Flushing Away Free Time

Friday, February 26, 2010

I always wonder what the Kool Kats do when they go home from work. I like to imagine that everyone is immersed in a challenging home improvement task, slaving away at complicated recipes, penning the next Harry Potter, attending humanitarian club meetings or catching up with a handful of close companions. But I am willing to guess there's a lot more couch glorifying and TV trance-partaking than any world-changing events happening behind those double French doors.

There's also the choice between keeping yourself up-to-date on the best seasonal television shows and other buzz-worthy programs or crafting purses out of vintage fabric for a few extra dimes. It's "lazy versus productive" pitched against "current versus out-of-the-loop". Where's the balance?

Being a mom brings with it a vault-full of extra guilt. If I'm not spending my free time building block towers for my 1-1/2-year-old to destroy, I always feel a little remorse (except during naptime). If I thought I never had any time B.C. (Before Child), I was out of my mind! Now, I really don't have any time. Or do I?

I struggle with getting any writing, crafting, or other projects to show for my time accomplished without curious digits yanking pens out of my hand or demanding my full attention. Cleaning is feasible with Peanut around, but only to a point. Don't get me wrong, I love engaging Peanut in wrestling, building and hiding games. But I also spend a lot of time thinking about what I could be doing with my free time. Even during Peanut’s naptime, I struggle with the what to do, what to do... When noontime on a Saturday rolls around, I often just want to crash and then I suffer the guilt afterwards of all the life-changing challenges I could’ve taken on during those blessed three hours.

The trouble is, I lose interest in projects. I start writing projects and abandon them. I print off art projects and never so much as buy the supplies. I dream about decadent gourmet dinners but lose interest in bringing them to fruition. But I feel like I need these projects to unleash my creative energy upon.

It makes me wonder if anyone else with these strong impulses to be productive actually do produce anything or if they succumb to numbness once in awhile. It’s much easier to relax into a simple lifestyle and suppress those urges than to twist wire into museum-worthy sculpture. Will the Kool Kats emerge from their basements with an amazing invention one day or do they just shop and get their hair done to rectify their status?

Toddler-fy your Flight

Thursday, February 25, 2010

If you’re a mommy looking for tips for taking a toddler on a flight, here are my tips from first-hand experience a short 2 months ago. Now, my son likes toys to a point. A very small point. A few minutes max. This worried me for his first flight…on a lap, no less. I was sure he’d squirm his way out and bother dozens of aisle-seaters, but he actually did better than expected. The key was to have several “activities” lined up for him, one after the other. Our flight also happened to be during nap time, another good tip if your child is able to fall asleep in your arms.

1. Wear the child out at the airport before boarding. After all, you do have two hours to kill. We walked, looked in stores, looked out every window in the place watching airplanes and workers, found another young boy to talk to for awhile and it was magical how he fell asleep during takeoff.

2. Change the child just before the airplane starts boarding.

3. Take a bottle/sippy cup with for all the ear popping. I think our son finally figured out that drinking made him feel better. Also, don't forget their lovies (Blanky) so they feel more comfortable.

4. Encourage your child to watch out the window for as long as it holds their attention. Point things out and explain the flight to them for extra interest.

5. Bring along a meal to feed the child. This can eat up at least a half hour. Little snacks here and there help as well. Just be sure it’s nothing too messy and you brought a bib.

6. Bring along a Magna Doodle and a few books. Also a few blank sheets of paper and a small carton of crayons. It’s difficult to pack the whole toy box, so just pick a few smaller items that have the most potential to hold the child’s interest. Drawings do quite well in little space.

7. Pack your iPod® and let them in on the head boppin’. They’ll get a kick out of listening to your music.

8. Page through the in-flight magazines and fliers. Pointing out airplanes, doggies, and even refrigerators will keep them occupied for some time. Better yet, pack their favorite Highlights or age-appropriate magazine.

9. Some people will give you dirty looks when your toddler kicks their seat a few times (sorry, I tried to keep the little kickers contained, but sometimes it just happens), but a few will coo. Let them coo for as long as they like. My socialite son soaks it up, especially when it’s someone he’s never met before.

10. If there's an open seat next to you and the flight attendants allow it, try buckling your child in to that seat to keep him "in place." Our son didn't even try to squirm out when we tried this. He somehow knew the seat belt meant business.

