Monthly Archives: April 2010

My partnership

I’ve been finding myself thinking about my childhood a lot these days.  I guess in these days of wondering what the “best ways” of parenting my kids are, and trying to decide if I have ANY of it figured out, I think back on the only other parenting style I think I know well.  My parents’.  It’s all I really have to compare to without speculating.  And reading Raising Happiness by Christine Carter has also inspired many of my thoughts these days.

My parents weren’t perfect.  But I think they did something (or many things) right.  They put a bit too much pressure on me.  Pressure to have the right friends, join the right activities, get perfect grades, excel at everything, eat the right way, etc.  But even with all these pressures, I look back and am quite certain I was happy.  I felt loved and comforted.  Yes, I was and still am way too sensitive.  I overthink everything in my life. I have had my share of eating and control issues.  But in the end, I’m quite well adjusted, found a wonderful man to marry, have had a stable and fruitful career and Love Life.

So what is it that I believe was so RIGHT in my childhood?  My parents.  The way THEY were together.  Forget how they were with me and my brother.  The way they treated one another, the love and respect they showed to each other day in and day out. I truly believe this has all made me a better wife, mom and adult.  Were they sickeningly sweet to each other?  Absolutely not.  But they gave each other a kiss good bye and hello each and every day as my dad left for and came home from work.  They held hands when we walked together as a family.  They played in the waves  in the ocean together on family beach vacations.  They made eye contact with each other when they had conversations.  And they always talked.  Rarely would they sit without talking.  And from experience, I can admit, that sometimes it can be exhausting to talk.  Sitting quietly is often easier.  But the conversation is important for a partnership.  And that’s what my parents were (and still are).  Partners.  My parents always made it clear that THEIR partnership came first.  Yes, even before the partnership between them and me.  That might sound harsh.  But it’s true.  It might sound selfish.  But it worked for them and I may have made me stronger and more self sufficient.  I think they realized that in the end, they would have each other.  When my brother and I grew up and started lives of our own… it would be just them.

I can’t remember a time when one of my parents (usually my mom) would say “no” to something I wanted and I would then have the inclination to then go ask my dad.  They were united.  Had obviously discussed how to parent together (behind closed doors) because when one said yes, they both agreed.  When one said no, there was no opposing view.  And for a child to know that their parents are a team, I think adds a level of comfort to a child’s view of their world.

My parents also had FUN together.  I remember when I was 13 or so and we were on a vacation on the beach.  My parents were playing Kadima (that game with the paddles and ball) with each other.  They were diving for balls, falling on their asses and laughing hysterically.  I recall rolling my eyes in embarrassment at my two “old” parents acting so foolish.  I looked to my brother and said with that teenage sass, “Oh god, LOOK at them!  How embarassing!”.  He looked back at me and said, “Why is that embarrassing?  Do you know how LUCKY we are to have such cool, fun parents?”.  I didn’t see it then.  But I do now.  It’s how I HOPE my kids view Tim and I one day.  Fun.  Cool.  Active.  Even if we embarrass them along the way, at least they’ll know we love each other and each other’s company.

My parents also fought.  Not screaming fights but arguments nonetheless.  I’d look nervously between the two of them as my mom’s face got red and my dad got that “look” that I always feared.  I never really knew what they were fighting about since they must have had their own little language to prevent us from knowing the details, but it was clear, things were tense.  My brother and I would go about our business  as the tension between my parents grew and then it would end.  And the next day, they’d be holding hands and smiling again.  BUT, they always let us know, that what we had been privy to the prior evening, was resolved and ok.  I never had to wonder if there was something still brewing or if their marriage was on unstable ground and could end in divorce.  NEVER did I worry.

As a parent, I find fights with Tim very difficult.  I don’t want the kids to see or hear us arguing.  Or bickering.  I worry that the bickering effects them negatively and if they’re learning bad habits from us.  But what I’ve decided (from my experiences as a child and also some reading) is that it’s not the fighting that could have a negative effect on them, it’s the way we resolve our fights and that they SEE us make up and move on.  No, constant bickering is probably not healthy for them to see but disagreements are a part of life and our kids need to learn how to handle them.  I have decided I actually WANT my kids to see some of our disagreements so that they can learn how people who care about one another act to resolve their disagreements.  I grew up feeling stable with my family and the support of my family BECAUSE of the WAY my parents dealt with the realities of controversy between each other.  Pretending a fight didn’t happen or pretending fights never happen is not reality and won’t help anyone.

