A Little Daily Thanksgiving For Real

I am grateful for nature’s choice to turn off the lights with panache

I’ve stopped watching the television news. I’ve also turned off the news notifications on my phone. It came down to what I saw in a tweet the other day regarding the constant struggle between “I should probably be more informed about current events” and “I would like to be a functional human being with at least a vague will to live.” I decided I would like to be a somewhat functioning person without a casual drug habit. So, I’ve tried as much as possible to check out in a positive way. And for good reason, apparently. Because today I checked in on the news for like two minutes and discovered concern over a new variant, the real potential to lose abortion rights for women in this country as the now conservative majority Supreme Court hears a case from Mississippi, and yet another high school shooting with multiple fatalities. Are you kidding me? I wanted to throw my phone across the room. It reminded me of a scene from the 1987 film Roxanne starring Steve Martin, where the main character buys a newspaper from a machine (those were a thing once), reads the headline, and then puts another coin into the machine to open it so he can put the paper back. I don’t want to know all this.

I went to my meditation group meeting tonight where the theme was gratitude. We talked about how we can practice gratitude to improve our lives. There is actual science regarding how being grateful changes us in a positive way. This is what I need more of in my life. I need to pay attention to all the things that make me feel loved, supported, safe, sane, and secure, all the things I am deeply grateful for. Focusing on a pandemic that has taken over 5 million lives and doesn’t show any signs of abating is not helpful. Watching footage of terrorized teenagers after another school shooting is not helpful. Ruminating on the potential rollback of women’s rights after 50 years is not helpful. I’m not sure there’s a news story out there right now that could make me feel better. So, I am going to give gratitude a try and focus on all the good in my small universe of concern. This is the place where the most important people to me are. This is the realm that matters right now. Yes. I understand that people need to be engaged in society for positive change to come about, but society is a mess right now, and I shouldn’t be around them anyway since they could be contagious.

The next time I get overwhelmed by something, I am going to try to see instead an opportunity in that stressor for gratitude. If someone is vexing me, I am going to be grateful for the space they are giving me to grow in patience and love. Okay. Okay. Maybe I won’t succeed in that last one consistently, but you have to start somewhere.

Gratitude may not be the answer, but it has to be more positive than focusing on our shared reality, which feels not unlike watching the aftermath of a 100-car train wreck. So is anyone with me? Is it time to start a revolution of appreciation for the good we know is there but are choosing not to focus on? I’m going to need some strong positivity warriors in my camp. I’m not known for being Sally Sunshine. Glennon Doyle likes to say, “We can do hard things.” Finding gratitude these days seems like it might be a hard thing, but if Glennon says we can do it, then we can.

Life Isn’t Chess: You Can’t Go Back, So Just Go Forward

In April of 2006, just before our sons turned 4 and 6, we traveled to Captiva Island, Florida, to give them a taste of beach life. Because we are a landlocked, mile high family, we waited to make the long trip to a beautiful island until we were certain the boys would enjoy the experience (and we wouldn’t lose it on a four-hour flight with them). While we were there, we shuffled between the resort pool and the shell-strewn beach. The boys loved racing from the surf and building sand castles. We visited the famous Bubble Room for one dinner, and another night we ate ice cream for dinner and chased it with salt water taffy and all-day suckers. We saw a couple manatees near the boat docks. We took a sunset cruise to look for dolphins. And at the end of the trip, my husband took an epic photo of the boys and I, which became one of my all-time favorites.

April 2006

During the lockdowns and the time spent at home during 2020, I spent my some of my time dreaming of returning to Captiva with the boys. We were desperate for a beach trip after being stuck in our landlocked state for so long. I booked a 3-bedroom condo at the same resort we visited last time. We were in a different part of the resort this time around, closer to public restaurants and to the Starbucks just outside the resort entrance, but the rental was bigger and afforded the boys their own rooms. We spent a lot of time at the beach, but didn’t visit the pools because the boys were a bit too big for the kiddie waterslide now. Instead, we did some kayaking through mangroves on nearby Sanibel Island. We ate at the Bubble Room again and loved it. We wanted to repeat our ice cream dinner, but didn’t have the right resort card to gain access, which was a total bummer. Still, we discovered another restaurant that we loved so much we ate there twice. We saw more manatees this time than last time, including a momma and her baby off the docks outside our condo and another one that swam by us while we were in the surf in the Gulf. And on one clear evening, we went back to the spot where we took my favorite photo and attempted to recreate it as best we could. The palm trees were bigger, the boys were bigger, but the beauty of the moment was the same.

