Archive for December, 2010

Year End Markdowns: All Thoughts One Dollar

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

I’m going offline for a couple of weeks.  It’s time to close the books on 2010 and settle into uninterrupted time with my family.  But before I sign off, I want to offer one last Ten Dollar Thought for the year.  This blog will turn one while I’m away, and before I hit the ground running in 2011 I want to say how much this year of writing and conversing with each of you has meant to me.  I believe I am a better person because of Ten Dollar Thoughts and because of your contributions to it.  Thank you for reading, for thinking with me, for challenging me, for supporting me, and for being a part of this journey.  With that, here are the exquisitely pedestrian thoughts I plan to explore over the next couple of weeks. 

How much cream can you put into oyster stew before it gets really shameful?

Will I be able to finish the book I’m reading before the end of the year, or am I giving up?

Homemade marshmallows are so much tastier than store-bought, but kind of a hassle to make.

For the first time in my life, I don’t think I’ve listened to enough Christmas music this year.

I can’t wait to meet my new niece in April.

What does a roasted chestnut actually taste like?

I wonder if Katie Couric will go back to the Today Show next year.

I’m so happy that today is my last day of work this week.

I miss my sisters-in-law.

Maybe I should just pony up and make the stupid marshmallows.

Oh, and a coffee cake too!

I haven’t watched Elf or Christmas Vacation yet this year and I’m almost sure that’s some kind of crime.

Things that solve most problems include: soft sheets, pasta carbonara, and a hug from IEP.

I hope 2011 is as terrific as 2010 has been.

Go Outside and Don’t Come Back in Until Supper

Monday, December 20th, 2010

If you were to have a conversation with my mother about the way kids are being raised today chances are that before the chat ended she would have told you two illustrative stories. 

Both are anecdotes that were born out of studies about children and play.  In the first story a child was given a piece of paper and some crayons and instructed to create a drawing.  The child sat in her seat motionless.  She was waiting for the instructions to the project.  (Think “Today we’re all going to make purple elephants with pipe-cleaner tusks.”)  She was so accustomed to structured assignments that she had no idea how to let her creative juices flow enough even to draw a picture.  In the second story a child is being observed in order to study his playtime habits.  On a beautiful afternoon he opted to play indoors.  The proctor asked the child if he always played inside.  The child said Yes.  When the proctor asked Why the child responded, “Because that’s where the outlets are.”

Both of these stories sprang to mind as I read this article on The Huffington Post about the lost art of children’s play.  It calls out eight key benefits of unstructured play (among them: creativity, initiative, emotional skills, decision making, independence, and physical activity).  They are traits that I doubt many parents would suggest are unimportant.  Likewise I doubt that many parents would contradict the premise that these traits are fostered by unstructured play.  And yet, unstructured play in this country declined 25-45% (varying by age bracket) between 1981 and 1997. 

It’s been nearly 13 years since we closed the door on 1997.  So how is it, then, that we continue to fight these battles?  Granted I’m still a relative rookie in the child-rearing business, but what I lack in experience I work to make up for with education.  And I’ve yet to read a study or article stating “American kids have too much free time and should be involved in more activities.”  But I’ve read the opposite so many times.    

Every parent wants the best for their child.  It is a commendable (if generic) position to take.  But the fact of the matter is that most of our children will grow up to live average lives.  (And that’s okay!)  Further still, with a cruel twist of irony it’s possible that the people who were given the most “advantages” as children (in the way of pee-wee sports, music lessons, tumbling classes, and the like) will actually find themselves disadvantaged in the adult world due to a lack of imagination, initiative, and coping mechanisms.

Given all of this, I wonder why some parents still enroll their kids in the rat race as infants and toddlers.  I wonder why other parents feel the need to explain (or hide altogether) the fact of their children’s less programmed lives.  There’s an argument to be made that the “under-scheduled” will actually be better positioned to succeed than the “over-scheduled” one.  So when will the stigma die off?

