i’m not the only one

Much as I try to remain aloof about Facebook, limiting my wall-scanning to once a day at most, rarely commentating and even less often posting my own thoughts and pictures, there occasionally comes a post that causes me to have a severe emotional reaction; so strong, in fact, that it takes all of the will-power I can muster to detach from it gracefully (i.e. not post hateful and/or sarcastic comments in response). While I take pride in having cultivated a group of Facebook friends who tend to avoid using this medium as a forum for political, religious and otherwise inappropriate topics, there are still a few ranters and ragers out there who’ve managed to sneak into my network. So since I’ve struggled to find the inspiration (or time) to blog lately, I’ll use a recent post I read that, despite my best efforts to dismiss, has continued to make its mark on my thoughts, leaving me feeling frustrated and disappointed with our culture.

It was a post that came right after the latest school shooting in Oregon and was directed at the Facebook community at large, suggesting that “we” should stop using school shootings as an argument for stricter gun regulation because “we” are lying to ourselves anyway. “We” don’t want stricter gun laws at all, because what we secretly want is worldwide disarmament. That’s right, no guns. No guns anywhere. Not here, not there, not in a train, not in the rain, not with a fox and not in a box.

I’ll just say it now – I don’t secretly wish guns didn’t exist, I openly wish for it!! Not because I don’t recognize the argument for their existence in today’s society, but because fundamentally and at my core I am still a loving, caring, non-violent human being who wishes that we could all (and by all, I mean ALL) put our pride and arrogance aside and treat one another with kindness despite our differences. And what I find so horrifying about this post is that this person, and likely many more, think that wishing for something like a worldwide laying down of arms is reproachable. Maybe this is a good time to remind everyone what the definition of “weapon” is: something (such as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy. So what if it’s not realistic in the current state of the world – should we not still strive, even at the individual level, for peace and harmony with fellow mankind? We recently bought a gun; we live in the mountains alongside bears and mountain lions and our garage was robbed in the middle of the night last fall while we were all sleeping. So I get it. I understand the right (and motivation) to bear arms at the individual level as well as at a government level where many of the freedoms we enjoy in this country are indirectly or directly related to our reputation for having a powerhouse military. But all of that being said, I don’t have to like it and I don’t have to stop wishing for something better for me, for my family or for the world at large.

John Lennon’s hit song, “Imagine,” has been regaled as one of the greatest songs of all time, not just in America where we take relative peace and freedom for granted, but around the globe. The sheer popularity of that song over the last 4 decades is a testament to our fundamental belief that a better, kinder, non-violent world is possible. Even if it can’t happen overnight, it can happen and it’s certainly okay to imagine:

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

my drug of choice

Travel. What a glorious thing it is. Just the mere thought of the next new place I might explore is serotonin-producing for me. I have my parents to thank for instilling this passion in me at a young age. They took me to Spain when I was 12 and while that experience certainly ignited the overseas traveler in me, it was never just a matter of international travel. It was a commitment they simply made as role models to expose my brother and me to as many new experiences and places as possible – we drove cross-country and flew when we could afford it. I often joined my mother on business trips, be they in Washington DC, Toronto or Beijing. Needless to say, I’ve never been without a current passport – you just never know when the opportunity or mood might strike. Another commitment my parents made that I’ve since brought into my own marriage is establishing a regular travel routine sans children. Let’s be honest, up to a certain age, traveling with children is less vacation and more work. Well, for me, anyway. I do know mothers who swear that traveling, even internationally, with small children is no big deal and they truly love it. Just like anything motherhood-related, to each her own. But I know myself well enough to know what my limits are in that regard. In fact, I just read a blurb in a motherhood astrology book this past weekend about the Aries mother and how the selflessness aspect of parenting is by far her biggest challenge. The authors made it clear that without consistent visits to the “decompression chamber,” an Aries mother is likely to explode. I’m apparently a superb role model when it comes to setting examples for independence, individuality and ambition, however. Phew!

So in accordance with these more selfish character traits, I’ve grown newly passionate for the solo travel experience as well. My 2-week adventure in Bali last year was incredible, to say the least, and often described by myself and others as a “once in a lifetime experience.” The more I thought about it, though, the more depressing that statement became. Why only once in my lifetime should I break out of life’s everyday rhythms and fly free? If I have the time, financial means and encouragement from the people who matter most to me, why stop at just once? And so I approached Sean with the idea of giving each other the gift of a solo travel experience every year for our birthdays. An annual trip into the decompression chamber, if you will. I brought this idea to him around the time of his birthday last August, but he’s no dummy. He knows who he married and he knew this was just my feeble attempt at cleverly disguising something I wanted badly as something we could both benefit from. What can I say, the man loves me and so he obliged. And there are a host of life-threatening activities that Sean would love to do that I simply don’t have the stomach for – heliskiing, base-jumping, Everest-climbing type insanities. What better way for him to meet his death-defying goals than by going alone? And so we have it – an idea was created, a budget was set and a tradition was born. Sean has since decided to triple his budget and defer his inaugural soloventure to 2016 when he will, in fact, go heliskiing in Alaska.