May 2021

When you have young kids, people love to tell you that you should cherish those moments because they go by so fast. They aren’t wrong. They fly by like they’re on a Japanese bullet train. But parenting is, from day one, a growth enterprise. There is no going backwards, as it’s meant to be a forward endeavor. So don’t let anyone convince you that watching your kids grow, change, and eventually move on into their own lives is somehow a negative, something to be depressed about. It’s the greatest gift a parent can receive. If you don’t believe me, ask a parent who has lost a child. As memorable as our trip was in 2006, it was better in 2021. I’m grateful we’ve made it this far together, and no matter what happens from here I will cherish ALL the memories, not just the ones from when the boys were small.

When Life Imitates Star Wars

While many Americans spent tonight eating Thanksgiving leftovers or turkey tetrazzini or turkey sandwiches or turkey soup, we decided to get take out. We defaulted to our favorite local Italian restaurant for pizza. When we got home with the order, we immediately noticed the number on the boxes.

Any Star Wars fan worth a dime remembers Order 66 from Revenge of the Sith, the order that Chancellor Palpatine enacts to kill off the Jedi. “Execute Order 66” is burned into our sons’ brains, and therefore into ours. I can’t tell you how many times the boys have seen that movie or how many times we have seen it as a result. Star Wars runs through our blood over here. So, of course, together we looked at those pizza boxes and registered Star Wars.

The best thing about being part of a family, or a member of any social circle, big or small, lies in the connections you make and share. I’m grateful to have shared the time I have with the family I created for myself. If life is about the small things, today I am grateful for the pizza boxes that all four of us noticed and photographed and laughed about tonight. A day after Thanksgiving, I find myself with a little extra gratitude and peace.

Keeping Bad Days In Perspective

I don’t know if it’s the time change and the early darkness or the after effects of a difficult therapy session or the puppy’s over-the-top energy today or just the fact that it’s Monday, but today has been a day. I feel like I’ve been chewed up and spit out and then chewed up again, swallowed, regurgitated, and left on the pavement to dry. I have tired on top of my tired, despite having slept well last night.

Days like today, though, make me grateful more than anything else because they remind me that some of my less than optimal days are still light years better than the days many people live. I mean, I think it’s fair that we all have the opportunity to whine about trying times, but it’s important to keep it in perspective. Life offers different levels of struggle. As far as I know, I am healthy. I have a thoughtful, loving spouse, two sons who work hard and constantly strive to grow, a beautiful home filled with everything we need and a ton of things we don’t need but appreciate nonetheless, two sweet puppies, loyal and supportive friends, a functioning and comfortable vehicle, and money to buy whatever food we need. My “struggles” today were more about frustration and exhaustion than anything else, and that’s a fortunate position to be in.

I don’t want to be a drama queen. I’ve taken the first step away from that by eliminating from my life people who cause that type of reaction in me. The next step is walking away from the drama I create in my head that doesn’t need to exist. One way I am working on that is by practicing gratitude. So, tonight, I am grateful that I managed today as best as I could. If I’m given another day, tomorrow I can wake up grateful that I get to try life again and use what I’ve learned today.

The Kindest People I’ve Never Met

People publish a blog for many reasons, to earn a living or to promote their career or to connect with other people or to share some expertise. I’ve been writing for decades, going back to keeping a journal with regular entries when I was 13 years old. I started posting online on my first blog, Suburban Sirens, in 2009 when I was a 41 year old stay-at-home mom with 6 and 8 year old sons. Looking back, I think I began blogging as a way to reconnect with writing and editing, a career I jettisoned in 2001 with the birth of my first son. I felt separated from the art that had become so much a part of me that when it was gone I felt I had lost a part of myself. I was a bit lost without writing. I felt adrift.

If I put my thoughts out into the universe, if I started writing again, then perhaps I would feel slightly less invisible and slightly more heard than I felt as a stay-at-home mom with no income. And I had gotten to a point in my life where the boys were in school and I had a little quiet time to myself to reflect. As it turned out, blogging became an important way for me to process my sons’ struggles with learning disabilities and my difficulties adapting to their difficulties. Blogging became for me a type of low-cost therapy.

All of this is to say that I never began blogging to gain a following or even to be read, necessarily. I started posting a blog as a means of keeping myself accountable and figuring out what was going on in my mom brain. When I began posting on Live Now and Zen, I was genuinely surprised that 1) anyone (even my friends) took the time to read anything I published and 2) that some people who didn’t even know me read what I had to say. So, imagine my total shock when people I didn’t know began commenting on my posts. When I hit 1k subscribers, I was in denial. What are these people thinking? Don’t they have anything better to do? I’m still in denial about their readership and kindness. I don’t get it because, honestly, I do not spend much time reading on WordPress. I should read more. I should be spending a great deal more time seeing what others are saying. But, damn, I barely find time to write and publish most days. I feel guilty for not being a better blog community member and, next year when I am officially no longer a stay-at-home parent, I plan to ameliorate this situation at long last.

