Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Best Day Ever

This week we were out to dinner with friends, and one of them was telling us a funny story from college. He quipped, "It was the best day ever." When his wife looked over she asked to what he was referring, and I said it was the day he married her. She rolled her eyes knowing that's not what he'd said, but it raised a question. My husband asks the group, "Remove the big ones - weddings, birth of children - but what is your best day?"

Nobody had a ready answer because that's a huge question. I've been thinking about it in the days since wondering, other than those huge life events, what is my best day? It turns out I don't have a best day, a single best 24 hours in my life. I have a series of moments that, when woven together, make up my best day.

Take our wedding as an example. I loved our wedding, and I had so much fun. But to be honest it wasn't the best day of my life. It's stressful. It's expensive. It flies by in a blur, and you don't really get to spend time with your family or friends. I barely saw my brand new husband that day. It was a fun day, but it wasn't the best day of my life. 

My best day includes the moment the nurse walked into the hospital room with a tiny bundle and my husband and I were confused and elated to realize this was our son. It includes the first night my husband kissed at me, and we made out in my car at a park 'n ride for 45 minutes at 2 am. On my best day I watched a University of Arizona football game and drank coffee with my dad in his hospital room during the last evening I'd ever spent with him. I was in the delivery room when my beautiful niece was born. It's two days before our wedding and I'm laughing hysterically in my living room with my parents and siblings, I think the last time just the six of us were together without significant others or children. I'm finishing my first marathon. I'm hearing my husband's amazing laugh across a room. I'm brave enough to do a back handspring on the hard gym floor for the first time. I'm rocking Will in the middle of the night. Murphy is licking me with his puppy breath. I'm in the middle of a five hour brunch with some of our best friends. I'm sitting on the screened in porch on our Maine vacation reading during a thunderstorm. I'm drinking a bottle of Veuve with our neighbors on a random Tuesday. My husband is handing me a cup of coffee prepared exactly the way he knows I like it. I'm reading The Bridges of Madison County. Will is snuggled on my lap watching a movie. I'm eating a grilled chicken salad from the Boston Beanery. I'm in high school and my mom is buying me my own little Christmas tree to put in the basement because I'd been feeling down. I'm lying in bed chatting with my best friend who's pregnant with baby number two. My dad is running ahead of us on a hiking trail climbing every rock with a "do not climb" sign. My husband is holding my hand in the car and singing Randy Travis's Forever and Ever, Amen to me. I'm singing one of my favorite hymns with Mom in church. I'm taking Izzy on a long walk. I'm 16 years old and riding the escalator to street level in DC and falling in love with cities for the first time. I'm running a half marathon with my friend Nikki. I'm drinking with my sister in the gazebo at Duck-In in Virginia Beach. I'm riding my bike to my grandparents' house with my brother. I'm drinking a pina colada on the beach in Mexico. I'm falling in love with winter in a -11 degree day in Marquette, Michigan. I'm sitting on the porch swing at our house in Hundred. I'm eating duck confit at Richmond Station in Toronto. I can see mountains. My best day smells like lilacs. 

When I think of those moments I love the most, they're rarely a big event or a vacation. They're those instants that happen every day, and if you aren't paying attention you could miss them. My best day was amazing, and it's not over. It's barely begun.     

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Perspective Damn It!

I am constantly searching for lasting perspective. Some major, life changing event will happen, and I will think this is it! This is the event that will help me gain major life perspective. I'll slow down. I'll take life in. I'll be kind to myself. And then there's the competing side of that: I can slow down when I'm old. Life is too short. There's too much to do/see/experience that I don't want to miss any of it! Say yes to every single social opportunity!

When I lost my dad a little more than a year and a half ago I thought the deep perspective I'd gained would be permanent. Six months later I was blogging about my complete exhaustion. I think back now to how I felt last March when I wrote that blog, and I had so much energy compared to now. When will I listen to my body? I think we all know the answer is never. The question then becomes how will I balance a busy life and a chronic illness without sacrificing the things I don't want to miss?

The last few weeks have been crazy. My husband has taken several work trips. We went to Richmond, Virginia a few weeks ago and returned late on Monday evening. On Tuesday I was in Ann Arbor (an hour away). On Wednesday I fought metro Detroit traffic on both ends of the day, spending four hours in the car to go to meetings. On Thursday evening we threw a fundraiser for our friend at our house. By 8 am Friday morning we were in the car driving north three hours to Traverse City for my work. We spent the weekend and upon returning on Sunday my husband drove almost directly to the airport to leave again. Yes we've scheduled all these things, and at the time they get added to the calendar it seems manageable. But then that time gets here and it's brutal. This week we have something every evening but one, and I have no idea when we will do small things like yard work or have the plumber out (something we've needed to do for weeks). 

I'm not complaining. Honestly I don't know any other pace. But this weekend I've warned my husband to plan nothing. NOTHING. If you want to see us too bad. We are making zero plans, and I will not budge. I am unavailable not because we have plans but because I refuse to have plans. It's 48 hours with nothing on the calendar. Then next week it starts again: a wedding, an overnight getaway, college friends in town, a trip to Chicago. And then there's August. Don't get me started on August. And I don't want to miss a second of it; not an instant because we have a lot of fun things planned. But that does mean that sometimes I'm going to bed at 9 pm (and by sometimes I mean pretty much every night that we're home with no plans). 

Last week I was sitting in stopped traffic on the way to Detroit having left my house at 6:30 am. I was feeling really overwhelmed and started crying in the car. I was desperately seeking that perspective that I sometimes feel can be elusive. Then I started thinking of my friend John who we lost last month so abruptly. Life is just flying by and I'm pissed sitting in traffic, and then it's just gone. It's so fleeting. I think about him frequently, and I had this moment where I realized in the scheme of life it's just traffic. I've created this busy, stressful environment, and it's mine to manage. And the only person who will notice my lack of perfection is me. I felt John's presence as surely as he was sitting beside me saying, "Relax little buddy." 