But for me, I have been salivating in not-so-patient wait for April to roll around so I can find out where I’m going in 2014. Part of the tradition is that the gift-giver gets to reveal the recipient’s destination. No one, and I mean no one loves a surprise more than this girl. And while there are certainly hundreds of picturesque and culturally rich places I have yet to see in my home country, I was praying that 2014 would require a passport. And in true see-right-through-me fashion, Sean came through. Come this October I will be boarding a jetplane for Vietnam. Vietnam!! I will go for about a week and likely focus on the Northern part of the country, places like SaPa and Ha Long Bay (for your own benefit, this is worth a quick Google Image search). I’m toying with the idea of getting completely outside of my comfort zone and doing a short homestay with an indigenous family. Whatever the outcome of my itinerary, I’m over the moon with gratitude for what is sure to be another life-affirming experience.

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell

a way with words

A friend asked me ages ago to write a blog for her custom stationery website about a thank-you-letter-writing campaign I embarked on a few years ago. The hope was that my story might serve as an inspiration to her customers to dust off their ball-point pens and ultra- finepoint Sharpies and (gasp!) hand-write a good old-fashioned letter to someone (by way of her beautifully designed cards and paper, of course). So here goes, albeit belated (sorry, Tonya!)…

Shortly after the birth of my first child, Kellan, probably while on maternity leave, I stumbled upon a glorious publication known as Real Simple magazine. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s a magazine targeted at us women who are part of that special circus sideshow act known as Mothers, Wives & Coworkers Seeking Constant Domestic Perfection, Career Fulfillment & Inner Peace. An impossible balancing act, for sure, Real Simple aims to help us achieve it through test driving the best cleaning products, offering up quality book recommendations, sharing never-thought-of-but-surprisingly-useful applications for the empty toilet paper roll, and publishing insightful and heart-warming essays that probably only the women in the aforementioned category can truly appreciate. Ever since my discovery, I’ve pretty much devoured every page they’ve put out. One particular issue devoted a piece to an author, John Kralik, who published a book (“A Simple Act of Gratitude”) where he writes about his personal endeavor to write one hand-written thank you note every day for a year. While his reasons for starting his campaign were much different than mine (in short, his life was in shambles and he saw these expressions of gratitude as a karmic approach to turning things around), I was still struck by the idea. I had always loved both sending and receiving hand-written letters myself and so I wondered if I might also be able to write one every day for a year. And so it began on January 1st, 2011, that my discipline would be put to the test.

Before you go and give me too much credit, no, I did not make it through 365 thank you notes. I made it through about 120, though, which I’m still quite proud of. I even scanned each one to a USB drive before mailing it so I could document the “project” and also so I could read back through them one day and have a pretty good glimpse into my life at that time. I wrote notes to anyone and everyone – my Starbucks barista, my infant son, my deceased mother, my close friends, my not-so-close friends, my mortgage lender, my husband, my mother-in-law (I think she received several, but probably deserved all of them), and the list goes on. Eventually I think I just ran out of thank you note fodder, both content and recipients, but it was truly a worthwhile experience on many levels. First and foremost, gratitude is one of the most meaningful things we can possess as humans. Overall I think most of us are thankful for the things and people we have in our lives, but how often is that gratitude really expressed? How often do we send a quick email to say, “Hey, old friend, I’m thinking about you and I hope you’re doing well…?” An effort that literally takes less than a minute, which most of us never take the time for and yet, at least for me, when I’m on the receiving end of something like that, I am overjoyed at that person’s thought and kindness. So imagine how much the joy meter goes up when it’s more than a quick email, but a note or a letter that was lovingly hand-written, addressed, stamped and sent off to its destination? Being witness to the joy that my notes brought others was the most gratifying part about my project. With the onset of technology, the hand-written sentiment has largely become a thing of the past, so it goes without saying that on the rare occasion you receive one, it becomes instantly special.