11. Pack your carry on with a fresh set of clothes, a stack of diapers and wipes. This saved us on BOTH flights. Don’t underestimate the importance of this seemingly no-brainer.

These are what worked for us. But I have absolutely no tips for changing a child's diaper in-flight. Good luck with that!

Fuel for the Fire

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I told my husband this past weekend that the bad things that people do to me are “fuel for the fire,” so to speak. Each time I’m ignored, overlooked or have been snubbed by someone, I use that experience as ammunition for pursuing my passions. I’ll write extra pages in my novel, try to outshine myself at work, or create a goal that surpasses anything the villain has ever done. I’ve adopted sort of an “I’ll show them” attitude.

This is just how I am. I don’t think it’s good to only be motivated by someone else’s actions, but I do think that this is a very productive way to turn something unfortunate into something positive. Even if I don’t “show them,” I’m using that madness to spur myself in a positive direction.

Next time you’re faced with a snub, insult, admonition or bad review, visualize the success of something you’re working on. Place all that extra energy, emphasis and irritation you’re filled with into something productive. Instead of punching a hole in the wall, direct that energy into your passions. It also happens to be very cathartic.

I swear Honey, my book about gaming widows is going to be a best-seller!

Boredom of the Mouth

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I promised I would have a post about this, so here it is. I have read countless articles about emotional eating and pinpointing its triggers. Usually, if we're not actually hungry, there's some sort of emotional connection when we eat anyway. With sadness, we may turn to comfort food; with fond memories, we may turn to fatty treats; with camaraderie, we may turn to deep-fried pub fare.

For me, it's boredom. Not necessarily emotional boredom, but boredom of the mouth. I feel like I always need something in my mouth to taste, suck on, enjoy. I've found this can be quite dangerous to my health when I make the wrong decisions (oh chocolate, how I love thee), so I've had to come up with a few ways to combat the problem.

The best solution is sugarless gum (Wrigley's Cinnamon). This keeps my mouth busy and occupied for hours. Sugarfree candy and Tic Tac mints are also helpful. I love Celestial Seasoning's Black Cherry Berry tea. With a little sweetener, that practically tastes like candy itself. There's probably something I'm ignoring about artificial sweetener, but I hope a few pieces of gum won't kill me.

Skimp Your Way Thin

Monday, February 22, 2010

You hardly need to spend anything to get fit. If this is your excuse, you can't use it anymore. Motivation is probably the biggest stumbling block of all. But money should not matter.

I am the queen of working out on a budget. I am also the type of person (Gemini?) who gets very bored very easily with workouts. I need something different all the time that doesn't cost me anything. It sounds impossible to please me, but it is not. For eight solid years, I had and loyally used my gym membership, but due to recent money constraints and logistics, I had to quit. I was really worried I wouldn't be able to work out at home, but it has actually worked out quite nicely and I have been able to maintain my faithful habit. The only hurdles I have at home are a 1-1/2-year-old who enjoys sitting on me during ALL floor exercises and a pup who sometimes compromises my form by getting underfoot. Oh, and the dishes and other distracting messes, but I've learned to hold off until after my workout.

Here is my list of budget-friendly workout helpers:

1. I have rummaged, thrifted and craigslist-ed my way to a stocked workout video collection. I don't think I've paid more than $1.00 for a used workout video. You can never predict what you're going to find, so you have to practice being open-minded when going the second-hand route.

2. I also got a sweet treadmill for just $100 at a rummage sale. We have gotten WAY more than our money's worth.

3. A $2 thrift store stair stepper is great for step aerobics and also works as a makeshift weight bench for chest presses, leg lifts and all sorts of other exercises.

4. I have a $1 jump rope that gives one of the best workouts ever. I compiled a list of jumps to try on my sparkpeople blog.

5. I got some inexpensive weights at the store. A 5lb and 8lb set will do for a lot of women. I found my husband found some 15 pounders on craigslist for $15.

6. I have magazine subscriptions to Self and Shape Magazines, which cost something like $12 each for a full year. I have hundreds of workouts pulled from these magazines, and filed away by workout type, that I can always turn to. At best, you can log on to these or other health-related magazines' websites to learn something or print workouts. Self has some really good workout videos you can follow along with as well. As a side note, Self Magazine was one of the first major health motivators for me way back in 2000. The upbeat, anyone-can-do-it attitude really got me revved to start a fitness program.