I still look at my parents today and am amazed at the love they show each other.  They spend a TREMENDOUS amount of time together doing anything from crossword puzzles side by side, to kayaking, hiking, snow shoeing or just sitting enjoying a cup of coffee at their local train station.  And the conversation still flows.  They still hold hands.  They still kiss hello and goodbye and tell each other they love each other.

It is as refreshing today as it was 30 years ago.  I still learn from it.  I still feel warm inside because of it. And I know, having that with Tim is a part of parenting that is crucial to the way my kids grow.  I have to say, I can’t imagine ever putting ANYTHING in front of my kids.  At this point their needs, wants, desires, everything comes first.  But I do hope one day, my partnership with Tim is top priority.  I think it needs to be.  When it’s really what life will be (or should be) about.  (Controversial, no?)

I know that some of my readers are single parents and I mean NO disrespect At All and hope no offense is taken.  I feel in the minority and extremely fortunate to have grown up with the love between my parents that I did, and know that in reality, it’s not the case for your parents or for yourselves.  I can only hope that it works out as well as it did for my parents for me (it’s not easy!)… and I applaud you for all you do alone.

What are your thoughts on putting your kids or your marriage first?

How do you feel about arguing in front of your kids?


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Little things to Love

“As you get older… some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you’ll realize it’s just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And the older you get, the fewer things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things.”

From the movie The Hurt Locker

Saturday was Luke’s birthday party.  His second birthday party.  His first with actual friends, a desire to eat his cupcake, and an attempt to blow out his candles.  Although he seemed stunned with each familiar face that entered our front door (I’m sure in his head was, “Hey, I know you!  You’re that kid from my class!  What the hell are YOU doing here?”), I do believe it was one of the happiest days of his life.  Everyone was there for him.  All of his favorite things were surrounding him.  Music, balloons, Cars plates and napkins, Matchbox car tattoos and stickers, and bubbles.  What more could a two year old boy ask for?

One of my favorite things is watching Luke (or any small child for that matter) gaze in amazement at the simplicities of life.  An airplane flying overhead.  Translucent, yet colorful bubbles float toward them and pop on their noses.  A squirrel scamper across the yard and effortlessly up a tree.  Sand flowing through a sifter at the beach.  Water splash from the tub when their hands slap onto it.  Things you and I don’t notice.  We take for granted.  But our children, they marvel.  They are awestruck and entertained.  How many times can I blow into the party blower and have it hit Luke in the nose with a “Toot!” before he tires of it?  Each time I do it, he laughs as hard as the last and asks for More (or “MAH!” as he says it)!

But it doesn’t last.  The excitement dwindles.  Things become expected.  Forgotten.  Simple.  Even with Hannah I find myself having to work harder to get her to find joy in things.  She even sometimes rolls her eyes at Luke when he stares into the sky at the line left behind by an airplane flying above us and claps. I try to see things through his little eyes.  How incredible it must be to him that there is something so Far away.  So out of his reach.  How one of those ENORMOUS planes he’s seen only on TV could be so high in the sky.  I let him see me sharing this enthusiasm because I want him to feel Right in feeling this way.

Because sadly, these little easy things won’t forever bring him such joy.

I bought a bunch of balloons for Luke’s birthday party.  Bright red and blue ones that I caught him staring at throughout his party.  Watching them bob back and forth, up and down in the wind.  He laughed every time one smacked me in the head as I was setting up the party and the wind caught them the right way.  There is something about balloons with little kids.  The pride they feel in carrying one around.  The envy they feel when someone else has one and they don’t.  The thrill in approaching a balloon salesperson (aka clown) and picking out the one right for them.  The dismay they feel when one escapes their tight grasp.  I actually STILL love balloons.  Their bright colors.  The fact that they symbolize something special going on.  The smiles I get as I carry 30 of them in the wind, through a parking lot and try to stuff them into the back of my car.  You see someone with balloons, you know they are celebrating something.  Balloons are happy.  The way they move and the way they look.