People do tell me that I have a way with words and since writing is something I truly enjoy, I like to believe that I’m pretty good at it. What that doesn’t mean, though, is that someone who isn’t particularly gifted with words shouldn’t still put forth the extra effort to show another person that they care. I still believe in etiquette, after all, and how many thank you notes have we all gotten in exchange for a wedding or baby gift that simply said “Thank you for the (insert mundane registry item here)! It was so good to see you at the (insert obligatory, costly event here)!” Yes, we are all guilty of the quick, requisite thank you note, especially when you know you’ve got 85 more to write and the chances of your spouse helping are nil. But still, didn’t those people take the time, energy and money to celebrate you and your life? Don’t they all individually deserve an extra moment spent thinking about what makes them meaningful to you? Why did you invite them to your baby shower in the first place if they didn’t have a special place in your life? The note doesn’t need to be long necessarily, but just show a little extra kindness. A note that says “Thank you for sharing this incredible time in my life with me. You have always made me laugh, even on my wedding day, when you shared the story about your cat performing tricks on your leather ottoman in order to help calm my nerves.” I mean isn’t that more special than “Thanks for the crystal picture frame. It was one of our favorite things on the registry.” Eh. No thank you.

Again, it all goes back to the sheer bliss that can come out of expressing gratitude for another person in your life, no matter how insignificant the gift, act or gesture might seem. Giving thanks for the little things can often make the biggest impact because it is likely unexpected and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t appreciate a pleasant surprise. So pick up your phone, your Ipad or best of all, your pen, and send some love and thanks. You can’t go wrong, unless you don’t use quality paper products, which you can procure at http://www.tolukapaper.com. Happy shopping!

 

eva marie saint

I never knew who Eva Marie Saint was until this morning when I was laid up in bed for the sixth consecutive day after having ACL reconstructive surgery in my right knee. Sean took a much deserved day away from me and the kids to go skiing and our babysitter was here all day so I could simply rest. I put on one of my favorite weekend shows, CBS’s Sunday Morning, and there was a segment about Eva Marie Saint, a famous (Oscar-winning) Hollywood actress from the…oh, I don’t even know what decade. What stuck with me about her had nothing to do with her career, but instead had everything to do with her spunk, particularly her unapologetic attitude about aging. The woman is 89 years old and is still a stunner; furthermore, she’s still active and quick-witted. Basically she’s who I want to be when I’m 89 (minus the Oscar). If I can make it that far, that is.

The last few days have given me plenty of time and also plenty of perspective on the difference between aging gracefully and whatever the opposite of that is…surviving, maybe? I have always had a pretty average to slightly below average attitude about my health. I admittedly have an unhealthy relationship with food – I have moments where I strive to make better choices, eat more raw foods, more whole grains, less dairy and meat, but they are usually fleeting and it doesn’t take much to entice me with a massive nearly-still-breathing New York Strip or a greasy piece of pizza. It should also be noted that portion control has never been my strong suit; I definitely grew up in a “clean your plate” household, but as a 35-year old woman I can certainly make better choices for myself and I simply choose not to. Furthermore, I am not naturally thin, so my weight has been something I think about no less than 10 times a day (even when I’m at my thinnest) and while I wouldn’t say I have ever had an extreme eating disorder (okay, perhaps briefly in 2001 and for the record it wasn’t pretty; I started to look like a bobble-head), it certainly saddens me that I allow so much head space to something so superficial. Because let’s be honest, my obsession with my weight has nothing whatsoever to do with my overall health and everything to do with how pretty I feel and/or look to everyone else. And exercise? Well living in the city for the better part of my adulthood gave me access to every new, fashionable, and worst form of exercise on every corner – the manufactured, marketed and expensive kind. The treadmills, the ellipticals, the personal trainers, the spin bikes, the Dailey Method, the barre and Zumba classes. Every minute I spent doing any of the aforementioned activities was a minute I spent in agony. I was not, am not and never will be a gym rat. The closest I ever came to maintaining a healthy exercise regime in Chicago was in 2006 when I trained for and ran the Chicago Marathon. I did 90% of my training outside along Lake Michigan and while at times it was brutal, it was still the most satisfying exercise routine I’ve ever had. Beyond that, though, I’m a pretty lazy person when it comes to fitness.