7. If you've heard it from me before, you'll hear it from me again. Sparkpeople is one of the best free health sites I have ever come across. Here you can log workouts, log what you eat, and look up health articles on almost any topic. There are health calculators, health calendars, community forums and so many things I can't even list.

8. Free workout videos in a variety of different practices and time limits are provided by exercise TV. Also Yoga Today provides a free hour-long Yoga workout every day and offers over 200 downloadable videos for cheap.

9. The library is a rich resource for workout videos, health books, healthy cookbooks and more for free. Or check out their CD selection for fresh workout music.

10. Check out your local video store as well. We have a local one where educational videos, which includes workout videos, are free to rent.

11. For parents, playgrounds offer a really nice workout opportunity that allows you to play like a kid again. Do a Google search for playground workouts to find something like this.

12. A good pair of running shoes provides plenty of workout hours, whether you prefer free local trails, the sidewalk, the treadmill, or the track.

13. For around $300 each, my husband and I each bought a kayak. We have definitely gotten our money's worth out of these too. We barely have to plan when we want to go out for a row and we can drop them in the water almost anywhere that's open to the public. For the cost and the experience in nature, it sure beats slaving away in the gym!

14. I also recommend a set of stretch tubing and a fitness ball. For around $10-$15 each, you get more workout options than you can imagine for your money. If you're lucky like me, you might happen upon these at a rummage sale or inside a workout DVD itself for even less!

Home gym Complete!

Strong Internal Desires

Friday, February 19, 2010

Have you ever had that feeling like you were meant to do something profound? Like trolling along through your day-to-day life wasn't nearly enough? Like you were missing something you were supposed to be doing? I've been having one of those days...months...years really. I feel this strong internal urging to do something amazing, but am at a loss as to what that something might be. As silly as this might sound to some, I feel like with being on "this side" of 30, that prime time to shine is running out.

I don't necessarily desire celebrity or barrels of money. I am not being lured by selfish desires. It's not so much about status as it is about making some sort of impact for the benefit of others. I can't turn this switch off, nor do I want to. I'm just trying to figure out where this internal drive is leading me.

The two magnetic forces that are attracting my "like crazy" are all things nature-related and writing.

But this also makes me wonder if everyone has the same pestering feeling. You watch all these people trying out for American Idol who enter the auditions completely convinced that they have what it takes to entertain the entire country and then they're complete flops. Is this inkling a complete lie then? Are these people just completely crazy? Am I then crazy?

On the other hand, I've read about moguls of different niches that felt that strong push as well. Perhaps it's just how in-tune we are to our real talents, not talents we convince ourselves we have, that determines whether we succeed or fail.

People in Passing

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sometimes people you meet only once have a profound effect on you. Perhaps it's because you don't have enough time to find out about their nuances, idiosyncrasies or other challenges. Sometimes those moments are better left that way, without complication, with one day planted in perfection in your mind.

There was a boy in college who took a friend and me on a canoe ride. It was perfect weather and my friend and I were even dressed up a little in flowy skirts. (One fisherman laughed and asked us if we were going to prom, but we weren't THAT dressed up). The boy educated us about a few flowers and animals. He obliged to our whims, allowing us to "just float" for awhile, as we took pictures of reflections, Lily pads and other flora and fauna. We stopped to put our feet in the water in this little knee-deep inlet where we thought we spotting mink swimming and took more pictures.

I have never seen this boy since then and probably never will. But this happens to be one of the most poignant memories I have of enjoying pristine nature with some of the best company I've ever had.

There was also the man at the Kilgore Oil Museum. This man was the most friendly docent I have ever met. He had shimmering eyes and smiled warmly at me, a little non-descript 10-year-old visitor. After talking with us a little bit, he bent down and handed me a hand-carved (by him) reindeer with little eyes and a red pom-pom nose. To this day, I bring out the little reindeer to put alongside the nativity scene and remember that man who became the highlight of my experience in Texas.

Home Sweet Nest

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

There's no force greater than a mother's nesting instinct.

I mean, I have never been more inclined to remove the dust from the baseboards or remove every stray string from my home as I have since I was "with child".