I gave out a balloon to each child as they left the party.  I’m pretty certain they were more excited by their new balloon than the book that I gave out in the goody bag.  Accidentally one of the kids let go of her balloon and all eyes turned upward to watch it float slowly, gracefully into the sky.  There was silence in the crowd as it hesitated and bumped into the branches of the trees blocking its way to freedom.  But after a few starts and stops, it finally stood stark red against the light blue sky.  It floated higher and higher until it was a mere speck, and then it was gone.  All of us watched.  The two year olds.  The five year olds. The parents.  The grandparents.  And no one cried.  Only watched with maybe different levels of, but still, interest and maybe wonder.  I wondered where it would end up.  If others would see it.  How long it would be in the sky.  What conversation it would illicit.

We let a few more balloons go after that one (I know not so great for the environment or the birds) because of the entertainment value.  And each one continued to bring “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” from the young but also older, jaded crowd.  And it made me realize, that yes, as we get older, there are fewer things that impress us and fewer things that easily entertain us, but it’s our own fault.  We need to LOOK for those things to love.  Unearth NEW things that we didn’t even realize we can love.  Recall the things we USED to love and love them again.

Look through our children’s eyes and share THEIR joy… it’s not that hard.  And well worth it.


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My village

“… there is no stronger predictor of happiness than how robust and positive our “village” is.”

I lifted this quote from the fabulously thought provoking and (for me) life altering book, Raising Happiness by Christine Carter.  I was directed to this book by Kristen at Motherese as it is the topic of her online bookclub that started a few weeks ago.  Sadly, I’m a few weeks behind so I haven’t had a chance to truly participate in the book club. but I’m compelled to write my own post on this part of it, because it resonated so loudly with me.

Christine makes it clear early on in her book that if she was to pick the one thing that matters most to human happiness, she would say it’s our relationships with other people.  “Very happy people have stronger relationships than less happy people, in part because being happy makes people want to be your friend, and in part because having friends makes us happier.”

I lifted my head from this page of the book after I read this passage and rested it on the head rest of my train seat, as I traveled home from a wonderful Happier Hour evening in the city.  An evening in which I met a few new friends and finally put a face to my “older” friend who I felt I knew, but had never met.  I rested my head back and started to think about my village.

My village that sometimes feels so small.  My village that I so often complain I can’t figure out how to feel more “complete” and fulfilling.

Growing up, I always had TONS of friends.  My phone in high school was constantly ringing.  I never had a shortage of plans.  I had friends I could count on for anything and everything.  A wide circle of friends and at the same time the smaller, close knit group who knew me, inside and out.  I felt safe.  Happy.  Rarely lonely.

And then we all went off to college, and somewhere between then and now, we’ve drifted so far apart that we barely even know each other any more.  The physical distance we all put between each other caused a distance in our friendships over the years that unfortunately is irreparable as we still all live so far apart. I miss that group.  I miss that safe village.

I now have a couple extremely close friends.  Two girlfriends who I can lean on for absolutely everything.  We are there for one another at any hour of any day.  On the phone.  I have some friendly acquaintances too.  Those that I see quite often and enjoy well enough, but don’t feel I have “clicked with”.  I wouldn’t call them to ask to pick my kids up at school.  I wouldn’t ask if they had a formal dress I could borrow.  I wouldn’t even call them to vent about Hannah’s school teacher.  I also have Tim as well as my parents and inlaws.  People who I know would do anything for me and whose relationships I wouldn’t change for the world. And I also have all of you out there, reading my words and offering written advice and support. Today, this is my village.

And I realized as I continued to read Christine’s words in her book, that it’s not enough.

Yes, I feel fortunate to have these  valuable and trusted relationships.  Ones that I believe some people with TONS of friends are not lucky enough to have.  But I need more.

I miss the face to face conversation.  The deep conversation.  The spur of the moment get together at a friends house with a glass of wine or cup of tea.  I want a friend I can call after the kids are asleep and ask, to go grab a Rice Krispee treat and hot mocha at Starbucks.   When I’m sad or worried or happy and proud, I want a friend who is THERE to give me a hug.  And I would love my arms to be needed in the same way.