The move to Colorado, as I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me say, has been a blessing in so many ways, not least of which is its pleasant year-round climate and all of the best forms of exercise – the ones that can only be done outside. In nature. Skiing (dare I say in my current state), hiking, climbing, rafting, kayaking, cycling, golfing, and on and on and on. Have I taken advantage of the weather and my easy access to beautiful mountain and forest terrain? Yes, absolutely. Am I anywhere nearly as active as I ought to be for achieving optimum health? Not a chance. Now I’m not going to sit here and say that poor choices about my health led me to tear my ACL on ski terrain that, in my opinion, was well within my abilities, but I am hesitant to dismiss the possibility altogether. Had I been putting healthier foods into my body (thereby maintaining a healthier weight) and had I been hiking, walking or doing yoga several times a week (thereby maintaining stronger muscles and ligaments), there is certainly a chance that I could have escaped my current state of inability. Some of you may be thinking, “didn’t you just run a half marathon last month? You must be pretty fit and healthy.” Well see, folks, that’s the thing with me – I always take shortcuts. When I signed up for that race back in October, I did a quick Google search on how to train for a half marathon in 12 weeks, printed off my findings, and promptly ignored them. I basically ran once a week up until the race, increasing my distance by 1 mile per week until I reached 10, at which point I stopped training and figured I’d bank on “race day endorphins” to get me those last 3 miles I’d need to pull off. Sure I finished, but it was painful and thoroughly un-enjoyable, despite being set against the backdrop of beautiful Maui. And whenever I’ve just HAD to lose weight for one reason or another like on my wedding day, for example, there would be no lifestyle changes for this girl. Oh no, I’d just start my two-a-day workouts at the gym with my trainer a month beforehand and do a 14-day cleanse (translation: starvation) the weeks leading up to the big day. I’ll be the first to say it, I looked damned good that day, probably the prettiest and thinnest I’ve ever felt in my life, but I took incredibly painful shortcuts to get there.

At this point in my life and in this last week of reflection, I’ve realized it’s not about being thin or pretty, at least not in that rushed, throw-all-medical-advice-out-the-window type of way. Of course I want to be thin and pretty, that will never change. But at 35 it’s time to take a cold, hard look at my inner health. I believe I’ve come a long, long way in the last year on working toward a healthier state of mind and an inner calm I hadn’t found before, but a positive outlook on life and a compassion for others aren’t going to get me to 89 all on their own. Of course there will always be the threat of cancer or an untimely vehicle malfunction looming out there in the universe to potentially take me, but I owe it to myself and to my loved ones to make the most of what I’ve got. Right now I’ve got a bum knee and the most acute, stabbing case of constipation you could ever imagine, so what better time than now to start thinking about how I’m going to earn the next 35 years of my life. Eva’s advice? Eat whole foods and walk every day. No shortcuts – genius.

the universe has a plan

And apparently the plan for me is to slow down for awhile. During just the loveliest of weekend getaways (this time to Lake Tahoe) I endured an unfortunate ski injury – complete ACL and partial meniscus tears in my right knee. (Side note: I remember so very little of my highschool education, yet I do remember having to memorize just about every part of the human body in my Anatomy class, including the meniscus. I succeeded in remembering it for the test by breaking it down into three smaller words: Men Is Cus, but since Cus isn’t an actual word, in my head I changed it to ghetto slang…”Men Is…’Cuz!” Because I’m sure they say that all the time in the hood. Hey, it helped me ace my test and don’t lie, you’ve come up with equally ridiculous ways of memorizing things you’d never need to know except for the 90 minutes it takes to finish the exam.) Anyway, back to the incident. I wish I had a better story, but nope. I was skiing and I fell. Skiing within my abilities, even. In fact, I had just made the responsible decision when it happened: Sean took to the right hand side where the deadly little hard-packed moguls were and I opted for the seemingly “safe” left side run where the snow was smoother and the trees gave me plenty of room to not wrap a ski around one of them. My skis crossed, I fell and OH, DID MY KNEE HURT!!! I was yelling in pain, a man somewhere in the distance was asking if I was okay (please let it be my husband who for once did not fireball himself all the way down the mountain) and my head was facing down the mountain so surely I was only moments away from helplessly sliding headfirst into a tree. The man’s voice became closer – it WAS Sean!! Thank goodness! Thank goodness he was there for the whole ordeal and I didn’t end up like the woman who arrived at the ER moments before me with a broken pelvis and no idea where her husband was. Surprisingly my pain went away within minutes and for a quick moment I thought, “just another almost skiing fiasco by yours truly but hey, it looks like this might be no big deal.” Dead wrong. As soon as I stood, my knee gave out. Shit. Guess there’s only one way I’m getting off this mountain and it’s by ski patrol and everyone we roll by will wonder if I’m dead or unconscious. Or maybe just a lady with a blown out knee as it would turn out. I will say that the run down in the ski patrol sled was a blast!! I was giggling like a toddler the whole way down. I’ve been home now for a few days and reality has had a chance to settle in. I’ve seen the ortho, I’ll have surgery in about a week, but the good news is that the recovery isn’t too bad. I’ll hopefully be walking a week after surgery, running after 3 months and skiing after 6 months. 

