Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Woman in Her Thirties Posts a Year of Gratitude

Remember how I posted this a year ago, about how I was going to do the 365 Grateful Project on Instagram for 2014?

Raise your hand if you didn't think I'd do it.  Go on, admit it.  I can't see it, anyway.

Well, suckas, I did.  I was not perfect at it, but I think overall the amount of days I missed could be counted on one hand.  I'm no mathematician, but I that means I ROCK.  A woman in her thirties means what she says and says what she means.

The 365 Grateful Project was eye-opening and totally worthwhile, and let me say for the record that if you are reading this and are tempted to give it a try for 2015, DO IT.  Here are a few of the many things I learned being #365grateful.

1.  It was way easier than I thought.

I am a picture taking fool, so taking just one picture every day was a piece of cake for me.  But it was more than just the actual taking the picture.  I was worried that I would struggle to find something genuine every day that I was grateful for.  Especially in the depths of the Polar Vortex, endless sleep deprivation, etc. etc.  But it was easy.  SUPER easy.  In fact, I could have posted twice a day with no problem.  Once I was in the habit of being grateful, I was grateful for lots of things, all the time.

One of my favorites, from early in the year.  

2.  The little things were sometimes more profound than the big things.

I had so much to be grateful for this year. Remember how I published a book, and my life-long dream of becoming a writer came true?  That was a BIG thing.  

Of course I'm so grateful for that, but the 365 Grateful Project made me step back and think about the rungs on the ladder to getting me there.  The things I might have taken for granted.

Hot wheels on a miserable February day.

Sweet Daniel, and all the happiness he brings us (when he's not stealing the kids' food).


Life isn't all about the big things, it's the little things, too.  And they all add up, when you start seeing them.

3.  Gratitude is a state of mind.

It is not enough to be thankful sometimes.  It has to be every day.  It has be be an engrained part of you, like potty training.  Yeah, that's it.  Being grateful is like being potty trained.


What I mean is that once I started looking at life through a lens of gratitude, it became a part of who I am. Here's a good example:

This picture was taken after a solid 24 hours of puking.  Hard to believe Anna had it in her.  And once she was done, guess who was next?  Only I had it worse than her, to the point of needing IV fluid.  But as I lay on the couch and took this pic, I kept thinking, 'at least she's better.  At least L is home.  At least my neighbor can take me to the ER.'  

See what I mean? Being grateful doesn't necessarily mean being happy.  (I was certainly not happy when I snapped this pic.)  But I was aware, and thankful for the things I knew would get me past the hard part.  

4.  Gratitude helps you live in the present moment.

If there is one thing I'm bad at, it's this.  Meditation is the hardest part of yoga for me.  Napping is not in the cards; never has been.  My mind is constantly moving toward the next thing, the next thing, and then the next thing.  It's annoying.  

But the 365 Grateful Project helped me recognize the moment, the space I was inhabiting, for better or worse.

For example, look at this picture of my little Mister Buddy.  Look.  No, really look.  Think about how many times you look at your kids, your pets, your partner, in all their sleepy perfection and not take a moment to soak it in.  I do it all the time.  But not this day, not in this moment.  And I'm so grateful, because now I have this picture to melt over for all eternity.  

5.  Gratitude is contagious.

I've taken some flack over the 365 Grateful project, I won't lie. I'm sure my once daily posts got annoying for some, especially if they were not in the mood for Polly Positivity.  But overall, the people I've talked to that have followed me on Instagram have been overwhelmingly glad that I did it, because it has encouraged them to be grateful, too.  Maybe not in a snap-a-pic every day kind of way, maybe not in a public kind of way.  But maybe in an ever-so-slight mind shift kind of way. 

At least, that is the hope.  And I think, at the end of the day, that is what is point of gratitude.  Hope in the face of adversity.  Thankfulness, even when we don't feel like life is going our way.  Figuring out small happinesses, and by sharing them, paying them forward.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Woman in Her Thirties and Community

When you're buying a home for the first time, people always repeat the same old mantra:   Location, location, location.  I remember it from when I bought my first home, a townhouse in Sacramento near the river, and I remember it when we moved many multiple times since then, and I certainly remember it when we bought our house here in P-town.

For those of you not from here, or maybe those of you who didn't see our family grace the cover of our neighborhood magazine...

This is T and H, both laughing uncontrollably at that magazine cover.  I love my friends. 

... Pleasantville has a bit of reputation for snobbery.  Not just my neighborhood (though it certainly does), but the whole of P-town. We are called cake-eaters, which is pretty dumb if you think about it, but I get it now.  Especially as an outsider, someone who didn't grow up knowing many of her neighbors, and doesn't have much to relate to when it comes to country clubs and nannies.