I’m currently reading Barack Obama’s first book (the one that was written before he started running for things; the one that was written with candor and searching and vulnerability).  And while it hasn’t been a complete surprise to me (because it was beaten to death by the media during his presidential campaign) I have nevertheless been struck by the extent to which his youth was unsupervised and unguided.  He was taught to value intelligence and education, but most of the rest of his worldview he pieced together on his own.  And I am prone to wonder to what extent that freedom was a catalyst for his success.  Yes, he is a sample size of one.  (So is George W. Bush, whose nearly opposite upbringing led him to the same professional pinnacle.  These correlations are not incontrovertible.)  But I suspect that spending his adolescence grappling with his own ideas left him with a belief system that was rooted in careful thought and consideration; a cache of beliefs that he could articulate and defend.

Perhaps it is quite a leap to jump from an unstructured childhood to the White House.  I suppose my point is that nothing is guaranteed.  For every Barack Obama there is also a JFK.  And for JFK there is also a JFK Jr. 

We all want the best for our kids.  But I think it’s about time that we gave them their childhoods back.  Some structure and instruction is certainly good, but too much of it robs them of many other good things.  As adults we make up the rules and laws that govern our lives.  It seems to me that a made up and self-refereed game on a playground is as good a practice round for life as anything we adults could structure on their behalf.

A Little Bit Twitchy

Friday, December 17th, 2010

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, so I’ll just go ahead and say it: Julian Assange creeps me out.  A lot.  Based on his looks alone I am reasonably convinced that he is some sort of weevil in human form, come to wreak havoc on life as we know it.  Add to his list of descriptions the conflicting combination of a Robin Hood complex and rape allegations and I feel like I need to take a shower just from looking at his picture.  Malfoy-esque appearances aside, though, I wonder what it is about his rogue ways that makes me so uncomfortable.

He is hailed as a hero and a villain for his efforts to make veiled information public.  And I’m not sure where on that continuum my own opinion falls.  But I am fascinated by the polarizing nature of his presence on the international stage. 

Reviled by Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Mary Matalin and many others, they describe him as megalomaniacal, a sociopath, a psychopath, and a terrorist (not descriptions most people toss out without substantial consideration…).  Based on what I’ve read about their responses to him the common objection is that his public disclosures of classified documents jeopardize American troops throughout the world, as well as American relations with various nations. 

I am not so naïve as to believe that our government doesn’t engage in shady activities.  The world contains some very unsavory characters; characters you can’t always deal with in diplomatic summits at Camp David.  (In the words of CJ Cregg from The West Wing, “Sometimes what you need is a busboy with a silencer.”)  And I’m okay with that.  Protecting American interests can be a messy job and as long as I’m not willing to pony up and participate, I’m willing to cede my right to have access to the minutiae involved in it.

However (and this is a big however) I also believe that transparency is one of the most substantial deterrents to corruption and ineptitude.  In his column on The Huffington Post entitled “Why I’m Posting Bail Money for Julian Assange” Michael Moore asserts that had WikiLeaks existed in 2001 both the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq could have been avoided.  These are aggressive claims, but as Moore lays out his arguments, I find them plausible. 

He asserts that had the “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” memo been made public that the nation would have demanded more rigorous attention be paid to our risk factors.  Likewise he asserts that had Dick Cheney’s premise for the Iraq war (WMDs) been exposed as faulty the public support for and repeated funding of it would have been dashed.

I find it curious that back in 2006 when WikiLeaks was founded and began exposing the government secrets of Somalia and Kenya no one in the upper ranks of the United States government had a problem with it.  But now that it is our own government whose underbelly is being exposed those in power suddenly have strong opinions.  It certainly looks like guilty behavior, and yet I trust that my government is, for the most part, honest and forthright (even in dealings that are kept confidential).     