The timing really couldn’t be better. It came after our big trip to Maui, toward the end of the ski season and with enough time between now and summer to be able to dust off my hiking boots without missing a beat. And I’ve been running and running and running it seems from one thing to the next lately. Packing, unpacking, washing, repacking, coming, going, flying, driving. It’s time for a break and it’s a relatively welcome one. I could have done without the consequence of the required surgical reconstruction of a major body part, but if you know me at all, you know that’s pretty much what it takes to slow me down. It’s impossible for me to be still unless it’s forced. I think in a small, certainly non-malicious way, Sean is pleased with our current situation. He adapts very well to the primary caretaker role and I think he takes an almost unhealthy pleasure in watching me sit down. The kids seem to be adapting well also and they are very careful around “mommy’s bad leg.” Kellan has even developed a sympathetic bad leg syndrome that renders him suddenly and completely incapable of getting ready for school in the morning. 

An injury like this one is definitely a test of one’s belief in silver linings, but who has time for depression? I mean that question seriously: Who actually has the time to be depressed? There is just so much to get done – drawers and closets need to be organized, recipes need to be mastered and healthy eating plans developed, more hours need to be put toward building customer relationships and I can finally get around to doing my expense reports. So maybe slowing down for me isn’t really slowing down, but I do like the idea of being homebound for a few months. The domestic goddess inside is calling…

enter at your own risk

Today Sean and I are celebrating 5 years of marriage on the same beautiful island of Maui where we honeymooned. It seems impossible that we’ve shared as many ups and downs as we have in this mere handful of years, but alas, we have. Never could I have prepared myself on that glorious snowy day in Park City, Utah for what lay ahead. Ready to start a family quite literally on our wedding night, I never imagined we would struggle to get pregnant. Never did I imagine that fear of never having my own children could so quickly resolve itself in the form of two very healthy and beautiful babies in less than three years. I never thought I’d spend the last weeks of my first pregnancy by my mom’s deathbed or that I’d be giving her eulogy in a maternity dress. Like anyone who’d never before experienced a crippling loss, I expected nothing less than for her to go peacefully in a nursing home well into old age. I never imagined I’d then muster up the strength and determination to leave all of the pain and sadness of that experience behind me and start anew in Colorado. We started the process of leaving with no guarantees of work, of friends or of family. But leave we did, with faith and optimism. Five years ago I’d never have guessed I’d ever find myself sitting helpless in my beautiful new home wondering what the hell I was thinking taking this risk when my marriage was clearly in such a fragile state. Sean had left me and I had left him. We had hit rock bottom and we were failing each other with equal determination. But then fate stepped in and stopped us from destroying what we had promised to do on that snowy day in 2009. Sure, we had made the same vows most people make on their wedding days, but we were also doing what Sean and I do best together. We adventure together. Most people get married in June because it’s the least likely month to rain. They want sunny, picture perfection. We went to the top of a mountain in the dead of winter and hoped for as much snow as possible because we were going to spend the first few days honeymooning on the slopes. Most people stay near family to raise their kids in hopes of offering them a constant source of love and stability. We took the path less traveled and moved to where there is a new adventure waiting around every corner and, in our case, just outside our front door. Some people seek professional counseling when they find their marriage in ruin. We sometimes go the more traditional route as well, but then realize maybe the other person just needs to spend two weeks in Indonesia by herself. Some people plan for retirement with the best case scenario including a nice golf villa in Naples, Florida. Sean and I just discussed figuring out a way to retire by age 50 so we can spend a good 10 years traveling the world and staying in huts before splitting the rest of our years between Breckenridge (actively skiing, of course) and Maui (maybe…we’ve heard great things about Kauai too). Of course nothing is ever as easy as it sounds, but as I’ve contemplated the foundation of my marriage this week I find overwhelming evidence to prove that risk is the glue that holds mine together. Yesterday on a hike we came across a sign that gave two options: Hike to the right .5 mile to see the Nakalele Blowhole. Hike to the left at your own risk. Guess which way we went? Without even questioning the choice we headed left and I thought to myself, “this is why I love this man.” Happy anniversary to the most adventurous soul I know, Sean O’Malley.