Here's what I've discovered in the last five years living here:  The reputation I live amidst is not completely unfounded.  As a friend said the other day, 'You get caught up in the bubble; you start comparing yourself to the people around you and focus on what you don't have, rather than what you do.'  Yes.  Yes here, yes for many women in their thirties, I would imagine.

However, two things happened this month that made me appreciate this bubble in which I live.  The first involves this big, gray cloud that has hung over me since I was about sixteen years old-- a molar in my mouth that never came down to play with my other teeth and ended up fuzing to my cheekbone. The technical term is 'ankylosed', and to make a long story short, that thing had to come out.  I really didn't know what to expect in terms of recovery, but I figured shoot, I recovered from a C-Section, didn't I?  And at least this time I didn't have to breastfeed after.

I didn't tell too many people what was going on because I was in denial felt like I had things under control.  On surgery day, L was prepped and ready to take over for a few days so I could stay drugged up and get through the most painful hump of recovery.  The people who did know kept offering to bring food, take my kids, sit with me and wipe the drool from my mouth, anything.  L came home from picking the kids up from school that day and said, 'Jeez, everyone there is SO nice!'  Because it's true.

And as much as I said, 'Please, I'm on an Ensure diet anyway! Don't bring me anything!' I kept getting stuff:

Pumpkin bread and Juice So Good... my new favorite thing!

Beautiful flowers

Nie Nie's delicious soup

A woman in her thirties knows enough about the world to know that this doesn't happen everywhere. My surgery ended up being MUCH better than we'd anticipated (hooray!), and I was reminded yet again of the generosity of the people I'm surrounded with.

A few days after this, while I was still recovering, the news of a dear neighbor's grave condition started filtering through the neighborhood.  She had been battling cancer for some time, and as the end drew near, the neighbors all rallied.  Visits to hospice, lots and lots of food deliveries, flowers, cards... Her funeral was Friday, and as I sat in my pew next to another set of neighbors we really truly couldn't live without, I was overcome with appreciation for where I live.  That afternoon, as we hand-delivered our Christmas cards...

I talked to Anna about how lucky she was to live here. She, of course, had no idea what I was talking about...

... and neither will her brother, at least not until they go out into the world and see it for themselves.  So until then, I will just have to eat my cake (or pumpkin bread, whatever) and appreciate it for them.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Makes the Best of It

Over the last few weeks, when I have told people that L had to travel for work over the Thanksgiving holiday, I got a whole slew of different responses.  Everything from, 'What kind of a jerk travels for work over Thanksgiving?' to 'We never spend holidays together. Welcome to my world.'  It was interesting, too, how I responded to all of these people.  Everything from 'Yeah, this is the last time THIS is ever going to happen', to 'It's not that big of a deal, not really'.

My response changed based on the person, by the situation. I changed my perception based on the perception of others. This is NOT how a woman in her thirties is supposed to behave.  Had I learned nothing on this journey in my thirties?

Besides yoga?

I thought and thought about this as we approached the holiday, and kept coming back to a conversation I had with my wonderful neighbor some time ago.  She and her husband have two grown children, and are living the dream.  Because her husband is a retired pilot, they travel anywhere, anytime, for free.  They take great pride making their own alcoholic beverages.  They host Downton Abbey parties.  They are among the most giving and kind people I've ever known.  I mean, seriously.  THE DREAM.

Anyway, she told me awhile back that she-- like me-- was alone a lot in parenting.  There's no way around the suckage of that.  However, she reminded me, I have two choices in this situation.  I can get angry and resentful.  I can compare my life to the lives of the people around me and I can shine big giant spotlights on how much better their lives are than mine.  I can wallow in my own self-pity and take my children down into the pit with me.


I can make the best of it.  For my neighbors, it was about celebrating holidays on different days, when they could all be together.  And if that didn't work out for whatever reason, they would understand that such-and-such was just a day, and wouldn't define them or their family unit.  I can focus on all the blessings we have (COUNTLESS) and choose to be happy.

I'm not going to lie... we missed Daddy this year on Thanksgiving.  We set a place for him:

We called him lots, but tried not to make him feel too bad (it's not like traveling over the holiday is easy for the person traveling...)  We had a simple dinner with YeYe and NieNie and wrote what we were thankful for on the white tablecloth.

(Daddy, of course.)