Despite my inattention to other’s posts, along the way I found several bloggers who were/are kind enough to read my posts often and leave me a comment. I cannot thank these individuals enough because their attention, encouragement, feedback, and comments have been more of a gift than I ever imagined or felt my writing deserved. So, I want to take a self-indulgent moment to thank my friends on WordPress: Paz (Armchair Zen), Gail (nightowlgail), msw (reallifeofanmsw), E.A. (bleuwater), babsje (babsjeheron), and Real Women (realwomen1). You have made me feel heard, appreciated, and understood during times when I have been struggling to find myself. Your encouragement and kind words have changed my opinion of my efforts. It’s been astounding to me how something I never sought or expected has given me so much.

You never know how a kind word can touch someone else. I encourage anyone who engages in an artistic practice to tell people who are working at their craft that you see them. You don’t know how that one comment might change everything for that struggling artist, writer, actor, sculptor, or performer.

Colorful Colorado

I had to drive my son to a volunteer shift this morning. On my way home, I had a full view of the entire front range of the Rocky Mountains in Denver. We have many sunny days in Colorado, but the clearest ones often occur in fall. The mountains have a light coating of snow, so they appear larger than they have all summer. The foothills seem closer because of the scrub oak bushes that have turned orange and red. And with the bright blue sky overhead, it’s simply gorgeous. This morning was so beautiful, I shed tears in my car as I headed west towards our home. I am so fortunate to live here. I moved here when I was 8. I’ve lived 75% of my life here, not long enough to be considered a native, but it’s home. Every day I get to wake up and remember I live here.

So today I am sharing photos I’ve taken of home.

Snow Mountain Ranch
Boulder and the Flatirons from a hot air balloon
Kebler Pass
Mt Sherman
Wildflowers on Rabbit Ears Pass
Steamboat Lake State Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park
View of the other side of Colorado’s famous Maroon Bells taken from Paradise Bowl at Crested Butte
Aspens changing color near Vail
Cliffs in the background of Haviland Lake
Powder day Crested Butte Ski Resort
Wilderness near Telluride
View from winery near Paonia
Mesa Verde National Park
Falls near Telluride

When You Know You’re Gonna Have A Good Day

“I woke up this morning and I said, you know, instead of waiting on a good day, waiting around through ups and downs, waiting on something to happen, we’re gonna have a good day.” ~Nappy Roots

I love a fall Saturday filled with activities with my favorite people. To make the day even sunnier, we brought the puppers along for a full day of adventure and socialization. He loves the peoples, and the peoples love him.

Most photogenic member of our family…all six pounds of him

We started the day with a cross-country meet at 9 am. It was a perfect morning for a run. Well, it was a perfect morning for someone to run, just not me. I don’t do that yet. Still, it was just 60 degrees, so Luke knocked 1:16 off his previous race time. After the race we hurried home by 10, and were off again at 11 a.m. so Luke could go to his first college interview of the day downtown at noon.

Finding Luke is like playing Where’s Waldo

While he was interviewing with Whitman College, we got some tasty coffee at Blue Sparrow in the RiNo (River North) section of Denver.

Oat milk vanilla latte…yes, please

Joe, who was in town for just three days, got to spend some quality time with our new little friend. He is threatening to take him back to Washington. I think not. Still, it was a beautiful day for relaxing on a green space while waiting for Luke.

Loki is the most popular member of our family

When Luke finished, we ordered sandwiches from Snarf’s and headed towards his second college interview of the day in Englewood. Luke spent time chatting with a representative from St. Olaf while his immature mother snapped this photo because she is, in all actuality, a 12 year old boy.

I can be a little cheeky sometimes too

Loki got interested in a water feature, until he realized water is wet. He then moved on to being Chief Leaf Inspector, which he preferred greatly. He inspects them with his mouth because that is how puppies operate without the aid of opposable thumbs.

We finally headed for home around 3 p.m. We had invited some of our favorite people on earth to dinner (Joe’s best friend and his parents, who are some of our favorite friends as well), so we had to get cooking. Literally. I set a casual, fall-themed table for 8. It’s nice to be able to hang out with people indoors again.