no pollyanna

I just typed and deleted what would have been a long, but very honest revelation of how this particular Monday sucked so badly that I’ve considered all of the following at one or more points throughout the day: terminating at least one friendship, telling off a family member, quitting my job, pulling my son from his school or selling him into child slavery, and lastly, writing into the Dr. Phil show for help. He usually pays for some type of rehab or soul-searching center for his guests; surely there’s one with more spa and less 12-steps that would fit me nicely. The point is, I don’t want to review my day in disgusting detail because it sucked. I really just want to disprove any misconception that, based on my recent musings, I am living one glorious day after another up here in the clouds. When my level of perspective is at its peak then yes, it’s true that life is really that good. But today, my friends, today I am not my highest self. Today I am taking the low road because that is where I can drive like an asshole. Today I find myself surrounded by ignorance and inconsideration, and instead of looking for the silver lining, putting myself in another’s shoes or any other crappy cliche, the only thing I’m capable of is a mild amount of self-restraint in the form of not actually doing any of the things I listed earlier. Because sometimes people are just inconsiderate and ignorant and quite frankly I didn’t have the required amount of exercise or caffeine today that would give me the energy I needed to find the damned silver lining. So I’m embracing my own inner asshole and I’m going to bed mad.

ringing in 2014

Wow, what a year. I guess everyone says that, right? But seriously, 2013 has truly been a year of major ups and downs, huge emotional swings and a lot of questioning and self-doubt. At the same time I think I topped the charts in the self-growth department as well. If you’re into numerology, which I’m not, unless of course it suits me at the moment, you might like to know that back in April (my birth month) I started a Year One. There are nine years in numerology and you cycle through them over the course of your life. The year you are born is, of course, a Year One as well, so it probably won’t surprise you to know that anytime a Year One occurs in your life it signifies a new beginning or re-birth of sorts. Well, holy shit was I reborn. For the first time in my life I admitted to myself and a few other key people everything that was flawed with me and with my life – my frustrations with motherhood, my marriage, my friends, my family, my career and myself. I purged and then I fled. To Bali, that is, for two uninterrupted weeks of solitude, soul-searching and, above all else, forgiveness. Think cliched if you must, but know that giving myself that space, that 10,000 miles away of space, was exactly what the doctor ordered for this woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I am thankful for having had the self-awareness to take that leap and for the support back home to make it logistically possible, not to mention guilt-free. The trip was certainly just one step in what seemed like a never-ending process to righting my path, but it was ultimately necessary. 

Did I return self-actualized and live out the remainder of the year happily ever after? My God, no. The challenges seemed to keep coming up and testing my resolve and the resolve of my greatly improved relationship with my husband. Our kids began daycare in May and took turns throwing up and having diarrhea for literally two months. Our garage was robbed in September while we and the kids were home sleeping. A couple of weeks later Sean got into a car accident, though thankfully only the car was injured. Somehow through all of it, though, we survived. Perspective now plays an enormous role in my life and I am always aware of how good we have it. Our struggles have been very, very real, but we are also extremely blessed. I am blessed with a loving spouse, healthy children and financial stability – just a few things that not enough people in this world are free to enjoy. 

As always, I have goals for the new year. Not resolutions, but goals. The word goal just seems more realistic to me and less like Lent. Also, I don’t have to beat myself up if I don’t reach said goals. I think I have a pretty good shot at them, though. Here are a few: treat our dogs more like we did before we had kids, be more conscious of every purchase I make and cut out the overly impulsive ones (I should probably delete my Amazon app), YOGA (i.e. do more of it) and buck up at work (I have a new team and a new manager this year, so I really want to prove myself). Other than that, and this is not a goal, but just a way of life: always remember that marriage is hard work, but if both people really (and I mean REALLY) put forth the effort, it can be an incredibly magical thing. Sean and I have never been closer emotionally and physically (it’s MY blog, damn it, I’ll say whatever I want!) than we are today and yet, one year ago today, we were on the brink of utter ruin. In one month we are leaving for Maui where we will celebrate 5 years of marriage in the very condo we celebrated our honeymoon and we both agree it’s going to be even better than it was the first time around. 

Cheers to 2014 and to all of my family, friends and colleagues who make each year so special. Human connections are really what life is all about, after all. If we nurture the old ones and continue to make new and healthy ones, we can all be sure to live out each year to its fullest potential.