My village has shrunk.  And I feel it.  I feel it in my heart.  I feel it in my bones.  But I’m not sure how to go about growing it again.  Because I’m not really willing to just have ANYONE as a friend.  I’ll admit, I’m a friend snob.  If I tell someone something about myself that I think is important, I expect they’ll remember. If I share something personal, I expect it won’t get shared with others.  If I’m nervous about a doctor’s appointment, I hope they’ll call to see how it went.  And, you can bet, I’ll do the same for them.  And most importantly, I want friends I can share the Good and the Bad with and not made to feel I’m bragging or alone.   In the competitive mommy world I’m in the middle of, this is often where I find things fall short.

And I need friends Here.

I have told the people in my life about all of YOU.  You who I call my friends (and are).  You who read my words and give me better advice than I’ve ever gotten.  Who have told me I Am Not Alone and have shared your own stories that make me believe it.  Who have told me I’m Wrong and should get over myself.  And as wonderful as it is to know that any time of day or night, one of you may be reading and nodding your head in agreement or shedding a tear of sadness or joy along with me, you still aren’t Here.  In my physical village.  Where can I find friends like You here?  Why does it seem everyone else here has their own village?   Am I looking in the wrong places?

Or maybe I’m just too lazy.

Because making and keeping friends is hard work.  It’s easy when the friend is already your close friend.  A few days or weeks can go by and you’re still going to be just as close.  But new friends take effort.  Getting to know one another.  Giving the benefit of the doubt.  Feeling each other out.  Some uncomfortable quiet moments.  Some fear of rejection.  Some wonder of whether they’ll “get” you.  And sometimes, in the midst of all of my craziness, it feels like too much.

But I’m seeing, from reading the pages of this book, that to be truly happy, I need that village.  A team. A clan. A network. And for me, I think that group needs to be larger than what I have today because too many moments I feel lonely.  And I don’t want my kids to ever feel lonely.  I want them to see how important it is to have these friendships.  Many friendships and relationships. A support system.  They need to be able to model my friendships and therefore my happiness.  So I will be making the effort.  Putting myself out there.  Finding more options and more opportunities.  Maybe I’ll be less picky.  For the good of my village.

How big is your village?

Do you wish it were bigger?  Or of better quality?

Want to move to Fairfield County, Ct?

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Birthday Boy

Two years ago tonight I shuffled down the hall  of my house into the bedroom with the newly assembled crib and dresser.  There were no sheets on the mattress. No curtains.  No bumper.  No letters spelling out a name hammered to the wall.  I remember standing in the doorway of the near empty room with my hands clasped over my very pregnant belly and feeling the flipping, kicking, bouncing baby inside me.  The baby that never stopped moving.  Never stopped jabbing at my ribs.  Never let me forget that It was in there.  I recall looking down at my strangely moving belly and saying, “After all this.  All this you put me through. I can’t wait to meet you.  Whatever YOU may be.”  I shut off the light to the room that soon would house my newborn and walked into Hannah’s room where she lay peacefully sleeping.  Ellie tucked under her chin.  Thumb still resting in her mouth.  I sat on the side of her bed and gently combed my fingers through her hair, tears running down my face.  This was the last night that she’d be my only child.  This had been the last day that she had me all to herself and I could give 100% of my heart to her.

Neither one of us knew how life would change.  She was only excited.  I was a mix of excited and petrified.  Probably more of the latter.

In my bedroom, my suitcase was packed.  I had a C-section scheduled for the next day.  I knew by 3:00 the tomorrow we would be a family of four.  Another girl or a new boy was still a question.  Not knowing was weighing on me.  I hoped for a girl only to make the transition to a family of four a little less daunting.  I knew how to Do girl.  Taking on a boy seemed scary to me.  Would I feel that same bond?  Would he want to hold my hand and lay his head on my shoulder the way Hannah did?  Would he snuggle in my arms and make my heart melt?  Would I be able to change a diaper with a penis inside it?  (Oh come on, it was a legitimate fear).  Would Hannah be sad to not have a sister to grow up with?  Could they be friends?