No one can stop me when a small tidying-up project turns into a whirlwind rid-a-thon. As I've explained in a previous post, those little piles of junk provide great threatening pressure to my life-filled chest. They can also pose a threat to that small person that toddles around them. Not just physically, but emotionally. I mean, I don't want this boy to grow up without seeing the value in the things around him. I want him to take care of his home. I want to prime him to be a responsible respectable young man who values order in his life, especially for the benefit of any future partners. So, I have to set an example for him by taking at least a little bit of care of our things.

Physical dangers do exist as well, I admit. I can't tell you how worried I was after we put fiberglass insulation in the attic. After vacuuming below the door several times, I still worried about the microscopic pieces that still must be embedded in the carpet and what would happen if the baby got a piece stuck in a tiny digit and we wouldn't be able to see it nor would he be able to tell us where it hurt. It would just kill me if our carelessness hurt him.

So, the nesting instinct is also married to that ruthless polygamist Guilt. When I found remnants of larvae (gasp!) in an old can of instant cocoa mix, I instantly pegged myself as a careless mother.

Who else thinks about how, after the dog pees on his foot during a walk, he will clean most of it off in the snow during the 3 mile trek, but will come home with God-only-knows-what-else on his feet and walk all over the house and the baby will pick up a banana from said floor and ingest it? And who gives their dog a bath more than once or twice a month anyway? Mommies have been blessed (cursed?) with such instincts for ages to keep their children safe.

Really, nesting is a force that cannot be reckoned with. Only after exhausting myself once in a while with tile and a bottle of bleach, and scouring away at some of that instinct, can I finally sit back and allow the 10-second-rule to apply. Only after!

Melting into the Sheets

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No, I'm not talking about sex. I'm talking about a soothing nightly ritual that puts me in the mood for...sleep. My ritual feels so indulgent, I sometimes trick myself into thinking that I shouldn't do it all the time like some other extravagant luxury. But really, it's the best and easiest thing that I've found to do before bed that costs nothing and takes only a few minutes.

I did a Google search for morning and nighttime exercises and came across a few that I return to time and again. My ultimate favorite thing to do is breath-regulating, stress-relieving Yoga. Something like Fitness Magazine's 8-Minute Workout: Yoga for Better Sleep. I have a few of these routines printed off and stored within reach in my bedside table. In addition to calming the body through breath, these routines nix any leftover kinks from the day with gentle stretching. And stretching my back and other tight areas is the next best thing to a nice massage or being rocked to sleep as a child.

I can feel the difference between going to bed after not doing Yoga versus doing Yoga. It's easier to melt into the sheets after doing a gentle nighttime routine. Something even that simple has the ability to leave the mind a little calmer and the body decompressed. It also changes my energy, giving it a more positive glow that primes my body for perfect sleep. Ahhhh...

Flashback to a Breakdown

Friday, February 12, 2010

So, I'm sitting in the middle of a boring presentation at work and something triggered a memory of me having a small breakdown. I don't know what the trigger was. Perhaps the presenter alluding to an over-worked staff on an assembly line that wasn't allowed to run to the bathroom without someone to relieve them that triggered the memory.

Oh how I love my job! There is not one smidgen of sarcasm in that statement. I really do HEART it. I am so thankful to work in a place that is so thankful. They constantly do little things to improve morale. Even when the economony is reeling, they offer little gifts to make us feel valued. Aside from that, I get paid to write and I can't ask for more!

So, maybe I was reliving those scary moments in my life when I was beyond overworked and looking for a small pocket of air. One of those moments where I was pushed beyond my normal outward composure was during an Education class in college. The professor broke the class into groups of 4-6 people for a final project and paper. We were all supposed to meet outside of class *gasp* and collectively put together a presentation, a lesson plan, a handout and a final paper (did I mention that I dropped the Secondary Education portion of my major?) Trying to find a time when all 6 people could meet for the amount of hours required to put together that type of project was Impossible, with an upper-case I.

I was working full-time and going to school full-time with little time in between for sleep. I barely knew who my parents were though I lived only a mile from them. Let's just say, we ended up with a D on the project *gasp again for this Magna Cum Laude* mostly because one person forgot to hand in his handout. With that, we would've been bumped up to a B.

As normal behavior for me, I immediately made an appointment to talk this project over with my professor. Now I'm not the type to whine. I'm the type to take a situation like this with a proactive approach and see what could be done to make it better. And every single time, without fail, I made the effort to talk alone with a professor, my grade got a boost. So, there I was, asking this professor what I could do.