Much love in the new year,

Marissa

 

dear christmas

Thank you for falling like a perfect snowflake at the end of every year, for throwing light, joy and merriment on everyone and everything. For making us all a little bit kinder to one another and for making forgiveness seem like the easiest thing in the world. For bringing a smile to my face with just the ring of a bell. For allowing me to defer some of my parental responsibilities to Kyle the Elf. For bringing happiness to my life even in the worst of times. Thank you for George Bailey. For the unique family traditions you’ve inspired, like decorating cut-out cookies with my loved ones, putting a dime in a tiny homemade stocking ornament every year for as long as I can remember, and preparing Christmas dinner to exact specifications – Caesar salad, beef tenderloin (rare), Bearnaise sauce, mashed potatoes and baby carrots with chopped parsley. Don’t get all crazy and try to make those baby carrots with dill, now, Christmas, you hear? Thank you for the Carpenters’ Christmas Portrait album and for the thousands and thousands of Christmas memories those songs bring to mind. Thank you even for the mournful tears I cry every time I hear “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” It is a special sadness that makes me feel alive and, above all else, loved. Thank you for only happening once each year, always giving me something lovely to look forward to without growing stale. Thank you for Starbucks Christmas cups. For reminding me to enjoy each precious moment that I have. For bringing my Colorado mountain home to its full postcard potential. For hot apple cider and roaring fires. Thank you for presents – for the careful choosing, wrapping, bowing, giving and receiving of each and every one. Thank you for this time to reflect on Christmases past and for the ability to truly revel in Christmas present. I have never felt more at peace or in love than I do this year. Above all, thank you for your neverending spirit and charm. May your December glow continue to illuminate all of us and keep us warm as we head into 2014.

With love,

Marissa 

 

inaugural tribute to my children

As I was thinking recently about what scintillating topic my readers would next like me to tackle on Rocky Mountain Ruminations, two things occurred to me. One is that my readership consists of only about ten loyal family members and devoted friends. That realization was quickly followed by the thought that my goal in creating this blog was not to earn pseudo-fame on the worldwide web, but rather to document my life in terms of my ever-changing thoughts, beliefs and values as they pertain to a variety of subject matters. As I write these segments I often think how entertaining it will be to look back in 5, 10 or 20 years and see how much my views on life have changed.  In a word, this blog is for me and I simply choose to share it with the world (a.k.a. aforementioned 10 devotees). So it recently dawned on me that, above all else, the most dynamic things in my life are two little people named Kellan & Kathryn. And wouldn’t it be especially fascinating to look back on things I’ve written about them over the years? Especially fascinating to them, no doubt? And there it was, a decision I hope I can live up to as the years go by: an annual tribute to my children and a general assessment of who I perceive them to be at that precise moment in time.

Now that that’s all settled, let me just dig right in. Kellan is several different personalities all wrapped up into one very small little boy. Sometimes his emotional sensitivity and low level of pain tolerance (from us beating him, of course!) (you know that’s a joke, right??) make us wonder just how big of a target he’ll be as he gets older and the bullies start rearing their ugly heads. On the other hand, he can also be quite the daredevil when it comes to taking physical risks, like flinging himself from one piece of furniture to another, barreling down our rocky driveway on his Strider bike (read: no training wheels) at top speeds and making threatening comments like “Mommy, I’m going to do something dangerous” or “These are my dangerous shoes.” He loves going to the climbing gym with Daddy and isn’t afraid of taking any kind of physical challenge whatsoever, so our hope is that a certain fearlessness and/or athletic prowess may offset his sometimes wimpy side. He has been in preschool now for about six months and is still adjusting to the structure of a school day, to the point that his teachers recently implemented a “Happy/Straight/Sad Face” charting system to help straighten him out as he does not particularly like having decisions about how he spends his time made on his behalf. “I don’t want to” is an all-too-common expression these days. Find him in the right mood, though, and he can be simply joyful to be around. He’ll pick up his toys, brush his teeth, give back the iPad when time is up, all with no argument whatsoever. One area of concern, however, seems to be the getting dressed for school routine. Without fail, he hates the clothes I pick out and it wouldn’t be surprising to catch him in a full-blown meltdown over the camo pants he doesn’t want to wear. Fast forward 10 minutes to the car ride to school and I’ll get a “Mommy, I like these camo pants now.” Of course you do, Kellan, of course you do (she says as she quietly places the gun to her head). Maybe it’s just a thing he has with pants in general because one thing I’ve noticed he does the second he gets home from school is take his pants off. Right after the shoes go in the shoe bin, the pants come off and are left on the spot. Every day, like clockwork. I haven’t bothered to ask him why, mainly because I secretly think most people would go without pants if they had the choice and he’s just going with what feels good and who am I to make him overthink his choice? Good for him. One of my favorite things to sit back and admire is the way Kellan interacts with his little sister. On the rare occasions in the car that they aren’t having screaming contests, throwing shoes and socks into the front seat or otherwise trying to send us swerving off of the mountain, their chattering to each other always brings a smile to my face:

Kellan: “Kafwyn, say Kellan.”

