The New Normal

FullSizeRenderThis winter in Boston has been a challenge.  No, let’s be honest, it’s been a shit storm.  Driving through the city, past ten foot snow mounds and down two lane street that are now one and wrestling your way into ice covered parking spaces, you learn one thing very quickly.  You need to turn into the skid.  It’s the first thing they teach you about winter driving.  As counter-intuitive as it seems, as scary as it sounds, as much as you want to throw on your breaks: You turn into the skid.

The analogy is obvious.  You can’t fight the inevitable.  When the world fights against you, it’s okay to turn into the wind and let it take you where it may.  These last few months have challenged me to put this philosophy into practice nearly every day.  Once we hit 8 feet of snow in thirty days, and my car disappeared into the snow piles, and it started to take me more than an hour to travel four miles to work, it forced me to start leaning into the curve.

So, it’ll take more than an hour to make it across town; pack a big cup of coffee and some snacks for the ride.  So, there’s no parking on the streets; bundle up and walk to the errands.  So, it’s too hard to get out to shop and eat and and socialize, take the opportunity to save some money for the inevitable battery that I’ll have to purchase for the buried car.

Now I know that it seems easy for me.  The storms have unquestionable hit some harder than others.  I know that there has been lots of lost wages, and poor revenue, and property damage.  But, for better or worse, that’s still the new normal.  I can’t see the utility in complaining about it, announcing your misery, playing the “who has it worse” game.  The best we can do is look at our new reality and figure it out.  Make a new plan.  Turn into the skid.

It’s not just the weather.  So many people who I love have had a hard winter.  Friends have had set-backs, and illnesses, and life altering surprises.  But, what can you do?  Except for to define your new normal. I still struggle with this everyday.

My life is miles away from where I saw it two years ago.  But, if I had spent even one moment fighting against the changes and railing against the inevitable.  I wouldn’t be where I am today.  The reason I continue to be successful, is not because of actual success, but because of my ability to continually redefine my expectations and my reality. It’s about choosing what you’d like your life to look like and then adjusting it accordingly.  It’s about committing to your priorities and making adjustments as life sees fit.  My priorities are family, happiness, and time.

And, it hasn’t been easy to stick to my guns this winter.  Not when it’s been so dark, and everything takes so long, and we’re all stuck in the house in tight spaces under the most unpleasant circumstances.  It’s been a challenge to make the most of it.  But, I continue to work towards the ideal.  To find some quiet time to read with the boys.  To get outside and embrace the epic snow.  To smile and laugh and find the joy in the smallest of triumphs.  To keep on defining the new normal and accepting the twists and turns as they come. FullSizeRender-1

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40 Things I Wish I had Known Then… (on the occasion of my 40th birthday)

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I’ve been a bit crappy about blogging.  I have lots of things I want to say, but life gets a bit a way from you sometimes.  But, in honor of another year, and a true embracement (is that a word?) of my 40s, I submit to you a #tbt.

Wow!  I’m 40.  How the hell did that happen?  But, I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things along the way.  And, although much of this is cliche, I think (put together) it makes up a pretty good life philosophy.  Enjoy!

1. Don’t tackle any difficult subject before a cup of coffee.

2. If you want to be treated as a grown up, wear heels.

3. Endorphins are a much better drug than nicotine.

4. Those who matter, don’t care; and those who care, don’t matter.

5. Getting lost is half the fun.

6. Your children are a reflection of what they see. Make sure they see the right things.

7. Throwing a perfect spiral is a skill every person should know.

8. Every girl should know how to build a shelf; every boy should know how to sew a button.

9. Always bring an umbrella, you never know when the skies might change.

10. Friendships need to be cultivated and cared for.

11. If you want something to be; don’t wait for others to do it.

12. Don’t assume people know how you feel and what’s important to you.

13. Accept people for who they are, and don’t expect them to be you.

14. Love fully and deeply.

15. Karma’s a bitch. What goes around truly does come around.

16. Don’t worry about other people. Do the right thing for you.

17. Unless you’re a paid athlete or a trail guide, don’t wear shorts to work.

18. Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right.