And when I asked Daddy what he wanted me to write on the tablecloth for him this year, this is what he said:

Honestly, when I wrote that, I realized exactly what my neighbor was talking about.  About making the best of things.  About how it affects everyone, when you're positive.  About how a day is just a day, but a family is defined by more.

Happy Thanksgiving from our silly, unconventional, wonderfully imperfect family to yours.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Woman in Her Thirties, the Fourth

Dear Anna,

This week, you are four years old.


You're a good counter, so let's do some counting:





Crazy, isn't it?  Counting, I mean.

But back to you, and your four-ness.  The past 365 days have been all about figuring out how things work.  From 'Momma, why do the clouds move?' to 'Why do we vote?' to 'Why does Aaron's belly button look funny?'  (you were not referring to his belly button), you have thrown me each and every day with the daunting task of explaining the world.  When I was younger and imagined myself as a mom, my answers to these questions have been both articulate and informative.  Now, though, I bumble through a lot of, 'Uh, well... um... it's... complicated, Bubbie.'

And it is, isn't it?  Life is so darn complicated, at least it is to this woman in her thirties.  But for you, well, I can see how this would not be an acceptable answer.

Buddy is crying?  'Make him feel happy, Momma.'

Daddy is traveling? 'Tell him to come home now, Momma.'

Momma misses her home, momma feels sick, momma is having a hard morning?  'Put on the happy song, Momma. (Eric Hutchinson is your current favorite.) If you sing with us, then you will feel happy.'

I could go on here about your accomplishments.  Piano lessons.  How each and every teacher you've had has raved about what a joy you are.  Your correct pronunciation of the word 'croissant'.  But someday, when I'm old and gray and looking back on the highlights of my life, I will think back to this beautiful, smiling face:

And those won't be the details that come to mind.  What I'll have with me is the memory that this was the year I saw that your inner beauty far surpassed what you look like on the outside.  I won't remember your score on your kindergarten screening test, but I'll remember how many people have described you as a loving and caring friend.  How you worried about the lonely boy at the zoo.  How you patiently taught your brother to play hide and seek.  How, when you saw me shedding a tear a few weeks back, you ran to me and said, 'You're the best momma in the world!"

So happy birthday to my sweet, caring, kind, smart, inquisitive, silly, thoughtful, and yes, beautiful baby girl.  Who you are fills me more more joy than I could ever communicate in words. I am so proud to be your mom.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Woman in Her Thirties, The Hippie

I've been practicing yoga regularly for a little over four years now.  Notice how I said 'practicing' yoga. That's what the yogis say. They also say things like 'core lock' and 'ujjayi pranayama'.  And other hippie things.

This morning, in my weekly 75-minute sweat-fest, I started thinking about all the ways that yoga has changed my life.  And it made me cry.  You'd think this is an abnormal thing, to cry in the middle of a crazy-hard workout, but yogis do it often.  We're weepy, sentimental warriors, the lot of us.  Even the dudes.

So, since it's November (what?!) and it's time to get grateful, here are all the things yoga has taught me over the years.  And why you should 'practice', too. (Photos by Mimsydotes, obviously.)

1.  I'm a badass

When I first started practicing yoga in earnest, I was pregnant.   But yoga was never harder for me than after Aaron's birth, after seven months of strict no-exercise restrictions followed by an emergency C-Section.  My 'core-lock' was more like Jell-O pudding, and I simply could not engage my abdominal muscles in the same way anymore.  But now, I can rock boat pose like nobody's biz, because I worked really, really hard at it.  I used to be terribly inflexible, and now I'm a toe-touching, king pigeon-ing, Dancing Shiva.  Aka, badass.

2.  Attitude is everything

Yoga is all about the mental/physical balance, which I really didn't understand for a long time.  But you know how there are people who choose to be happy, so therefore they are happy?  And there are people who choose to be miserable, so they are?  It's like that.  If I go into yoga class and say, 'today I'm going to be Poopy McPooperpants and grunt my way through every posture while staring at the clock', then it's guaranteed to be a long workout.  But if I go in and say, 'I'm a goddess and there's never been a more goddessy-goddess than me,' then that's pretty much how it goes.  And also, in life.

3.  If I don't practice at least once a week, I'm a terrible person

After practicing so long, I don't understand how every woman in her thirties doesn't take yoga.  Everything hurts if I don't go to yoga-- from my fingers to my knees to my back to my shoulders-- EVERYTHING.  When I hurt, I am grumpy.  When I'm grumpy, I'm mean.  And now that I'm a mom, when I'm grumpy and mean then my kids are learning to be grumpy and mean, too.  So yeah, yoga.

