my arrival at home, I was greeted first with smooches, then with the heavenly smell of made-from-scratch chicken Alfredo on the stove, and then by the sound of lovely french music and the sight of candles and wine ready to be poured. I did just as I was told and kicked off my shoes and danced around the kitchen while he finished up. And the best part was the forethought that went into creating the invitation and going to the store to buy ingredients for one of my favorite foods and doing it all himself. I would choose this evening over a 5 star Italian restaurant any day! Even the inclusion of our two-year old was no detraction. I think he could sense the positivity and happiness floating around the house and was a perfect doll all evening. He even got a glass of “wine” (white grape juice in a wine glass) and told his daddy, “I like this supper, Daddy!” Who says you need to pay a baby sitter and spend a fortune on a date to make it special? Further evidence that sometimes it is the thought and effort that accompanies a gift that makes it wonderful. Well done hubby! You’ve just raised the bar. ;)

The Great Outdoors

I have always known, but somehow need to be continually reminded that time outdoors is essential to my happiness and well-being. Some of the moments in life that I have felt the deepest connection to spirit and self have been times that I’ve spent alone or with a loved one in nature. Soaking in the reality, beauty, and simplicity of the untouched world. Stepping away from screens and music, work and stress, and the continuous noise of busy life into the quiet sounds of plants and birds and children’s laughter. Experiencing sunlight as it filters through the trees creating shadowy artwork on the ground. Discovering forgotten clearings along paths through the woods that seem as sacred as a temple and using those spaces to meditate and reclaim calm. Sitting on a park bench and watching children who are still too young to be self-conscious run and play and be free in a way that many adults envy in the deepest parts of themselves. Dropping the restraints of time and tasks and pretending for a short time that they do not exist. Inhaling the smell rag weed and wood mulch, dead leaves and earth all in the same breath and feeling cleansed by it. Going home dirtier than you’ve been in a long time, yet with no desire to wash it off. This is life in its simplest and best form and I am grateful for it.