I explained to her that, according to the criteria created by her, the entire group should not have been penalized for the shortcomings of one person. One measly handout. One slacker in the group. She said she wouldn't change the grade. Then I asked her if she'd be willing to offer some sort of Extra Credit opportunities to keep the old GPA in prime shape. She recoiled.

That's when I lost it.

Right there, in that foreboding professor's office, I let loose a cascade of tears and barely coherent words, complete with heaving and blubbering. The whole works. I had absolutly no control over it.

It wasn't just the D, it was what it stood for. I had diligently researched my portion of the project (she basically downgraded me for the depth of my research as well, which, in my opinion, is bad sportsmanship since they teach to delve the depths, but anyway...), completed countless other projects for five other classes in the same period of time, studied, put in 8 hour shifts at a thankless job where I nearly froze to death one day, basically ate crumbs on my way out the door, slept an average of 5 hours a night for early classes, paid my own tuition and other bills, had no free time for socializing with dear friends and this lady was going to tell me I wasn't doing enough? The weight-bearing activity finally crushed its host. To add insult to injury, she suggested I make an appointment for counseling in the Psychology department. (Truth be told, she did take me up on the Extra Credit suggestion and I think I ended up with a B in the class).

I know I know. Don't be the victim here. That's not my intention. I am just thankful to have come as far as I have. Life is a little less degrading and a lot more fulfilling these days. It's sometimes nice to look back and see how far I've come and to see how many bloody knuckles it took me to get here. Ahhhhhh!

Join the Club

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Today I will be working on paperwork to join the National Weight Loss Registry. This is a group of thousands of people who have lost 30+ pounds and kept them off for over a year. I am proud to say that I can now call myself a member of this club.

They ask you to send in before and after pictures of yourself if you don't have medical records to prove your before and after weights. As I was leafing through the shoebox of memories, I came across a whole lot of pictures of my larger self. Written in my "beautiful face" were insecurities so deep, they were actually paralyzing. I don't like to revisit that place in my life very often because it opens old wounds and still has profound effects on my current demeanor, but I also felt a sense of relief. Thank goodness I pulled myself out of that funk. Thank goodness I can fit into the regular sizes of clothes that stores carry. Thank goodness my health accomplishments have made me realize my potential in other areas of my life. Thank goodness I can finish a 5k strong any day I choose now.

So, wish me luck as I sign myself over to science. I am excited to become a member of a society in which I've never felt a greater sense of belonging. And I am so glad to be part of a team that is dedicated to analyzing and discernign the best ways to lose weight/become healthy and keep it that way.

This Will Make You Uncomfortable

Monday, February 8, 2010

Don't worry, I'm not going to divulge some gory details about myself or anything. I'm just going to tout the benefits of breaking out of your comfort zone.

It's easy to go home, cuddle under a blanket and watch television for the evening, perhaps even in a different room than your significant other because you have significantly different tastes in entertainment. If you're only aspiring to get nowhere, this plan is fine. But if you're sitting there looking at the TV thinking you could make up the next invention for the Shark Tank or sweat as much as the next contestant on Biggest Loser, you're cheating yourself by falling into these comfortable patterns.

Losing weight and making a healthy lifestyle change are going to be uncomfortable for a time. I'm sorry to break it to you, but there's no magic involved. No fairy dust you can buy on an infomercial. If you plan for a little blood, sweat and tears, you'll be much more prepared to plunge through it. You'll begin to create your own little first aid kit to clean up the damage. But don't worry, it's not that scary either, especially when you make small changes one at a time.

You'll feel a little out of breath doing cardio, you'll feel that "good burn" the day (or two) following strength routines, you'll try fitness classes that make you move in ways you never have before, you'll feel out of place in the gym, you'll want to stop halfway through some days, you'll indulge in guilty treats once in awhile. But I promise you, if you're a little bit uncomfortable, you'll turn your nondescript life or body into something extraordinary.

By the time you've established a healthy lifestyle, you'll notice a big change. Now you'll be uncomfortable when you see a stack of deep-fried onion rings being served to the table next to you at the restaurant, because you sure as heck didn't order heart damage. You'll be the one that's uncomfortable watching the overweight woman holding her thighs trying to make it up the stairwell, because you'll know all too well the deep dissatisfaction this feeling caused you in the past. Most importantly, you'll be uncomfortable just sitting still.