4.  Yoga is a way to give thanks

This morning, while holding dolphin pose for an ungodly amount of time, I went to a dark place in my head. It was the night of June 21, 2012, the night Aaron was born.  I don't know why I thought of it, but I remembered that I'd called my mom from the ambulance.  'I love you,' I said to her.  'Pray for me.' Because I really thought I was saying goodbye.

See why the tears?

But it occurred to me that by practicing yoga I have been giving thanks for that evening, that all turned out well.  I'm healthy, Aaron is healthy, we're all so flippin' lucky to be on this planet at this moment, and life is so unbelievably beautiful.  Even when it's really hard.  But then again, isn't it the hard that makes us appreciate the beauty?  I went on and on in my head about this, my good fortune and all the blessings I have, that I didn't even notice that the teacher had said we could release the pose.  I've never gotten that from kickboxing, people.

So there you have it.  A woman in her thirties is a certified yoga hippie.  Namaste, people.  And all that stuff.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties in the Fall*

*Please note that the 'w' word (winter) will not be mentioned in this post.  Yes, I know what's coming.  But I think it's why I appreciate the fall more.

L's travel has picked up quite a bit lately, and by picked up I mean to say that I'm not 100% sure we still live together.  It's bad, guys.  Bad.  But 'it is what it is', to use the most annoying phrase ever coined.

That said, I'm fairly sure that the Universe looked down on me in the last six weeks and decided to give me a break in the way of weather.  And we're in for another perfect week this week.

So... a woman in her thirties appreciates.  And takes full advantage:

Apple picking

Pumpkin patching

Train riding



Lots more photos coming soon!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Joins a CSA

I have wanted to join a CSA for years, but have always talked myself out of it.  So much food!  So expensive!  What if it's gross?  That kind of thing.

This year, however, a fellow woman in her thirties and I decided to give it a go together.  It was so much fun, and I'm so glad I did it.  Joining a CSA busted many of the myths I had about it all these years.  Here are a few:

MYTH:  You get a jillion tons of food and there's no way you can eat all of it.

Realty:  Splitting the share was plenty for us this summer.  Not too much, not too little.  There were a few items that went to waste, particularly the potatoes (we never eat potatoes) and the beets (I want to like beets, I really do.  But I don't.)  But for the most part, we eat each box up every week.

MYTH:  Getting eggs in the CSA is scary because they might be... well... not edible.

Reality:  The fresh eggs were my favorite part of the CSA every week.  We got a dozen every Wednesday and were ready for more by each weekend.  No issues, and a better source of morning protein than Cheerios.

MYTH:  Trying to use up all the produce takes a lot of planning and cooking time. 

Reality:  This was one of my biggest fears, considering cooking is one of those things, like beets, that I wish I enjoyed more.  In reality, I just added more veggies to the things I normally make (every vegetable made it into stir fry at some point), and instead of buying jarred salsa I made mine in the blender every week with all the salsa-ish ingredients (bell peppers in salsa! The best!).  So good.  

MYTH:  The kids won't eat any of it.

Reality:  I would give anything-- anything-- to have my kids be less picky eaters.  Alas, it is not to be.  They both are terrible, awful, horrible about trying new things.  (Even sweet things! They won't even eat a stupid gummy vitamin!)  This was a legitimate concern for me in getting a CSA box every week.  So instead of fighting them to PLEASE TAKE A BITE OF CORN YOU WILL LIKE IT (and we did this one night-- backfire), I just blended the veggies into whatever I made for them and they never knew the difference.  Above, they are eating Black Bean Brownies (which I blended with Swiss Chard), and here is the recipe for a mostly-spinach pesto from the White Grass Cafe that also took on kale, broccoli, and anything else green:

Our last farm box for the season came last week.... boo... but instead of being sad it's over I'm focusing on how glad I am I gave it a shot.  The CSA changed the way we eat (no more cereal in the morning!) and made me aware of the importance of buying foods that are in season, for taste if no other reason.  

Yay for the CSA!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Gets Gut-Punched (in the best possible way)

My to-do list for today is huge.  Huge!  But I can't get to a single thing on it because I got a little blindsided this morning by this video, which a former student posted to my Facebook wall:


The short story is that the year I came back from China I was asked to be video taped teaching, so the video could be shown to teachers in training in California.  This sounds much, MUCH more exciting than it actually is.  I wasn't necessarily chosen because I am some sort of teaching god, more because I was a willing participant and didn't care if credential students nit-picked my work.

The people in charge promised to send me the video so I'd have it for my portfolio, and they never did.  I asked several times since moving for the video, all with no results. I'd pretty much forgotten about it, until this student posted it on my wall because a friend of his had to watch it in his teacher credentialing class.

