Posted in Life As I Know It

Summer Swirl Reflection

The lazy days of summer are really not so lazy after all, now are they? I have been calling this my “Uber Summer” because it seems like all I do is get my kid from one place to the next or take my mom here and there. And my rates are even better than Uber’s…because, as it turns out, there IS such a thing as a free ride. Many, many…many of them. Continue reading “Summer Swirl Reflection”

Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

An Overdue Mother’s Day Gift  

If you are a mom, then you probably had some sort of “day” yesterday. Maybe breakfast in bed? some flowers? a nap? kids abstaining from arguing? Maybe you also needed to fit in time to celebrate your own mother and/or mother-in-law, too? Continue reading “An Overdue Mother’s Day Gift  “

Posted in Soapbox

Putting the U in Fun

Here it is, the third week of January…and how are those resolutions coming along? If you followed my recipe for success, they are probably coming along quite nicely! Of course, if you actually want to make some changes, you may already be struggling to stay focused on your goals.

Resolutions are often of the “lose 10 pounds” or “eat healthier” variety—those things that we know we should do but often let fall by the wayside as we get caught up in the day-to-day swirl that consumes us. By the third week of January, a lot of us have let go of these goals and added another checkmark to our failure list.

While some of us don’t actually make resolutions, I believe it’s important to pause and evaluate what’s what. I don’t personally make “official” resolutions, but I do think about changes that I would like to make in the coming year and aim for them. And I know one of mine that should most likely be one of yours, as well:

Play more.

We need to purposefully make ourselves seek out fun. Not just because it’s fun to play…but because our brains literally benefit from it. You may remember my love of Brigid Schulte’s book Overwhelmed Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time. In it, Schulte provides solid research about our need for play. Need. Not want. Play allows our brains to reenergize and function better. Without it, our brains don’t get bounce-back time…and our brains need that in order to perform more effectively.

 

Dogs know how to play...so should we
Dogs know how to play…so should we

 

Schulte also explains how this is a particular need for women—that women are historically encouraged to feel that we need to earn our play time or at least be productive while we’re at it (quilting bee, anyone?) Historically men have set aside playtime with little or no guilt, but women…well, we all too often feel guilty for having fun. (Remember this is a gender generalization—I’m sure some of you guys feel guilty playing golf or having poker night, so don’t whine at me. We are talking about historical fact here, people.)

We all need to give ourselves permission to have fun. We need to look at the world around us and not just see the work that needs doing but the fun that needs having. And we need to do it without guilt. Making free time (gasp!) for play is not a crime, though our culture of busyness often makes it feel that way.

 

skating
all seasons offer unique play opportunities

 

I don’t know about you, but I almost always have a cloud of “shoulds” over my head no matter what I’m doing—including play time. If I’m playing a game with my son, I’m remembering that email I need to follow up on. If I’m going to watch a favorite show, I should probably do it while folding laundry or ironing. And if I choose not to be productive while I’m watching, then there’s a little pang of guilt that pokes at me.

Sound familiar? Schulte describes that as “contaminated time.” We may be doing something leisurely, but responsibilities keep creeping in and contaminating the time—reducing the positive effects of play.

SO…what would it look like if you made a resolution to play more? It would show up in both little and big ways. Playing that game with your child and being fully present (no thoughts of work!) or simply going for a bike ride and breathing in the fresh air. Or maybe it’s simply letting yourself get lost in a book. And when guilt or worry creeps in, recognize it and tell it to scram. This is play time, bucko.

 

a birthday treat from a few years ago
a birthday treat from a few years ago

 

Playing in bigger ways is also important. Maybe there is something you’ve always been wanting to do but haven’t made the time for it. Make it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to throw a pot (like, on a pottery wheel…not across the room, though if you find that fun, go for it) in order to reenact the scene from Ghost where Patrick Swayze does his own kind of pot-throwing. Or perhaps you’d love to know what it feels like to drive a race car. Or ride a horse. Maybe it’s something as simple as setting aside a monthly play night with some friends that you treat as sacred—that time is non-negotiable for anything else.

However it works for you—play more. You don’t need permission. You don’t have to earn it. If people give you that elitist crap about “must be nice to have time to do X,” don’t let it make you feel like you have to justify yourself. Do it and don’t feel guilty. Do it and be fully present. Do it to help your brain grow stronger.