I was scared.

I lay on the operating table with the surgeon pulling and yanking at my insides until I felt the final release of a small body being removed from my abdomen.  I held my breath and waited for those three words.  It’s A Boy I heard and looked up at Tim’s glowing, ecstatic face.  I heard him say, “Wow. I have a boy. A son.”

I cried.  I tried to pass off my tears as tears of happiness.  Thrill that I had a healthy child.  Happiness that after 3 miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy and 10 months of raging hormones, emotional breakdowns and a failed IVF cycle, my miracle had arrived.  But really, I cried because it was a boy.  And that scared me.  And boy did I feel guilty.  And unappreciative.  And undeserving.

I was in a fog as everyone came to greet my new son.  My parents.  My inlaws. And Hannah.  The new big sister ever so gentle and doting on her new little brother.  I watched in awe at how naturally she whispered in his ear.  Touched his huge precious ears. Felt so proud.  And happy.  I wondered if she may have even been happier than me in those moments.

That night as I lay finally alone in my hospital room, just me and my new little boy, his tiny head resting on my breast, his chest quickly raising up and down rhythmically, I kissed his forehead.  I stroked his teeny hands.  I rubbed my cheek on his silky soft hair. I told him I loved him.  I thanked him for the gift of his life.   I felt my heart grow as he lay with me that night. I realized that I would in fact have room in my heart for him.

And today?  Today I look at Luke and I wonder how I ever doubted feeling the love from a son as much as a daughter. I can’t believe I cried tears of sadness when I heard he was a boy.  This boy has not only found a place in my heart but has OVERTAKEN my heart.  I can’t get enough of his giggles.  His enormous, loving eyes.  His enthusiasm for music and silly jig he does to any beat.  The way he grabs onto my pointer finger when he’s feeling shy.  The way he works so hard to imitate my words and then claps even when the wrong sound comes out.  How he copies every move Hannah makes.  How he grabs her from behind wrapping his small arms around her waist in a loving hug.  How he examines his cars and trucks from every angle and then feeds them with a spoon.  I melt every time I hear him say Mommy.  I want for his happiness.  I yearn for the day we can have a conversation and he can tell me what’s been in that tiny head of his through these months of no words.

My feelings are indescribable.  Beyond words.  I love my guy.  My blonde little guy.  My crazy, whirlwind, monkey boy.

Happy Second Birthday Lukey.  Here’s to a happy and healthy year.

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“Try”ing Times

Yesterday I watched Hannah in her gymnastics class with my hands proudly clasped in front of my chest.  I watched her bound off the trampoline spreading her legs in straddles and tucking them in a ball beneath her chin.  I watched her do cartwheels with her legs straight over her head and do pushups, sit-ups and repeated jumps up and down off a stack of mats.  I saw her starting a somersault and then mid “roll”, stop, remembering to stretch her arms and hands gracefully above her head (gymnastics arms they call them) as she’s been instructed by her drill sergeant coach.  I’m usually exhausted just from watching her in this class.  It’s all business.  No messing around.

Remember, Hannah is five.  A time where I believe she should be having FUN.  Trying everything.  Succeeding at some.  Failing at others.  But enjoying it all.  There will be plenty of years ahead of her where she won’t have as many choices.  Won’t be allowed to just ENJOY.

She used to love this class.  She still loves gymnastics but has been telling me this class is getting really HARD.  She’s tired.  She hasn’t made friends because they aren’t allowed to talk during class.  She’s thirsty because they are only allowed one water break.  She can’t hold her handstand as long as some of the other girls.  The splits really HURT.  It’s just not enough FUN anymore.

I’m ok with her stopping.  As someone who did gymnastics from age eight through high school, I know how grueling the sport can be.  On the body and on the mind.  It’s extremely time consuming and can be dangerous.  If she was to continue this program, it would be two afternoons a week.  A big commitment for both of us.  I’m fine finding a more laid back gymnastics class.  One where she can dance around, play with balloons, make friends, tiptoe across balance beams, practice jumping on a springboard and have a cute recital at the end.  I’m fine with that, For Now.