19. If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it is most likely (whether you choose to believe it or not) a duck.

20. You get more bees with honey.

21. Food isn’t love. Unless, it’s those cinnamon sugar pita chips… that stuff is crack!

22. Nothing is more inspiring than a great mix tape.

23. Nothing’s worse than a hangover; except a hangover when you have children.

24. If you’re afraid of your children, they grow up to be terrifying.

25. First impressions last. You never know who’s paying attention.

26. Turn off your phone some times. Be present where you are.

27. Unless someone is hurt or hurting another, it can wait til the morning.

28. Laugh… Laugh a lot

29. You never know when you’ll fall in love. Be ready for it when it happens.

30. Learn something new every day.

31. Keep moving. It’s basic physics. A body in motion tends to stay in motion.

32. There is no substitute for a good book.

33. Stress and anger will make you sick. Smile and breathe.

34. Fake it til you make it. But, also don’t be afraid to admit it when you don’t know something.

35. Go on vacation. A lot. Make the time to do nothing.

36. There will come a time when husbands and children and bills will be your priority. Enjoy your youth and freedom while you have it.

37. A crappy day at the lake is vastly better than any day anywhere else.

38. Like the queen says, “keep calm and carry on.”

39. Don’t do anything half-assed.  Go all in, all the time.

40. 40 is just a number. Not a state of mind.  And, never be afraid to act the fool.  Life is too short!

Parenting’s a Crappy Gig

10334360_10202709480073133_776496951207363595_nLet me be the one to say it, because you know you’ve all been thinking it.  Parenting is a really shitty gig.

You go to a job interview, and they say, “You’ll be on call 24 hours a day, you’ll be expected to work overtime on the weekends, you’ll have full responsibility for every task and there’s rarely anyone to delegate to.  Your boss can be unreasonable, selfish, beligerant.  You’ll serve as director, secretary, bookkeeper, custodian, chauffeur, chef, and CEO.  And, by the way, this is a volunteer position, you won’t be paid a cent.”

And, I know….  You would never change it for the world, and you love those lil’ buggers, and it’s the worst job you’ll ever love.  And, that’s all bullshit.  You know this job blows chunks.

I love my kids.  Totally.  Unequivocally.  Madly.  And, I’m at the stage of their development when I really LIKE them too.  I have fun with them, we laugh a lot, and I legitimately enjoy their company.  It’s really not them, it’s the responsibility.

The soul crushing, overwhelming, absolute responsibility.  The worrying, and the second guessing, and the messiness of it.

As I sat on the toilet for a half an hour yesterday, holding my nine year old’s bloody nose, covered with rapidly drying red dots, as my six year old cleaned off the walls, I had a while to think about this (Yes Dad, I took him to the doctor.  He’s fine)  It’s an impossible task, with very little room for error.  And, there’s a million ways to mess it up.

You have to keep them clean, and fed, and well rested.  The have to be smart, and work hard, and be nice kids.  They can’t cuss, or fart, or pick their nose in public. They need to get to school on time, and like healthy foods, and play well with others. You need to deal with the strange rash on their head, and where their glasses are, and whether they are “happy.”  And, you have to look good doing it.

For the love of God, why didn’t anyone warn us!!  Quite simply, because if we truly understood, would we have agreed to bring these monsters into the world.  Or maybe I was warned and I chose to ignore them.  Hubris.  Pure hubris.

I’m sure of this.  Everyone,  every single last one of you, agrees with me.  Whether you choose to admit it or not.  Whether you smile through the muck, or cry through it, struggle every day, or knock it outta’ the park; it’s a shitty gig.

So, give the dad in the super market an understanding grin. Help that mom trying to drag the double stroller into the restaurant. Have patience with the parents struggling to feed their two toddlers in the crowded restaurant.  We’ve all been there, and we’ll all be there again.  Love your favorite parent today.