So now I sit at a crossroads of confusion.  I believe in the value of transparency and of secrecy in different circumstances.  If there is corruption in my government, I suppose I want to know about it.  At the same time I worry that the revelation of corruption could cause chaos enough to be more damaging than the corruption itself.  And again, I believe that confidentiality is equally vital to the successful running of a nation. 

I have some soul searching to do about WikiLeaks.  What I know for sure, though, is that I’d be less twitchy about the whole thing if its figurehead looked less like Julian Assange and more like Harrison Ford.

Over the Hump

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Fitting that it’s Wednesday, because at the moment I am fixated on getting over the hump.  By the calendar I cleared the halfway point of 2010 on July 1.  But, even with little more than two weeks left in the year, right now I feel awfully far away from a downhill slide to January. 

I come to this post feeling frazzled and lackluster.  I need to be professionally astute.  I need to resume my regular workouts which have gone on hiatus the past couple of weeks.  I need to find my motivation to finish out the holiday season as I pledged to do – with spirit and pleasure and joy. 

And yet, I am pining for December 23rd, when we will drive to my in-laws’ house where I will curl up into a ball for three days.  I will fall asleep on sofas and my mother-in-law will drape me with blankets.  I will roll around on thick carpet with IEP and play with nieces and nephews and toys.  I will gab with my sisters-in-law for hours.  And I will shower only when absolutely necessary.    

But December 23rd is still more than a week away.  And in the interim I must purchase and wrap gifts.  I must defend a professional opinion to my superiors.  I must finish a book I started more than a month ago.  I must complete a few personal projects to which I’m committed.  And I must not let it all get me down. 

Last night I slogged through my workout.  My feet were heavy against the treadmill.  I collapsed from my planks after less than a minute.  My arm muscles twitched with each curl and each shoulder press.  And when it was over I felt both defeated and triumphant.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was done.  And in some strange way it energized me to tackle these things that hang over my head. 

I am eager for January.  I am eager for a fresh start.  For the burst of energy that follows two short weeks in the office.  For the adrenaline rush of a new list of resolutions.  For a year about which I have high hopes.

I am eager to get over this hump.

When I Look in the Mirror

Monday, December 13th, 2010

I have long struggled with the difference between “secret” and “private.”  As a kid it was ingrained in me that if I there was anything in my life that I couldn’t share with my parents, then it was probably something I shouldn’t be involved in.  Nothing in my life should be secret.  Period.  It took me until I was out of college to arrive at a place where I was comfortable having components of my life that were private; where I didn’t assume that keeping things private was some sort of acknowledgement of impropriety. 

Nevertheless, as an “open book” kind of person, even with that level of comfort achieved, there was not much about my life that I wasn’t willing to discuss in casual conversation with just about anyone.  That held true until January 1st of this year.  That was the day I launched this blog.  I publicized it to friends and family, but – very intentionally – not to any of my coworkers. 

I kept it a secret.  At least that was how it felt.

Then last Thursday, after weeks of equivocation, I spilled my secret.  I am working with my sister-in-law/blog designer to make a few updates to this site.  We have come up with some new graphics and I was interested in an outside perspective, so I very quietly asked the graphic designer at work to stop by my office when he had a few minutes.

I was shy.  I was a sheepish.  I was unsure of myself and felt awkward about the whole thing.  My colleague, on the other hand, was unfazed by my embarrassment.  He offered his candid feedback, which was insightful and helpful in a variety of ways.  Then when I began to apologize for myself and my concerns about keeping my “secret” he countered.  

“It’s not a secret,” he said.

“But no one else in the office knows about it,” I responded.

“That doesn’t mean it’s a secret.  It’s a private passion.  Artists have private passions all the time,” he said.

“I guess I don’t think of myself as an artist.”

“Well maybe you should.”