I asked another girl’s mom if she’d be continuing the class next session (Hannah had told me this girl was not doing it anymore and I wanted to hear it from the mom) and she said, “OH yeah.”  I told her that Hannah had told me that she wasn’t and the mom rolled her eyes and said, “She might not THINK she is but she really doesn’t have a choice.  She’s doing it whether she wants to or not.  She needs to learn now that things can be hard in life and quitting is not always an option.”

Like Hannah, this girl is FIVE.  Does that sound harsh to you?  A bit hard core for the mom of a five year old?  Or am I in the minority here?

I don’t know this mother, and I’m pretty sure she’ll have no interest in starting a friendship with me after my telling her my honest thoughts.

I rolled MY eyes and said, “I kind of think our kids SHOULD have a choice at this point in their lives.  Try out different sports and activities and see what sticks.  I’d hate to force Hannah into something and have her resent me later.  Or dedicate so many hours to an activity that she’s going to quit in high school because she’s miserable.” and then I added, “But that’s just me.”

Other Mom just stared at me.  And said, “Well, gymnastics is what my husband and I decided she should do.  So she will.”

Alrighty then.

And what about the flip side.  What do you do when your child WANTS to play a sport that you feel strongly that they DON’T play.  I wrote about this a long time ago (before anyone actually read my blog) and still struggle with it.  I would prefer Luke NOT play football.  I find it too dangerous.  I’m Jewish.  Jewish boys don’t play football.  Except my husband.  Of course I married the one football playing Jew. Tim believes we should allow our kids try anything and everything and allow them to choose what they want to continue.  Tim complains weekly about his bad back that is “bad” because of the injuries he sustained playing years of football.  And he would be ok with that for his son?  I agree we should allow our children to try out a variety of activities and sports that we approve of. Is there anything wrong with dissuading our children from trying something we’d prefer them not end up liking?  If it’s something we don’t find safe?  Motor Cross, Sky Diving, and Ultimate Fighting are also examples of activities I most likely would steer my kids clear of.  I’m thinking Tim would not disagree with those.  Can’t we encourage sports that don’t require him wear full body armor pads.  Like soccer?  Or lacrosse?  Or swimming?

There are so few years of life when everything you do is for FUN.  When you are not judged.  You are not told you’re not good enough.  When you don’t have to be selected.  I want to squeeze as much into these years as I can, so that when doors sadly close, at least my kids will have tried them and had fun with them.

But I’m struggling with it too.  Struggling with:

a) when (or IF) do you tell your child, “I know you’re having fun with this, but really, you’re not so good at it and you probably should move on to something else?

b) is it ok to NOT let your child try something because you know you don’t want them to do it/like it/be good at it in the long run?

I’m pretty confident Hannah would make an amazing cheerleader.  But there’s no way in hell I’m letting her do it.  Not even for a day (as cute as she’d look in that little skirt and pompoms).  Is that wrong?

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Simply Put

I recently began reading The Happiness Project that has been repeatedly touted by a few of my fellow bloggers. I had been struggling to find happiness in my overwhelming days and figured, what did I have to lose? Even if I only gained one tip on how to be happier, I’d feel it was worth my time immersed in the book. Within thirty pages I was hooked. I loved how simply Gretchen Rubin laid out her own personal plan and how it wasn’t preachy or unrealistic. I had already mentally began laying out my own plan in my head as to which of her tips I could apply to my own life.

After having only the first couple of chapters I got together for drinks with some friends. One friend is a “higher up” in the New York publishing world and has read pretty much EVERY book ever bound. Books that made it to the shelf and many more that haven’t (and may never). I figured I’d ask her if she’d read this new love in my life. I was excited to share my enthusiasm with her, figuring she’d have the same zest for adding happiness to her days and I was curious which of the tips she’d already applied.

I was not prepared for the grimace and utter PAIN that spread across her face when I mentioned the book and its author. I’m not sure exactly, but I’m pretty sure after I asked if she’d read The Happiness Project, she said, “I detested that book.” and had even worse things to say about the author who she has personally met and dined with on several occasions.