Dear Sons, (what I really want for Mother’s Day)

1795623_10202264980800929_53883452_nDear Sons,

I love you sweet boys oh so very much.  And, although I’m sure, your father will force you to make a lovely half-assed card featuring monsters and lasers and a fair amount of poop, and your teacher will make you paint a frame and put a blurry picture of yourself in it, there are other things I want for Mother’s Day.  And, if you can’t pull that off, I kinda’ want a Magic Bullet (smoothies are hot right now).

  • I would like to spend one day in the car without you arguing about what you want to talk about.  You might actually have a pleasant conversation if you could just stop fighting about whether talking about Pokemon is annoying or not. (hint:  it is)
  • You could admit that you actually love playing outside.  That you love baseball and soccer and playing at the playground.  That you’d prefer to be active then to sit in front of a screen rotting your brain.
  • About those screens.  They are not that important.  They are not worth your anger, and your frustration and your general whiny-ness when you don’t get to play.  Playing electronics are not, and will never be, a priority in this family.  Give it up!
  • In fact, please learn, that you will never get your way by whining.  You are 9 and 6.  We have never given in to your whining.  We never will.  It is not a functional way to communicate with us.  You will not win that fight.
  • Put your shoes on. Now.
  • For the love of god, clean yourself!  You are boys.  You smell.  You must shower, and brush your teeth, and comb your hair.
  • Ask your father.  He is sitting right next to you.  Watching hockey.  Do you not see him?  Do you have to walk up the stairs, storm into the bathroom, and ask me for apple juice?  Do you?
  • Now means NOW.
  • We have a routine.  We do the same thing every single morning.  You need socks everyday; you need your backpack everyday; you need to strap in everyday.  Why can you not understand that?  And don’t ask me what we have.  We “have” the same things we always “have”.
  • Enough with the sarcasm.  I know you “learned it from watching me,” but my sarcasm is warranted, acceptable, and witty.  Yours is annoying.
  • You are not bored.  You keep saying that word.  I do not think that word means what you think it means.
  • Please take pictures with me.  Moms aren’t in enough pictures, moms always miss out on the photos.  Please let me have pictures with my sons; even if they’re goofy.
  • Never stop holding my hand.  Never grow to big to cuddle with your mom.  Just love me unconditionally; I promise to do the same.

Patience: Lessons from the Zen Baby

IMG_1935We’re all fast folk.  We walk fast, always have somewhere to go, we keep to our tight schedule.  But not my youngest.  He moves at his own speed.  He loves quietness, silent reflection, lazy days.  And, he drives us crazy.  No matter where we go, we’re always ten steps ahead of him, saying, “Come on J. Come on J.  Come on J”  Sometimes we call him “little legs”.  Sometimes we lose our patience.

But, J doesn’t care.  He just goes at his own speed.  Observes his surroundings.  Reserves his energy.  Sets his pace.

Last week we went to the zoo.  We go to the zoo often, sometimes just stopping to see the flamingos and then move on.  The kids have been going to the zoo since they were infants, and they know it like the back of their hand.  Know what they need to see.  Know the quickest way to get places.  We can do the whole zoo in less than an hour.  Time us!

But not this time.  We had nowhere else to go, no one else to see, no appointments, no schedule.  So, we made the promise to go at J’s speed.  First, we climbed the gorilla statue, then went to the playground, stopped at the bathroom, got an ice cream, climbed the tower, looked for the giraffes.  “Hey, J, are we ever going to see the animals today?”  Sure.  First the red panda, stopped to feed the ducks, saw the cows, noticed how ugly the camels are.  Practiced our jumping, sat in the old jeep, got some water.  “Hey, J, we ever going to see the lion, the tigers, the gorillas”  Sure.  But first, let walk this way.