And that was where the conversation left me without a response.  Maybe I should.  Maybe I should think of myself as an artist.  Maybe I should broaden the list of descriptions that I typically apply to myself.  Maybe wife, mother, and marketing professional do not adequately encompass the full scope of Gale. 

As I have thought further about this conversation I’m still not sure that “artist” is the right word to describe me.  But I like the idea that there are more words to describe me than I have perhaps previously acknowledged.  And I wonder how my existing list of descriptors has limited me up to this point.  How many times have I made a decision not to do something with the subconscious refrain of “Well, I’m not a(n) X” running through my mind?  How many more things might I have tried?  How much more freedom might I have given myself?

When I look in the mirror I see a wife, a working mother, a sister, and a friend.  But do I see an artist?  Do I see a writer?  Do I see a humanitarian?  Do I see a risk taker?  Do I see someone who is brave?  If the answer to those questions is No, it surely influences the way I live my life.  But to what avail? 

I like the idea that I may live a more interesting version of my life if I open the door to a broader range of identities.  I like the idea that I can be (or perhaps already am) something I never imagined.

Five Dollar Post: These Are a Few of My Fa-vor-ite Things

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Oprah Winfrey I am not.  So don’t get your hopes up that halfway through this post you’re going to read the words, “Everybody gets a new car!” because that is not going to happen.  Sorry to disappoint. 

However, this time of year gets me excited for all of my favorite aspects of the holiday season, so I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Provided you don’t work retail, I think holiday music is one of the best ways to get into the spirit of things.  While I will always have a soft spot for Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” (because it’s awesome!), my tastes generally run to the more traditional.  My all-time favorite albums are:

Christmas with Julie Andrews – No one can sing “Joy to the World” like Julie.  No one.  There are updated versions of this album which don’t include Joy to the World, and they just aren’t as good.  But you can get the original album on iTunes and you won’t regret hunting around for it. 

We Wish You a Merry Christmas by the Boston Pops – This originally aired as a television special in the ‘80s and we recorded it and watched it on VHS every year.  John Williams breathes new life into some of the most traditional Christmas songs.  And the Alfred Burt medley about halfway through contains my favorite Christmas music of all time.  If you can listen to it without singing “O Hearken Ye” for the rest of the day then you’re stronger than I am. 

For Unto You by Stephen Marq – Several years ago I was flying through Minneapolis in December and Stephen Marq was playing in the gallery of shops and selling CDs.  It was one of the best $20 I’ve ever spent.  His stunning piano interpretations give me goose bumps. 

Williams-Sonoma’s Peppermint Bark – delicious and addictive.

My Aunt B’s Peanut Brittle – no link for this one, but I’m sure you can find somebody else’s version.

Cinnamon Hot Cocoa – I have a friend who thinks cinnamon is overrated.  I think he’s wrong.  Cinnamon is delicious and this recipe (slightly adapted from an old Cook’s Illustrated) proves it. 

Whisk together in a medium saucepan over low heat 1 cup water, 6 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 4 heaping tablespoons sugar.  Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.  Add 3 cups lowfat milk, increase heat to medium low and heat until steaming, but do not allow to boil.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ¼ cup half and half.  Take a sip and immediately faint from the wonder that is cinnamon hot cocoa. 

Candy Canes – This is IEP’s addition.  We gave him his first one at the Christmas tree lot last weekend and he polished it off in about 10 minutes.  He requested that I include it on this list. 


Elf – I love Will Ferrell.  I especially love Will Ferrell as an oblivious and overgrown man in tights.  And Zooey Deschanel manages to be deadpan and dreamy at the same time. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas – I have such a soft spot for Charlie’s sad little tree.  I haven’t seen the entire thing in years, but each year I manage to catch a few minutes of a television broadcast here and there.


Nativity Scenes – We have two this year.  The first set my Aunt B (of peanut brittle fame) gave to GAP and me the first Christmas we were married.  It was designed by Jim Shore and I love the bright colors and patchwork feel.  The second set was given to IEP by my mother-in-law.  It’s Fisher Price and completely toddler proof.  Most people put the angel on top of the stable.  But IEP is a nonconformist and believes that the camel deserves the place of honor.