Wow. Yikes.

I asked her how she possibly could have HATED the book. She said it was just so “simple” and “obvious”. She thought there was nothing between the pages that an intelligent, normal, everyday person couldn’t think of on their own as far as how to be happier. Maybe I should have told her FIRST that I was reading it and loving it. Maybe then she wouldn’t have said all she said and in turn made me feel so, well, SIMPLE. So sophomoric. After she finished her book bashing session, I meekly told my friend that I was reading the book. And finding it fantastic. Yes, there have been parts and pages that I didn’t gain much from, but overall, I told her, in the short time I’ve spent immersed in the book, it had effected me positively. I should have offered my own foot for her to ever so gently place in her mouth.

But then I realized that the book is on the best seller list for a reason. MILLIONS of people are reading the book and loving it. It’s on hundreds, if not thousands, of book club lists. People are praising the words on the pages as life altering and inspirational. Actually, one of my favorite bloggers who is brilliant, interesting and insightful actually hosted a get together at her home as a kickoff to her “Happier Hours” series and had the author of the Happiness Project in attendance to speak and inspire conversation on Happiness. And word on the street was that the event was an enormous success. The book and the author stimulated fabulous conversation. Because, simply put, people can’t get enough of being happy. And people are always looking for easier, simpler, more effective ways of finding happiness.

Hrumph.

I also just finished reading, The Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult. It was a heart wrenching yet wonderful story about an Amish girl being tried for the murder of a child. I won’t get into detail about the story line, but I will say, as my first foray into the Amish world, I was surprised by my feelings. I didn’t know any of their beliefs and honestly (and I’m ashamed to admit), always just thought they were a bit odd. The way they ride around on their buggies. Don’t use modern technology. Dress alike. Are so withdrawn from the world. After reading the book I’ve learned that the Amish really just live their lives Plain. Simple. They actually refer to themselves as Plain because that is what they strive to be. They live to blend in. Never stand out. Be one of many. They don’t want to look different than anyone around them. They don’t want to do anything that will set them apart. They go as far as confessing to a forbidden act so that they can be forgiven and go back to the norm.

I stopped throughout the book and thought at times how refreshing that could be. To get up every day and not have to wonder what to wear (they all wear exactly the same simple clothing), what to do (they all get up and tend to their farms and cook from the food that they cultivate on their farms), or how to BE. They don’t worry about being Unique or Original. Yes, some may be nicer or easier to get along with than others but for the most part, their lives are relatively simple. Little drama. Little competitiveness. And where some might find the thought of life like that painfully boring and stifling. I don’t know, I think I could get used to it! Especially if I knew no other way. (Please note, I’m sure I’m simplifying their way of life and their beliefs tremendously as I’m basing this all on ONE book but I do know that the author wrote the book based on fact so I don’t think I was mislead to a great degree…)

Simple. In its definition are the words: Clear, Understandable, Easy, and Manageable. Are those words so bad? I have thought about that slightly upsetting discussion on the book over drinks with my SIL repeatedly since it happened. I’ve been dwelling on how it made me feel and have come to a conclusion. I feel like I spend so much of my time trying to be agreeable and nonconfrontational. So maybe Simple is something to strive for. Maybe I should accept my simplicity and flaunt it. I’m not sure I’d push my kids toward following the crowd, not making a name for themselves or being “one of many” but I do think there’s something pure and beautiful about being Simple. Being uncomplicated and easygoing. I don’t think it’s necessary to put so much pressure on standing out or doing everything differently. I think life could be easier and more pleasant without so much of that. Maybe.

All I know, is that I will continue to read the Happiness Project and find little joys in it. And screw anyone who has a problem with the new smile that you’ll see simply plastered on my face.

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I found my Happy

I arrived in Turks and Caicos a week ago today.  The plane flew over the most exquisite turquoise water I had only read about, and then landed in our destination that I had been dreaming about for months.  I had never in my entire life felt as desperate for time Out than I did for this trip.  I was yearning for sleep, begging for quiet time with Tim, crying for peace and quiet and time for Me.  A week prior I had been worried and unhappy.  I was newly relieved from our recent good news but still jittery and uneasy inside.