By the time we got to the Tropical Forest, where the animals are active and funny and always moving, J needed to sit.  “But, J, the lemurs are right there, and the tamarins, and the gorillas, and the hippo is right around the corner”  No mom, let’s sit in the little theater with the fish tank.  Okay, let’s sit and look at the little fish tank.  Let’s sit and relax and rest for a while.  Sigh.

But, then, behind the glass of the fish tank (the fish tank we’ve run by a thousand times, the fish tank that’s lame, the fish tank that’s boring) we see something moving.  We look carefully, we hold our breathe, we get really quiet, and we see the most amazing thing.  The pygmy hippo.  Kicking his legs and swimming by.  Diving down.  Rolling on his back.  Putting on a show.  All this time, and we never knew that the hippos played in that water.  Unbelievable.  J looks at us and says, “Hmmm.  Guess that’s why it’s called Hippo Theater.”

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Shaking It Up

IMG_1558I am a creature of habit.  I love my routine.  I check my e-mail at 6:40 every morning, have my first cup of coffee while the boys eat breakfast,  leave the house at 8:05 every day, and drive the same way to drop the boys off.  And, I blog every thursday.

How boring.  How rote.  How expected.  Oh, but it makes me so happy.  To have everything lined up in a row.  To have the lunches made up just the right way.  To have all the clothes folded proper.  According to me….

And, that’s the rub, right?  It’s about control.  It’s about doing things the right way.  It’s about being in charge.  And, you must admit, life does run smoother when there’s a plan, and when there’s rules to follow.

But, life shakes things up a bit.  Life throws you curveballs.  Sometimes big changes, sometimes small.  But the world wants chaos, no matter how we try to order it.  And the more we order it, the more nature fights back.  The traffic jams, and the unexpected meetings, and the little illnesses that throw you on your ass.

What if you lean into the curve.  Embrace the chaos.  Let go of the reins for a while and enjoy the ride.  Just a bit.  You might get lost cleaning your yard for three hours on a saturday afternoon, and might just throw on some clothes and go out to drinks with some great friends, and hit balls on the baseball diamond with your favorite guys.

What’s the worse that could happen?  You might have a relaxing weekend, one without e-mails and messages.  You might get some unexpected things done, things that you’ve been dying to do for months.  Your children might learn that there’s no “right” way to do get stuff done, and no “right” time do the things you love.

And, amazingly, all the things that are waiting to get done will still get done.  And all the important things on your “to do” list will still be there when you get to them.  And all the people who “need” you will still be waiting on monday.

And, maybe, you might just learn something new.  The world doesn’t stop spinning just because your calendar gets put aside.  Spontaneity, is a learned behavior, and your children are watching.  Responsibilities that weigh you down are often not quite as heavy as they might seem.  A little bit of shaking it up is good for your soul.  And, it might give you the much needed restart you didn’t know you needed.

 

Last Night I Dreamt of Michigan

DSC_0219Last night I dreamt of Michigan.  I dreamt of clear water and blue skies.  Of bare skin and pink noses.  Of bonfires and circles of beach chairs on the dock.

Last night I dreamt of Michigan.  I dreamt of children laughing in the field and wet dogs shaking dry.  Of walks through the woods and “kid only” zones.  Of bourbon and beer and dinner at the picnic table.

Last night I dreamt of Michigan.  I dreamt of turtle doves and barn owls and turkeys in the front yard.  Of movies in the tent and sunsets off the bluff.  Of coffee on the dew covered porch and games in front of the fire.

DSC_0311Last night I dreamt of Michigan.  I dreamt of the smells, and the sig
hts, and the sounds of the lake and the barn and field.  Of trips down the river and rides to Dairy Queen.  Of blueberry picking and bike rides.

Last night of dreamt of family and friends and love.  Of peace and tranquility and laughter. Of hours and hours for play and games.  Of time to catch up and forget that it’s been a whole year.  Of sharing a connection that only we have, a language that is only for us, that no one else can understand.

DSC_0096Four months away.  I’m counting the days.