I know I’m sounding like a Nike commercial, but it’s true: just do it. Play.

You’re worth it.

 

All photos are my own.
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Posted in Life As I Know It

FraGEElay All Over the Place

Just a few days before Christmas…and I think if one more person asks me “are you all ready for Christmas?” I just may have to clock them upside the head. Of course, it’s a pretty reasonable question at this point, but since I’ve been getting asked that by various people since about a minute and a half after Thanksgiving, I’m a little over it. Continue reading “FraGEElay All Over the Place”

Posted in Soapbox

Fight the Vortex

Thanksgiving used to be a “purer” holiday. No Black Friday. No Cyber Monday. Just family, friends, food, and football—along with being thankful for our many blessings. Commercialism hadn’t dug its talons into Thanksgiving yet—not like it had done to Christmas years ago.

Christmas has so much hoopla and hubbub surrounding it that it is easy to lose sight of why it came to be a holiday in the first place. It seems each year the pressure to have the “best” Christmas pushes earlier and harder.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the swirl of it all.

 

peace

 

Over the last few years, though, I have made a conscious effort to push back. While some of the choices are a result of tighter finances, some are from my desire to simplify and stop the madness. I am fighting the vortex that wants to pull me in and cloud my vision with the “stuff” of the season—rather than the Reason for the season.

A few Decembers ago, the month was jammed—I was either scrambling to get things ready or scrambling to be at whatever it was that I was scrambling to get ready for. I could have easily won the “dog chasing her own tail” contest.

And then a little question popped into my head: why?

Yes, there were the things I was committed to doing—like getting the house decorated and ready to entertain—but what else was I taking on? And why?

Asking why made me opt out of a thing or two. Though the yearly cookie exchange was a tradition, I stepped back and asked myself why was I adding on the additional tasks of choosing the right recipe, shopping, and baking dozens of cookies when time was already so precious. It wasn’t because I love to bake—because I don’t. And while the cookies I came home with were (mostly) delicious and the couple of hours with friends was nice, I realized that it wasn’t worth the additional stress in a month already crammed with stress. (Though February would be a great month for such a thing!)

I realized it was time to say “no thank you” to the cookie exchange. Exhale.

 

joy

 

And then there was our Christmas letter. For years I had crafted the Roach Report, which was a whimsical little newsletter of updates and photos. People always said they loved receiving it because it was fun to read, but it also took time to put together. And, quite frankly, our life events of late were getting a little harder to share in an amusing way: “Another job loss!” or “My mom nearly died!” are not exactly smile-inducing headlines. In my heart, I realized that—at least for now—the Roach Report was on hiatus. No writing, designing, printing, stuffing, stamping, or mailing. Exhale.

Some simplifiers come from necessary belt tightening due to job loss(es. Yes, plural. I told you the Christmas letter would be a downer!) Less money means fewer gifts, and fewer gifts means less to shop for and wrap! Staff parties are no longer on the calendar when you no longer belong to a staff, either! Simplify, simplify! Exhale.

For years, family and friends have come to our house to celebrate on Christmas Day. It’s “my” family holiday. Except for last year. As my sister’s kids get older and have significant others to plan around, coming down to our house on Christmas Day has become difficult. So last year, for the first time…my sister had Christmas at her house. At first, it was hard for me to acquiesce to losing “my” holiday, but…you know what? I realized how nice it was just to BE for Christmas. With the absence of the planning/cooking/doing, there was a whole different perspective to the day. It was so relaxing! Exhale.

Now, mind you—I will be, at least in part, hosting again this year—but I don’t want to forget the lesson of what the reduced stress felt like. There is middle ground to be had—and I’m going to find it if it kills me! (Which would be kind of ironic, given what I’m striving for…)

 

believe

 

I’ve come to truly understand over these last few years how paring down does not mean losing the spirit of Christmas at all. In fact, it actually increases the true spirit behind the holiday. As a Christian, for me Christmas is the celebration of the coming of Christ (or, as Ricky Bobby would say, “dear 8 pound, 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus”)—that is THE reason for the season. Not Santa or decorated trees or ugly sweaters—not even family. Calming some of the chaos of the season only helps me to feel that more deeply. My heart draws closer to the Love that came for me. And you.

I’m not here to preach to you how you should handle your holidays. Nope. But I am here to say that losing some of the insanity of the season works for me and maybe it will work for you, too. I am encouraging you to fight the vortex—don’t let the holiday “spirit” deplete your Spirit.