While Steve and I finished preparing the brisket and baked potatoes, the boys played corn hole. This was quite generous of Luke because he does not like this as much as Joe does. But he acquiesced because he won’t see his sibling again until Thanksgiving.

Brother time

And so we had a pleasant meal with our friends, putting a perfect exclamation point at the end of a long, but fun day. The puppy was worn out, our older dog relished the attention of our guests, the boys cracked each other up, and dinner turned out great.

Sometimes, it’s worth getting up at 6:45 on a Saturday. Life’s what you make of it.

You’ve got only one life to live. You can either make it chickenshit or chicken salad.” ~Cousins (1989) 

It’s The What Ifs That Will Ruin You

“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.” ~Lewis Carroll

Spinning in a cycle of what ifs is like riding a merry-go-round

There is a show starting on television next week called Ordinary Joe. This is how the network describes it: “Life is all about the choices you make – and sometimes, what you do in a single moment can change everything.” In a preview for the show, we hear Joe’s voice say, “It’s only natural to wonder, What if?” We all have asked ourselves at one point or another how our life might have been different if we’d made a different choice. What if we’d pursued medicine like we wanted to instead of settling for an easier career path? What if we’d given that one boyfriend a second chance? What if we’d decided not to have children? There are a million what ifs any one person could come up with relating to their life. Let’s face it. All the what ifs we conjure up are infinitely more glamorous and desirable than our current reality because we’re dreaming, and that is the nature of dreams.

Most of my what ifs have centered around “what if I had realized earlier that the stories I had been told about myself as a child were just stories and not at all true reflections of who I was on the inside? What if I had grown up feeling loved, secure, and lovable, rather than alone, fearful, and unlovable?” These what if thoughts, in particular, have really done a number on me. They’ve taken the past I was handed and made it heavier than it already was. So, in addition to carrying around the mental weight of the trauma I endured, I was annoyed that I didn’t figure out until well into my mid-40s that there was trauma in the first place.

I’ve been thinking about this since I first saw the preview for Ordinary Joe. Here is what I have decided: what ifs may be natural, but they are not at all useful. When we make a decision, we are making it with the only skills we have at that time. Whatever knowledge or experience we’ve acquired up to that point figures into our choice. We couldn’t have done better for ourselves in the past because in the past we weren’t who we are now. When we think what if, we are imagining for ourselves in the past using our present experiences and mindset. We didn’t have our present knowledge and experience back then and, therefore, would likely have made the same choice we already made. There is no better outcome. We are where we are now because of where we were then. If you’re taking time to imagine what ifs with a more positive outcome, you’re basically in a fantasy. And while imagining a different, potentially more positive outcome (because who here wants to imagine a worse outcome) might be the kind of fantasy in which we would like to indulge, it’s only hurting us because it’s keeping us from accepting our present with gratitude.

When we focus on what ifs, we are focusing on two things that don’t matter. The past is over and done with, and we can’t unring that bell. And the future is guaranteed to no one, so dreaming what our future might look like is wasting the only time we know we have, which is happening right now while we remove ourselves from it.

I’ve decided it’s time to stop beating myself up over a past I wish could have been different. It couldn’t have been. I was who I was and I made the only choices I was capable of making given the reality I knew. It wasn’t until I understood my reality was skewed that I could do better for myself. So, I am going to try to stay in my present and appreciate what is rather than wondering about what ifs from my past or dreaming about what ifs for my future. We all have made choices we wonder about now, but that is a waste of precious time in the current moment. Maybe if we spent more time focusing on now, we wouldn’t be so concerned about mentally rewriting our past or dreaming about a future we are not guaranteed. We are perfect the way we are, and who we are right now in this moment is all we are called to be. Everything else is just noise.

Home Sweet Home, Indeed

You got that right!

After racking up about a thousand miles driving around Colorado this weekend, we arrived home late this afternoon. We’re filthy, the camper still needs to be cleaned out and put back together, and we had to order in pizza because the fridge was empty, but we’re home. Funny how walking into your home after time away feels heavenly. Nothing has changed. It’s the same place you left not that long ago. But somehow it’s renewed. Maybe it’s just because I spent the past four days living in a tin can on wheels, but our home felt like a palace when I walked in. It seems huge. I’m feeling pretty spoiled.

The walls might start to close in on me a little tomorrow when I have to catch up on laundry, go grocery shopping, and fall back into my normal housekeeping job, but for tonight this house is the Four Seasons with a luxurious king bed and top-of-the-line bath products. Now all I need is a decent night’s rest and a long, hot shower that turns me into a Disney princess.

They say home is where you hang your hat. Tonight I am grateful that my hat rack is no longer on wheels.