A week ago today, my dreams of sun and sand became reality.  I stepped off the plane into the 80 degree warmth and slid my sunglasses over my eyes.  I grabbed Tim’s hand and my other hand was Free.  No child’s hand was there to grab my other Free hand.  No one was there to squirm out of my reach and run into the crowds of fellow passengers.  No one was thirsty. Hungry. Uncomfortable. My bag over my shoulder was void of sippy cups, diapers, crackers, Yoo Hoos, crayons and lollipops (although I did find two spare Matchbox cars as I reached for my lipgloss).  All that my bag held were my flip flops, Us magazine, my book, gum, lipgloss and my iPod.  A true testament that I was Away.

But my mind?  Still did not feel Free.

The day to day worries of my kids were still swishing around in my head.  Did I leave all the medicines where they could easily be found?  Should I have mentioned that the handle of the tricycle was broken and to be careful in the street?  Did my parents/inlaws know to watch Luke in the driveway because he bolts toward the street?  Should I have left better suggestions for meal time?  Would Luke be sad each morning?  Would Hannah be a good listener?  The list went on.  I wondered as I waited for my luggage, whether at any time during my vacation if I’d actually feel Away. Does a mom ever feel Away?

And as much as I needed this vacation, this break from the chaos, I felt like a limb was missing.  To not have to have my eyes peeled at all moments and my head cocked to the side listening for a waking baby or trouble ensuing in the next room was so odd.  To not have to be constantly glancing at my watch for snack time, meal time, naptime, witching hour time, was Uncomfortable.  Every wimper I heard around me jerked me around to be sure Hannah and Luke were ok. Every child I heard shouting for Mommy tensed the muscles in my back. I remember when I graduated from business school, I wondered what on earth I’d do with all of my free time.  Here, on vacation, I wondered what I’d do with my two Free hands/ears/eyes.

The completely relaxed Ahhhh moment didn’t come for a full day after arriving to the Caribbean.  Even when we first walked into our suite complete with two bedrooms and two bathrooms (who knew how wonderful it would be to have my OWN bathroom while on vacation!) and a view of the clear blue water from our roomy deck I still didn’t feel Away.  Even after my early evening cocktail, I still had thoughts of pick up at school, dinner time and bedtime routines.  Even after dining steps from the beach and gazing at the starlit sky, I STILL wondered if I should call to check in.  I still couldn’t find the relaxed happiness I so badly needed.

But then I went for a walk, alone on the beach on day two of our trip.  I walked barefoot in the silky pure white sand and splashed through the warm water.  I closed my eyes against the wind and felt my hair damp from the ocean mist.  After thirty minutes of walking, I stopped to look out over the vast never ending ocean and let my feet get covered with sand as each wave crashed at my ankles. I took a few deep cleansing breaths and Let Go with each exhale.  And then I closed my eyes and said to myself, “It’s up to you. It’s up to YOU to find happiness in your days.  You can’t count on anyone else to MAKE you happy, so find it within yourself.”  And as trite and superficial and Obvious as that might sound, it just clicked for me.  Everyone in my life gives me what I need.  Tim is the most supportive, loving husband I could ever ask for.  My kids are sweet, adoring children who I’m fortunate to have in my world.  I’m the only one who stops myself from being happy.  Somehow little things are able to make me unhappy.  Little comments. Little mishaps. Little mistakes.  Little old memories.

But little things should bring me Happy too.

And with that, “AhHa!” and “Ahhhhh…” moment, I turned back toward our resort with a new bounce in my step.  And with the sun shining on my back I saw my shadow in front of me and thought, “There’s Me!”.  My clear shadow walked alongside me.  Four limbs.  None of them were missing.  Two arms both for caring for my kids and caring for myself.  Two legs both for carrying the weight of the world AND the new me.

I’m back now.  I read an entire novel.  I drank many cocktails.  I did cartwheels.  I floated belly up in the ocean. I ate dessert four nights in a row. I talked with my husband over candlelight for hours. I’m Refreshed.  Recharged.  Renewed.

Oh, and a little tan.  Because why go to the Caribbean if you’re not going to come back with something to show for it?

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