So I watched it this morning, while the monkeys ate breakfast.

(Not eating breakfast, sorry.  This was a couple weeks ago.)

And I cried and cried.  Big, fat, ugly tears. For so many things.  How much I miss the classroom (I do, I do!), how much I miss these kids in particular (they were AWESOME), the state of my hair (wha?!). But mostly for the woman in that video who is so, so young to me, not because she's all that much younger but because she doesn't know Anna and Aaron yet, she doesn't know that in less than a year she will call Minnesota home, she thinks she knows blessings and happiness but she doesn't.  She really doesn't.

But here's the real story, people.  All of that is good, all those wonderful teacher emotions you can't put a price tag on, all the pride I got from my career... seeing the video was a reminder of who I was (still am), and all that teacher-y stuff is great, so great.

However, if you look at that video closely, you'll notice something.  Stooped posture because... pooched-out belly that I thought my shirt hid pretty well... tired, tired eyes.  I was pregnant in that video, or at least I thought I was, despite all the doctors who kept looking at me with serious eyes and saying things like, 'Hmm.  Let's check again in a week.  Be hopeful.'  This video was taken during a yucky, yucky time, and this woman in her thirties has a serious talent for blocking out yucky times.

Seeing it and going back to that moment this morning was like a punch in the gut. Memories, before and after, so many tears, so much secrecy... am I the only one who senses a tug in my voice?  A strain? I have almost no pictures of that time, and for good reason.  But now I have video, plain as can be.  That is me, teacher.  It is also me, woman.  Aching for so many reasons.

Still, I am beyond grateful that this video has surfaced.  That group of kids was-- I'm not kidding-- a saving grace for me.  Despite the bad memories, there are so many good ones.  That classroom was inspiration for The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High.  I made great friends teaching at that school, many of whom I'm still in contact with.  It was during that time that L showed me the man and father he was capable of being, and here we are.  Happy.  Blessed.

People often talk about the importance of letting go of the past, and I think that's mostly true.  Today, however, I'm glad that it's crept back upon me.  When given a chance, it's okay for a woman in her thirties to take a moment to acknowledge the past. All she's been through, all she's done.  Even all that might have been.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties has a Great- Really Great- Summer

Anna and Aaron had their school open house today, which can only mean one thing:  summer is almost over.  It is with a heavy heart that I write that sentence, because this summer has been the best in this woman in her thirties' recent memory.  Here's why:

1.  We slept.

Let me tell you a little something about this sweet face.  Aaron turned two on June 21, and on that day he decided he was going to start sleeping like a normal human being.  That's right-- two solid years of sleep deprivation over here.  Sure, we had our occasional breaks (one lasted FOUR WHOLE DAYS!) but for the most part, this stink pot was up 2-3 times a night, and I was definitely going crazy.  That is not to mention this other stink pot:

For whom nightmares have plagued us for the last year or so.  But this summer, by a miraculous act of God, we have slept.  And I haven't taken a single night of it for granted.

2.  I "worked".

If you can call hanging out with super fun and motivated kids and helping them write creatively "work".  Teaching this summer was a joy on a million levels, and I loved every minute of it. I blogged about it here.

3.  We played.  

In the last three years of at-home momhood, I've felt fairly chained to the house for naps, meals, and various other anxiety-ridden baby activities.  Not this summer.  Here are some of my favorite outings:

The splash pad.  Whoever thought of this concept is a genius.  

The community pool.  This was the first year I've been able to go and actually enjoy myself.  Not in a relax-with-a-book kind of way, but in a my-kids-are-so-much-more-independant kind of way.

Lake Harriet.  Aaron's favorite summer activity is throwing rocks into bodies of water.  He's quite talented at it.  

Bike riding.

Playgrounds.  Lots of playgrounds. Hardly any rocks were consumed.

4.  I joined a CSA.

I have wanted to join a CSA for years, but this year I finally gave it a shot and shared with a friend. Best decision ever!  I'll blog more about this later.

Fresh eggs!  Every week!

5.  We vacationed.

I already talked about our Dirty Dancing vacation, which was awesome.  But last weekend we went to SoCal for my beautiful, wonderful cousin's wedding.  Here we are, investigating the Pacific Ocean (which Anna kept calling Lake Harriet):

Anna reaped the benefits of her first pinata:

And throughout all the chaos of the weekend, I was so grateful for a chance to catch up with family I all-too-rarely see.  

Mommy :)

Grateful, grateful, grateful for a great summer!