This really applies to many things in life, including your relationships, work life, hobby pursuits or anything you can think of. Showing up in a room where you don't know anyone, approaching your partner with a subject you've never broached before, or taking on a work project you feel unqualified to do will leave you a little on edge. But the rewards you will reap for your uncomfortable-ness will be beyond compare. You'll be glad you stepped out of your bubble. You'll rejoice when you cross those finish lines you never imagined you'd be crossing.

After all, would you rather be a little uncomfortable and working towards achievement, or comfortable and stagnant, receiving nothing in return for nothing? Prepare to be uncomfortable!

Flabby Abs Beware

Friday, February 5, 2010

I just read a great tip that I thought I'd pass along. The article I read was sort of about keeping New Year's resolutions, but it really deals with forming healthy habits any time of year.

They key is to become emotionally attached to your goal. Don't just say "I'm going to lose 20 lbs." Think about how you'll feel when you're you're that much lighter. Think about what you'll be able to do or do better when that load is lifted, such as run up the stairs, fit into a beautiful dress, touch your toes, prevent a disease, run a 5K, enjoy people's company without giving any thought to how you look, etc.

When you do work out or eat healthfully, think about how great you feel afterwards. How your lungs expand to capacity and your muscles push out against your skin. You enjoy a greater awareness of your body's capabilities. Think of how your skin pinkens and your blood pumps like brand new.

Take this tip to another level with active visualization. I've been reading a lot lately about how the world's highest achievers, including Olympic athletes, have a visualization habit in common. Before competitions, they visualize participating and completing their sport with a flawless, victorious ending. Create a vision board, write a letter to yourself, or create an "achievement" journal. Every one of these things connects you emotionally to your body and goals. It becomes increasingly difficult to quit when you've become emotionally attached to your goals.

I Know, I'm Full of Ideas Lately

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A woman's purse is an empire.

I mean, seriously, you can find anything in there. A woman could rule the world as long as she had a nice satchel standing loyally beside her. And she'd be pretty darn lost without it. It holds practically everything we could ever need, and in emergencies everything to rig together, McGuyver-style, what we don't have.

A woman's purse also holds all sorts of mysteries. My mother used to chastise us if we ever looked in her purse without telling her. It gave our little imaginations something to toy with every time. I mean, what could possibly be in there that would merit such a response from her? Did she have some dirty little secrets, some little black book that we could potentially come across and accidentally betray her supposed innocence? Birth control? Another credit card dad didn't know about? Oh, the suspense.

Perhaps it's the delicacy of the whole money subject that makes us guard our purses with militance. If our checkbook happened to open to a particularly delicate page or the number of credit cards betray our bad habits. What then? Some deep private secret could be revealed inside a gum wrapper. Entire personalities can be gauged by what's inside and we sure don't want everyone knowing how much we make.

Here's a lesson for men. You MUST condone a woman's desire for choosiness when it comes to her empire. She will have you covered when you pop your pants button. Her entire identity rides upon the shape, style, size and material of her purse. It's essential that she find the perfect one, no matter the price tag.

Here's what you'll find in my favorite Green Monkey purse, a very revealing list, I would say:

1. Moist towelettes (I have a son and I wear makeup, what more can I say?)
2. Pocket mirror
3. Cinnamon Gum
4. Nail Clippers
5. Lip gloss
6. Small notebook with to-dos and shopping lists in the front and family gift ideas and favorite (baby/character) names in the back.
7. Checkbook
8. Cell phone
8. Several envelopes of money to differentiate the baby's Christmas money from the leftovers from the water bill, because I'm really bad at keeping it all straight.
9. Sunglasses
10. A ton of pens, because where I work, we could fill buildings with pens
11. Stamps
12. Pocket knife (dare I tell about how I forgot to take this out of my purse on the last flight I took?)
13. Various gift cards (did I mention, I'm a big saver?)
14. Various receipts (and also a tracker of every cent spent?)
15. Card holder for all my membership, insurance, credit and debit cards with a few pictures of the fam mixed in.
16. A cute change purse with lots-o-change.

Reinventing the Wheel

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why is it OK to use others' ideas in order to prevent "reinventing the wheel", but we have to constantly reinvent ourselves to every person we meet to earn ourselves any value?