Kathryn: “Kayno.”

Kellan: “Mommy, Kafwyn can say Kellan!!!”

I get to see daily examples of him taking on the big brother role and it is so incredible to watch it all happen. Like any siblings they fight, hit each other and hate sharing, but I get to see them have just as many sweet moments, like when Kellan is concerned that Kathryn is hurt or he takes her by the hand to lead her to their playroom. Like any parent, I want my children to be strong, independent, successful and happy, so there are times when I feel tough love is the answer, but I also know that soon my sweet little boy will be gone forever. For this reason I find myself being more lenient when it comes to things like letting him crawl in bed with us in the middle of the night or reading an extra book (or two) after we had already agreed upon “just one book.” Oh, and with Kellan we can’t ignore the food issue. With a husband who doesn’t eat any fruits or vegetables and describes the act of even trying one as “Fear Factor,” I was already set up to expect the same issues from his son. Every day has its challenges in this area and on just this past Friday I was informed by his teacher that she rarely sees him eating anything other than donuts or chips at school (so much for no news is good news). I will say this, though…he does eat a lot of things his father would rather die than eat – apple slices, green beans, watermelon, cucumber, to name a few. He gets his nutrition and extra calories (for he is quite small for a 3-year old) through things like peanut butter, milk and yogurt, so I’m not worried that he is malnourished, but I am overjoyed at the prospect of him one day being able to go to any restaurant or any stranger’s house and be able to eat what is put in front of him without any issue. Sean will attest to the fact that he hates the way he is with food and would never wish that upon anyone, so I feel like I’ve already won to some extent.

This may be the perfect segue over to my darling daughter, Kathryn, who, like her mother, eats everything under the sun. If it’s in your hand and she thinks it might be food, she wants it. Now.  As a mother, I so far find raising my daughter to be so much easier than raising a son, but on the other hand I don’t really think there is too much to compare. She’s easier because she’s a mini-me or at the very least, she’s a little girl I’m trying to turn into a mini-me and who better to do that than me, right? Remember those things I want for my children – strength, independence, success, & happiness? Well Kathryn is already strong, independent and happy (no smiling required), so my only real challenge as a parent is the successful part which is more on her than it is on me. I can only gently guide her way into Stanford. Just a few weeks shy of her 2nd birthday, her verbal skills are really ramping up. I, for one, cannot wait for the day when I no longer have to rely on finger-pointing to decipher what exactly it is that this child of mine wants, because whatever it is, she wanted it yesterday and you better get your ass in gear before her temper rears up. Like her brother, she is fearless when it comes to jumping, sliding, swinging and launching herself in every direction. She’ll get down and dirty in the sand and rocks right alongside Kellan, but at the same time loves her “babies,” tutus and especially her socks and shoes. I just recently had to relocate her socks to a drawer she could reach because I was getting too lazy to lift her up and hold her for 5 minutes every morning while she thoroughly perused her collection. Of course I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to loving this quality; I feel fairly confident that mother/daughter shopping trips (here we come, Milan!) are on the horizon. A girly girl who can also hang with the boys; is my job as a mother done, or what? Oh wait, I still have those teenage years to worry about when everything good about her goes away in an instant and doesn’t come back until she’s out of our house. At least we’ve got a good foundation to work with here. Oh, and she’s gorgeous. Truthfully, both of my kids are pretty good-looking at this age and if we did a better job of keeping either one’s hair in check more often, it would probably be even more obvious. They both have these huge brown eyes and their father’s luscious lashes and perfect little noses (especially Kellan). Kellan’s head and overgrown hair are still a little large for his tiny body and Kathryn’s hair more often than not suggests that she’s homeless, but aside from that they truly are beautiful.

Some of Kellan’s favorite things: trains, cars, trucks, his straw sippy cups, the song “If So” by Atlas Genius, the shows “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Little Einsteins,” the stuffed dog that his sister picked out for him which he originally named “Piano” and has now been renamed “Closet”

Some of Kellan’s least favorite things: most food, pants, Mommy’s singing

Some of Kathryn’s favorite things: her Owl book, soy milk, boots, the same shows as Kellan, her Poppi

Some of Kathryn’s least favorite things: Mommy or Daddy (depending on the day), being told “No”