Garland – I dream of the day when I will live in a house with a large staircase with a wooden banister.  I will wrap it in garland every year.  In the meantime, though, I satisfy my garland addiction by framing our front door in intertwined garland and twinkle lights.  It’s a beautiful sight to see as I get home from work each evening.      


However you celebrate the holidays, I hope you have a wonderful season.  And please let me know if my lists above have any gaping holes.  I’m always eager to learn about holiday perks that I might be missing.

The Future of Friendships

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

As I think about the people I see in person on a daily basis, it is a short list: GAP and IEP, our nanny, my coworkers, and one or two neighbors.  As I think about the people who are most important in my life, it is a slightly longer list: GAP and IEP, our nanny, my family, GAP’s family (which is huge), and my girlfriends.  The thing that strikes me about these two lists is the minimal amount of overlap.  Of all the people who matter most to me, only three – husband, son, and nanny – do I see every day.  This bothers me.

It bothers me in part for obvious reasons – a lot of people I love live far away and that is hard.  But it also bothers me because of this article which says, “Hey Gale, you are doomed to a life of dissatisfaction and interpersonal failure because you don’t have weekly personal contact with the important people in your life!” …  Okay, that’s not quite what it said, but that’s how it registered with me.  (In case you don’t want to click over, the article is actually about a study showing that electronic communication is not a satisfactory substitute for in-person communication and nurture of professional relationships.) 

Juxtapose that article with this post which I read last week about the ages from 25 to 40 being a perilous time for women’s friendships, and you end up with Gale (who is 33 and smack-dab in the middle of that range) finding herself a little spooked.  I want to have and maintain meaningful relationships.  I want to have friendships that are mutually satisfying and valuable and precious.  And I worry that the structure of my life can’t readily facilitate this.

I will pause here to offer the following disclaimer: I understand that some of these things are within my control.  I control how often I call a long-distance friend to chat and catch up.  I control how often I reach out for a lunch or coffee date.  I am not purely a victim of circumstance in the fate of my friendships.  Nevertheless, the logistics of the young working parent are demanding, and it shows.

Most of my childhood friends I haven’t seen in years.  The same is true of most of my friends from college.  Time and distance have loosened those bonds.  And while many of the people still matter a great deal to me, the friendships themselves have atrophied.  I have a good group of girlfriends from graduate school.  We are like-minded career girls who have a great time together.  But between jobs and young families (our group has experienced a baby boom in the past three years) it took dozens of e-mails and an online poll just to find a single time slot in the month of December for a holiday get-together.

And so I sit and struggle with this conundrum.  I lack the BFF – the lifelong friend who knows me intimately; who both accepts and challenges me; with whom my conversations can resume after a month as though no time had passed.  I lack this friendship in my life.  (I’m not counting my sister here.)  Given this, I am faced with the fact that to maintain the friendships I do have I am going to have to put forth incredible effort.  Even with such effort I may be disappointed with the results.  I may just be in a period when female friendships exist more in the background than in the forefront of my life. 

We are a young family.  We go out with friends a couple of times a month and are reasonably social, but this is still a period of our lives that is going to be largely marked by bibs and sippy cups and bedtimes.  Life is full of tradeoffs; I know that.  But for reasons that I cannot entirely articulate, this one is hitting me harder than some of the others.

When I Grow Up

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I think for most people a NICU would be a very unsettling place.  I know that was true for me the first time I went into one.  However, over time, it has become a very comfortable place to be for me. 

Every Sunday afternoon I walk into the NICU at the children’s hospital where I volunteer and I feel perfectly at home.  I know many of the nurses by name.  And most of the babies are familiar to me as well since most of them remain patients for weeks and even months.  I walk through the ward tending to babies who are crying.  I hold them and rock them.  I put pacifiers back in mouths.  I notify nurses when feeding tubes have emptied or diapers need changing.  And during some shifts I may hold the same baby for three straight hours.  There are days when it is really very peaceful.