So, you leave college, change jobs, and suddenly that perfect attendance, A+ average and raving reviews from your college professors mean absolutely nothing. You have to perform above average on the corporate tasks set before you over and over again to once again gain that superior reputation.

Then, you change doctors three times in the last five years due to your medical coverage, and along the way all those years in a row of normal results mean nothing, and you have to start out at year one again and again (even though you've been in the same monogamous married relationship for the past three years and tested normal for the past 10 and had every detail of your past medical history faxed over each time). The new eye doctor also doesn't get it until you're there three years in a row. Then he says, well, something must be wrong.

You graduate college, get married, have a baby and after that, fall off the face of the Earth. It is difficult to renew that sense of excitement or level of care people have for you during those times. If you're not shopping for a gown or picking up a layette, you're nobody. Unless maybe you've somehow found the key ingredient to erasing laugh lines. Even then, you'd have to pitch your product with a huge marketing budget in order for anyone to hear about it.

Then, you're in a nursing home with no visitors and your most exciting feat for the day is planting a fricken' tomato seed. Most situations, relationships, types of people, and news events aren't "fresh" to you anymore. You can't bungee jump from a New York building anymore. And even if you were a world-renowned artist a few decades back, no one would stop long enough to learn about it because you're not "fresh" anymore.

This is why it is so important to not write people off because the first time you saw them, they had a toothpaste smudge on their sleeve. Every one of my best friends will tell you that they didn't think much of me when they first saw me. It took a long time and a lot of exploration to find out who I really was and that I might be worth being around. I myself have been surprised to find out certain things about people that I never would've imagined and found love in an unlikely place. I despised my own husband when I first met him. That's the trouble. Most of us are all too dismissive. Try not to miss out next time, okay?

By the way, Miss Bride-of-the-Year, while we're overjoyed about your union, please remember that once this is all over, the hype will disappear very rapidly. Try not to ruin friendships, pine over icing colors for too long, or float your head too high, because we all need you back on Earth, and we don't want to have to cringe at the thought of you when you come back.

P.S. What is happening to cinnamon-flavored gum? This cure for my boredom-of-the-mouth (more on that in a later post) is disappearing from every well-stocked candy shelf imaginable. Wrigley's cinnamon? Are you out there somewhere?

Extenuating Circumstances Make Great Friends

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sometimes it takes a tragedy, an emergency situation or an unlikely pairing on an eternal bus ride to deepen a connection between two rare souls. Sometimes it seems a tragedy in itself that it takes such extenuating circumstances to forge said connection.

I remember a woman I used to work with that reamed someone out for asking her how she was one day. Instead of just letting it go as a socially responsible thing to ask, she lectured him about the unfriendliness of the "how are you" question when he really had no regard for the answer. But would it have been more friendly to just ignore her and walk into the building without having said a word to her?

In a way, she was right though. These less-than-meaningful social graces we subscribe to don't fulfill that deep desire for human connection. But it would be difficult to forge that connection with every single person we pass, and so these social graces keep us moving along in harmony.

However, wouldn't it be nice, once in awhile, if we could form some deep bonds with the people we meet in passing? Without being couped up next to them in a bathroom during an hour-long tornado warning? Without lying next to them on an airport bench during severe winter weather that left you both stranded?

I have a neighbor that I've said "hello" to in passing. She's right around my age with a little daughter. We seem to be in a similar sort of life situation in many respects, yet I didn't even know her name for the first three years of living in my home. I mean, wouldn't it be nice to have someone within breathing distance to laught about tantrums with, to exchange babysitting, to rave about the new sidewalks, and to whisper about our mates?

I have good friends, to be sure. But sometimes the logistics of separate cities, multiple children and different working hours leave little time for get-togethers, let alone grabbing a quick coffee. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone so close by that you don't need to think about packing your baby in the car, running for gas, and being home in time for dinner? And why not be close friends with a neighbor anyway?

So, we invited the neighbor, her daughter and boyfriend for a cookout during the summer. From my profile, you can see that I have a craving for connection. I tend to fall more on the reserved side though, so I let my husband do the talking. I mean, why not? Why not take those small opportunities and turn them into something remarkable? A tight group of close friends keeps us all happy, healthy, well-adjusted human beings. And they have nice warm homes to hide out in when you accidentally lock yourself out of the house.