Running has been a stress reliever for me for years, and my abbreviated running schedule over the last eight months has presented quite the challenge to my psyche. I had iron infusions last week and this week, and next week we switch my medication again because the latest didn't cut it. I'm hoping in the next month or so to be back to running, and to encourage myself have registered for two races in July. 

I'll be running again soon! But first iron.
I will never be a calm or relaxed person. My schedule will never be clear, and I will always want to be in the middle of all the excitement. But every now and then I need a little smack in the head to be reminded of the perspective. Life is supposed to be perfect. It's messy and fluid and I, more than perhaps anyone I know, need that reminder. Today, right this very minute I feel calm and have so much perspective. Tomorrow is a different day, but I'll hearken back to this moment. These words. I will still feel stressed, but I'll embrace it. I'll remind myself to relax little buddy.

Trying to spend more time at the pool this summer with my little dude.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Joining the Team

I didn't read any parenting books before we had our son. Parenting advice is varied and nobody disagrees on the same parenting style. Plus parenting books mostly just stress me out. We're smart, educated adults. Sure we're going to screw up our kid (because that's part of the gig), but we'll figure it out. Lots of people with less resources than us have. 

When my son was two months old I wrote what may be my most controversial blog about how parents have to prioritize what's best for them. I declared that I wouldn't leave the house with my hair wet or phone in my work attire. It wasn't intended to be judgmental. My point is that these types of things were important before I had kids and would remain so after I had a child. Two and a half years later what I wrote in that blog remains true to me. And it also goes to follow that even once you have children you prioritize what's important to you, whatever that may be. I think people use children as an excuse to not do things (which I will admit that I've intentionally done to get out of things.) But if something is really important to you, having a child may make it harder. Because as in all things the hard is what makes it great, right?

I'm currently reading a magical book that has made me seriously reflect on my own parenting style. It's called Bringing Up Bebe, written by an American journalist raising her child in Paris with her British husband. She noticed things about French children that she wanted to research including they are well behaved, they eat anything, they play among themselves without interrupting adults. The book is phenomenal and has me wanting to raise my child like the French. It's the one book I really wish I'd read before my son's birth. 

I would say we are already about 50 percent on board with French parenting, although now I desperately want to raise my kid 100 percent like a French mom. One thing my husband and I decided early on is to focus on our life as a family. Sure having a child changes your life, but our life would not entirely revolve around our child. It would revolve around our family. That includes putting time into our marriage and focusing on ourselves. I adore my son. I'd throw myself in front of a train to save him without hesitation. But on a daily basis our life revolves around our entire family. We love to travel. We love to eat at restaurants. We love to have lengthy brunches with friends. It is a requirement that our child fit into this lifestyle. 

I couldn't get him to eat sushi, but he ate all the rice and loved chopsticks!
One thing the author discovers is that French parents don't throw their children in 14,000 activities and act as chauffeurs constantly shuttling their kids to the next place. I LOVE this. We had our son enrolled in tumbling on Saturday mornings, and then football season came. We are a football family, so Saturday morning anything doesn't work. He can do another activity. I won't say that there won't be a time when Will won't love a sport or activity so much that we find ourselves up to our eyeballs in practices, games and travel. But it's going to be when he's old enough to make that choice. And there will always be a family balance.*

When I was a kid I was involved in sports and academic endeavors. But those things revolved around school. There was no travel team that took up the entire weekend. As one French mom quips, "We go away on the weekends." YES. YES. YES. I want Will to have activities he loves, but we will still travel. We will still go out and have dinner. When we had our son he joined our team. He's one of the three MVPs, but he's got to go along with us. 

We were in Richmond, Virginia two weekends ago. We were home for three days, threw a political fundraiser and then headed to Traverse City, Michigan for three days. My son has flown three times this year. Kid's got frequent flier miles. Being on our team means being social, being busy, and going with the flow. He's a pro. 

Racking up miles in the Richmond Airport
Enjoying the bay in Traverse City, MI

In less than 16 years Will is going to graduate from high school. I don't want to look back on this precious time and think our family left anything in the tank. My husband and I have careers we value. We have a marriage we cherish. We have a son we love with a fervent passion and to whom we want to give every opportunity. Maybe he will decide he wants to play baseball or hockey (please no) or some other sport, and discovers he loves it so much. Maybe it will upend our lives, but we won't push him there. We have high expectations of achievement (particularly academic), but he also needs to be a kid. We travel a lot and seek out playgrounds and children's museums. Life is about experiences, and we want him to have so many of them.  

Testing the water in the James River at Richmond's Belle Isle Park
Vacay includes giant cookies
There's a lot we won't get right, and maybe someday Will will get tired of the blistering pace of the life we lead. But for now he's on the team whether he wants to be or not. He seems to like it. Hotels are his favorite. He loves room service. He loves airplanes and pilots. He appreciates travel and being social. He invites everyone at his daycare over to his house and to ride his boat (for what it's worth we do not have a boat. It belongs to my husband's grandmother.) But for our family life is meant to be busy and social. We won't have it any other way.

These days I'm channeling my inner French mom in a lot of ways.  No parenting style is perfect, but I I expect my son to be well behaved, social and a rock star traveler. There really isn't an option. That's part of what being on our team is about. There's also copious amounts of love. I think we're a pretty good team. 

*For the record I am not judging those who spend their weekends and more doing sports. That's totally fine. I'm simply saying it's not what we envision for our family, and we don't want to give up travel and other social family time.