Lately, though, the NICU census is down and there just aren’t as many babies on the floor.  Additionally, most of the babies who are admitted right now are pretty well behaved.  This is generally a good thing.  But it can make for a slow volunteer shift.  So, on days like these I try to make myself useful elsewhere.  As regular readers of this blog will already know, I am a fan of being thrown out of my comfort zone every now and then, and yesterday’s shift was a classic example.

I ended up in the Progressive Care Unit, which means inpatient kids, but not intensive care kids.  After delivering a baby doll to flushed and overwhelmed two-year-old in the PICU, I met Emily* in Progressive Care, who was just finishing up her lunch.  The playroom for inpatients was about to open, Emily’s mother was dog tired, and Emily was quite geared up for some playtime.  So off we went.

Emily could not have been more different from my typical tightly swaddled charges.  She is seven years old.  She is missing her two front teeth.  She is bouncy and eager and talkative.  This volunteer shift was not going to be spent curled up in a rocking chair in a dimly lit room holding four or five pounds of newborn sweetness.    

And so we played.  We played kitchen, wherein she made me scrambled eggs and we split a soda.  We played Jenga.  We played baseball, which she declared boring after a few catches and requested to play basketball.  Then we played basketball for quite a while – she shot, I rebounded – until that too was declared boring.  We played with toys, puzzles, dolls, Wrestle Mania action figures, plastic animals, dress-up paper dolls, board games, and one last round of basketball again just as the room was closing. 

My time with Emily was at one time draining and fulfilling.  At the end of two hours I was fully exhausted, but also swollen with inspiration.  Had it not been for the giant IV pole and hospital-issue pajamas, she could have been any kid on any playground.  And her thirst for activity and play outweighed any physical limitations.  With about half an hour left before the playroom’s closing time she rubbed her eyes.

“Are you tired?” I asked.


“We don’t have to keep playing if you’d rather go back to your room.”

“No.  I want to play.”

And she did.  For the next 30 minutes we continued to jump from one activity to the next.  Her energy began to flag, but not her perky disposition.  This tiny little peanut of a girl, self-assured and ready to roll (even with a stranger she’d never met), snowed me with her outlook and her stamina.

I don’t know why she’s in the hospital.**  I don’t know what the two IV lines going into her chest were for.  I don’t know if she’s bothered by all the scar tissue on her arms from many previous IVs.  I didn’t know whether it was true when another little girl in the playroom looked at Emily and loudly said to her mother, “She has a big pole with lots of medicine.  That means she’s really sick.”  (I quickly redirected Emily back to our dollhouse activities so she wouldn’t have time to digest this statement.) 

What I do know is that she is happy and confident and fun.  I know that we were the last ones to leave the playroom and that she wanted to make sure to get a board game for the road.  I know that she didn’t allow her medical condition (or the equipment that goes with it) prevent her from squeezing every last moment of fun out of her two-hour playtime.  And I suspect that she similarly does not allow her illness to stop her from squeezing all she wants out of life in general. 

I know that when I grow up I’d like to be as much like Emily as I possibly can. 

*not her real name
**HIPAA prevents volunteers from asking patients any personal information, including their conditions

Who’s Got Your Back?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

IEP’s second birthday brought with it many of the expected two-year-old challenges.  Most namely strong opinions backed by a strong will.  Among those opinions is, “I hate having my diaper changed, and I really hate Desitin.”  So I was not surprised yesterday morning when I told IEP that it was time for a diaper change and he made it quite plain that he had other ideas.

