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.

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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.

Surprising Indulgences

Yesterday was a day of surprising indulgences for a working mother of a two-year old. Personal time and relaxation are both commodities that are hard to come by at this stage of my existence. Yet miraculously, my day started with a glorious half hour of quiet solitude complete with a cup of french vanilla coffee and a cinnamon bagel. This was after I had the privilege of sleeping in till almost 8:30 since both of my boys slept till 9:00. The worrisome part of me wanted to go in and check on my little man since this occurrence is so rare, but my more rational side won out as I let him sleep and enjoyed my quiet, solitary breakfast. The level to which I savored this event is almost (but not quite) sad.

Woman in Her Bath painting by Edgar Degas

This was not even my only spoiled moment of the day. After a long and fulfilling morning working outside in the yard as a family, I got Aiden fed and in bed for his nap and then drew a hot bath with epsom salts, candles, and book and proceeded to soak away all my muscle aches, tensions, and worries and simply relax. As I laid flat on my back with only my nose and mouth above water, I began to contemplate how very lucky we are. There are so many things we take for granted. Little things like being able, at a moment’s notice, to fill an entire tub with enough hot water to completely submerge ourselves. As little as 60 years ago this would have been considered decadent. The only way you could have such a bath was if you heated all the water on the stove first (after chopping and bringing in enough wood to do so) and probably shared it with other siblings or family members, hoping you were the first in line. My mother remembers living in a house with no indoor bathroom! Even today, in other places in the world, such extravagance would never even be considered. Yet I simply turn a knob and don’t even think twice about soaking my cares away. We are indeed blessed. How many other simple, everyday activities do we take for granted. How many conveniences that we see as basic necessities were never even available to our parents or grandparents? How many of them will still be available to us tomorrow? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that today I am grateful.

Close to Home . . .

Having posted a couple of times about my vague admiration for Autumn and it’s effects on the world and my own personal psyche, I decided to share a few specific examples of what Fall looks like in our home – just small glimpses of why it will always hold such a special place in my heart.

Daddy teaching Aiden to cook breakfast. Mmmm, I can still smell it!

The newest addition to our family begining to show him/her-self.

The first fire in our fireplace. Needless to say, Aiden was impressed!

Painting pumpkings! Much more enjoyable for a toddler than trying to carve them.

The end result - Mine on the left, Aiden's on the right (with a little help on the face).

Shhhh! Be vewy, vewy qwiet! I'm hunting wizzards!

A crochet project I'm working on - for the baby if it's a girl, otherwise myself :)

Getting ready for Trick or Treat! Happy Halloween everyone!

Technological Sabbath

I have been seriously considering, as of late, implementing a regular technological sabbath for myself. A day of rest from the myriad of devices that connect us to everything under the sun. From what’s important to what’s completely irrelevant. From the beautiful to the terrible – the heroic to the mundane. We, more than any previous generation, have the world at our fingertips with all of its woes and inspirations, and the weight of it is immense. The burden of knowledge is great and the guilt of inability, although unjustified, can be just as great. We have computers in our pockets that can show us real-time video footage of the most recent natural disaster, civil war, or peace rally. They can look up, at our first thought of curiosity, the answer to any question, and yet we still feel confused. And even with such powerful tools always at our disposal to advance knowledge and personal development, we spend a huge portion of our time using them for frivolous and meaningless tasks like surfing the web, watching YouTube, playing Angry Birds, or browsing Facebook to keep up with our “friends.” If ever we find ourselves with a spare moment of quiet or stillness, out come the phones. Walk around in a public place and notice how many people around you are staring at a screen.

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology. It’s value is immeasurable and it is shaping the world today in ways many never dreamed possible. I just worry that we are attaining its prize at a rather high price. The loss of quiet contemplation and meditation. The inability to experience stillness without trying to fill it. The physical and mental release of curling up in a big chair with an actual book or crochet hook or guitar. Embarking on projects with our families that involve rakes and shovels or paints and brushes instead of remotes and ear buds. Hiking or biking without music or podcasts and simply our own thoughts to keep us company. But, as I contemplate all of this, the devil on my shoulder says, “Yes, those things are all very whimsical and beautiful, but every week? For a whole day? I don’t know. What if someone needs to get a hold of me? What if I need directions somewhere? What if . . . the world stops if I don’t pick up my phone or laptop multiple times a day?!?” My fear wreaks of addiction. There are so many ways to fill a day without the need for buttons. And I really believe I’d be happier if I set one day aside to shut down, breathe, and . . . reboot.

What do you think? Can it be done? Would you do it?