 

reason for the season

 

Maybe you are already feeling the tug and stress of all of the HaveTos facing you and thinking there is no way that you can realistically stop the madness. If that is where you find yourself, I hope that you are at least able to carve out moments to exhale and feel the Spirit. While stopping may be impossible, let’s at least make it a point to hit a few rest stops along the way!

 

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Posted in Life As I Know It

The Joy of the Journey (aka The 10 Minute Nerf War)

For weeks, preparations, planning, and discussions about design and strategy took place. Something big was on the horizon, and my son and his good buddy were afire with how they wanted it to happen. The amount of time they dedicated to preparation was noteworthy—and so was the fun they had in doing it.

The event? A neighborhood Nerf war. A bunch of boys picked a date to have a shootout to decide who was #1 in the Nerf world on our street. The last man standing would be the winner. The boys wanted to make sure they were prepared, and so they really got into it. My son wanted to buy a $30 vest that would hold his Nerf gear. After he heard a very clear and resounding “no” that definitely had the tone of “are you out of your flippin’ mind?” he realized he needed to follow his father’s and my suggestion to create what he needed. What followed was a wonderful think tank of my son and his friend. I just loved watching their imaginations catch fire. They did indeed come up with some very clever answers to their needs, and they were proud of their handiwork.

After a few weeks of strategizing and creating, they were ready. It was finally the afternoon of the showdown. This is where all of their hard work was leading…

 

Nerf

 

Ready…aim…fire!

It was over in ten minutes.

Who won is not important. (Okay, it was my kid.) They kind of giggled at how fast it all went down—but there was no regret in any of it. Not in the time they took to prepare or the speed in which it all culminated…Because all of it was fun.

As kids, so much of the fun is in the planning and anticipating. The actual thing is often secondary. I’m sometimes guilty of keeping my kid on a “need to know” basis (usually because I just forget), but he has told me that he wishes I would tell him about things earlier so that he is not only aware of it but can look forward to it, too. So I’m trying to remember not to be so scatterbrained (a bit of a catch-22) so that my son can have more joy of anticipation. And I think his desire for that is wonderful.

I can remember plenty of times when I was a kid where the figuring out and the setting up was so much of the fun—sometimes the main part. My friend Jen and I would decide we were going “camping,” so we would engineer a make-shift tent with a tarp and poles—we never much went for the store bought stuff because…what fun was that? And we would finally get it all set up and hang out in it just for a bit before it was time to take it all down and go in for dinner. And that was just fine with us.

 

a classic blanket fort
a classic blanket fort from a few years back

 

I remember one time my sister and I were building forts in our basement. There were different sections to the basement, and one of them was a nice little room with a TV and a couple sofas. She claimed she wanted that space, so of course, I wanted it, too. I felt so victorious when she gave in and said I could have it. Ah-HA! I got the great room! And so I flopped on the sofa and watched some TV…but I could hear my sister very busy on the other end of the basement. I peeked over in curiosity and saw that she had half of the Ping-Pong table down and had covered it with blankets. Light was emanating from underneath. I had to go check it out. Sure enough, my sister had built an awesome fort with its own groovy light and everything! My victory was hollow…the real fun was had in building the fort and then hanging out in it. Being the generous sister, though, she did let me look inside her fort to see how cool it was, but then she told me I had to go back to my place. Ah, big sisters…

Certainly there are plenty of times where the destination is by far the biggest slice of the pie, but even then we must not forget the journey. Yes, a long car ride to an amusement park or a nerve-wracking flight to vacation may not be the best of journeys to savor, but they still merit appreciation.

 

map

 

A life lived in the “are we there yet?” mentality will mean that only bits and pieces of life will truly be lived and enjoyed.

That is simply not enough.

If you read my recent crossroads post, you know that I am at the beginning of a journey in which I do not know the destination. Naturally, as an adult with responsibilities, this puts a ton of additional stress on me. But even during this anxious time, I know I need to be more like the kid I was who truly felt the value of the dream as the dream…of the journey as the destination.

If all I do is look and pray for the end game, then I may once again find myself quickly maneuvering for the basement TV room rather than the wonderful Ping-Pong fort.

And this time around…I really want to enjoy building the fort.

 

All photos are my own.
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