He whined.  I corrected.  He squirmed.  My voice got sterner as I explained that a clean diaper was non-negotiable.  He shouted, “Nnnnnno!”  Then, like a night in shining armor, GAP walked in from our bedroom, looked down at IEP on the changing table, and in a very deep and very stern voice said, “You do NOT talk to Mommy like that.”

IEP shut right up, looked at his dad and made his “Sorry” sign.  GAP responded, “Say you’re sorry to Mommy.”  He looked at me and made the sign again.  I told IEP thank you, and then GAP left the room to finish getting ready for work.  IEP smiled at me and was unusually cooperative through the Desitin application, and promptly gave hugs and kisses to both of us (GAP had wandered back in) after I zipped his footed PJs back up and stood him up on the changing table. 

Initially I was thankful for GAPs intervention.  Actually, I still am.  It made that particular moment much easier.  But as I gained some distance from it, I began to question it.  What does it say to our son if only one parent is the enforcer? 

Naturally I am grateful to have a husband who has my back.  I am grateful that he respects me and is invested in raising a son who also respects me.  But there is a part of me that wonders if my authority is weakened if its credibility does not stand alone, but requires the endorsement of my husband.  To clarify, IEP does recognize my authority.  He sits in the corner when I tell him to sit in the corner.  He knows what it means when he looks at me as he tries to pick a glass of water up off my nightstand and I shoot him a knowing glance.  And he obeys my instructions most of the time.  But when tantrums strike it is GAP whose voice he is most likely to heed.

I realize that most two-parent families have one parent who wears the disciplinarian hat more frequently.  And I realize that in my own family it is unlikely that GAP and I will be perfectly equal in our disciplinary roles.  But I want my son to respect me and my parental authority because of me, not because of my husband standing behind me.  And further, I don’t want GAP always stuck being the “bad guy.” 

There are times when IEP challenges me and GAP begins to intervene and I call him off.  I want to resolve these toddler issues on my own.  But sometimes it’s so much easier to let my tall and deep voiced husband step in and command our son’s attention. 

So, what’s a girl to do?  I’m eager for your advice on this, so please chime in!

Indian Takeout and a Paradigm Shift

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

I love the Indian restaurant near our house.  I love it for its proximity to us.  I love it for its creamy kormas and potent curries.  I love it for its lunch buffet.  And I love it for its very friendly (and kid friendly!) staff.  But last night I loved it for the gentle, but completely warranted, reprimand that the owner gave to me.

After running another errand I stopped in to pick up a quick supper for GAP and myself.  When I walked in all of the usual aromas hit me – a heady mix of nuts, curries, tomatoes, and naan.  I commented to the owner that his restaurant smelled even better than usual tonight.  I continued, saying that it must be because it’s so cold and miserable outside.  Then he surprised me.

In heavily accented English he reminded me that we had a long and beautiful fall this year, and that I should not complain about the cold.  He said, “You go home.  You eat your curry.  You have big fireplace.  Then you have hot coffee.  And the cold doesn’t seem so bad.”

And you know what?  He was right. 

Even when the days run short and the mercury drops and the sun hides behind thick clouds for days at a time I should not think about the way the winter season plagues me.  I should think about the things about it that delight me.  I love bundling up in pajama pants and hooded sweatshirts on winter evenings.  I love steamy mugs of hot chocolate (my Indian friend doesn’t know I’m not a coffee drinker…).  I love fires in fireplaces.  I love time spent curled up inside without having to make excuses as to why I’m not out enjoying the beautiful weather. 

There is indeed a season for everything.  And I should enjoy those seasons as they come.  We’ve barely shut the door on autumn.  To start pining for spring already just seems silly.  It’s time to enjoy winter for what it is: a season that moves slowly; a season that is marked by afternoons filled with books and movies; a season that begs us to lie fallow.  Spring will be here soon enough with its thunderstorms and crocuses.  But longing for those things now will only cause me to lose my appreciation for the blessings brought on by winter. 

I’m feeling better about winter already.  Happy December 1st!