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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Be Romantic. Now!

Monday, February 14th, 2011

When I was younger I had a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day.  Awash in ambivalence, I had mixed emotions about both the theory and the practice of this holiday.  I wanted to love it.  I wanted to be swept off my feet in a flurry of romantic showmanship.  But at the same time I questioned a holiday that – more times than not – excluded me.  Then in the years when I was one half of a couple I loved being eligible for the festivities, but resented the pressure to summon passion and romance on demand.  Don’t get me wrong – I love romance.  But there were always other aspects of dating relationships that I loved more.

I sometimes wonder if I’m an anomaly.  I wonder if I’m missing the romance chromosome.  Because while I can appreciate a candlelit dinner, I care much more about the conversation that takes place over those candles than about the candles themselves.  I feel just as much affection for my husband after a few laughs at a baseball game as I do at a quiet table for two.

Given this, you won’t be surprised to learn of my relief when I happened upon this article on The Huffington Post about the post-romantic age of marriage.  Author Pamela Haag explains that marriage (like any other cultural structure) has changed over time.  In the 19th century it was a “social institution and duty.”  It was a woman’s ticket to stability, and a man’s ticket to sex.  Then, per Haag, the 20th century brought about a romantic revolution of sorts.  Love became the end in itself.

But now, for the 21st century, Haag writes of a new brand of marriage.  It is rooted in friendship.  It may include professional collaboration.  It extends far beyond the confines of a romance to find stability in all corners of our lives.  It is marriage that comes later in life – perhaps as an amendment to a fully-formed person, rather than a required rite of adulthood that exclusively defines us from the moment we say “I do.”  Haag goes on to explain, “The post-romantic not only accommodates but idealizes the stable over the sublime.”

This description of marriage suits me, probably because it’s the version of marriage I’ve always known.  Nevertheless, I felt validated as I read Haag’s article.  My reluctance toward Valentine’s Day isn’t a shortcoming unique to me.  It is symptomatic of an entire generation’s beliefs about the qualities of a good relationship.  If grand romantic gestures leave me cold it is because I came of age in an era that sings the praises of friendship, compatibility, camaraderie, and partnership.  Romance is still a part of the equation, to be sure.  But in my experience romance is helped by spontaneity, and hindered by extensive planning; thus my hesitant feelings about Valentine’s Day.

I’ve gone through many phases when it comes to Valentine’s Day:  Embrace it.  Ignore it.  Hate it.  Love it.  Accept it grudgingly.  Don’t be bothered by it. Etc.  I’m happy to report that as a married woman in her thirties I’ve finally made my peace with this holiday.  A level of observation that is probably best described as “happy medium” seems to suit both of us individually.  And after many years together that is what we’ve both embraced.

Today is GAP’s and my twelfth Valentine’s Day.  We will eat cheese fondue, a delicious (if generic) choice.  We will drink red wine.  We will nibble on dessert.  We will probably curl up for an episode of Friday Night Lights.  We will tell each other that we love each other.  And if we are not overcome with romantic gusto, that’s just fine with me.  Romance happens when it happens.  In the meantime I know there will be love, laughter, and friendship.

Resolved – Part 2

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

One year ago I launched this blog with a set of resolutions for 2010.  But I did so with a fair amount of equivocation.  Amidst other objections I pointed out that I found New Year’s resolutions off-putting because they ask us to define ourselves as a set of faults, and I stand by that.  But I moved forward with my resolutions nonetheless.  And today, one year later, I’m so glad that I did.

By some stroke of either genius or dumb luck last year’s resolutions were not binary.  I asked quite a bit of myself, but none of my goals was set in a way that facilitated pure success or failure.  Rather, they were phrased in shades of grey.  They were a framework for changes I wanted to make in myself, but they were not rigid or binding.  And it was that freedom to allow smaller measures of success that enabled me to fare better with my resolutions than I ever would have expected.

2010 was not a year of major milestones for me.  In 2004 I got married.  In 2005 we bought our first house.  In 2007 I finished my MBA.  In 2008 I had my first child.  In 2009 I started a new job.  But last year was not a year of significant events.  Yet I think I accomplished more in 2010 than I have in years.  I changed a lot last year.  Some of those changes were carefully cultivated.  Others were wholly unexpected but yet no less important.  And although it strikes me as strange, I attribute these changes and accomplishments to those resolutions and to this blog.  There is something compelling about making your goals public.  There is something compelling about eschewing your fear of failure.  There is something compelling about this particular brand of accountability wherein merely by posting my aspirations in this forum I felt, throughout the year, more committed to them than any other goal I’ve pursued in the past.

In fact, I started a running list of potential 2011 resolutions several months ago, adding new entries as they dawned on me.  Even amidst the satisfaction of 2010′s successes, I found myself eager to cross the threshold into 2011 and a new set of challenges.  In 2010 I took control of my life in completely new ways and it was, quite simply, empowering.  So it is not surprising to me that I am finding exhilleration in my goals for 2011.  I do not know if it is realistic to hope for comparable success in the coming year as I achieved in the past year.  But I know that taking such risks served me well in 2010.  So I find no reason to change my tack now.  With that, my goals for 2011 are:

  1. Read literary classics that I’ve never read before (there will be a dedicated post on this one at some point).
  2. Regularly carry and use reusable grocery bags.
  3. Don’t waste food.
  4. Choose at least one initiative from The Happiness Project for implementation in my own life.
  5. Brush my dogs more often.
  6. Deepen existing friendships.
  7. Send actual birthday cards in the actual mail and do it on time.
  8. Get our family photo albums properly archived and up to date and keep current with them.
  9. Grow an herb garden.

As I read back over my list, what I love most about it is that I can’t foretell the ways in which the pursuit and realization of these goals will enrich my life.  Last year I had a goal of meeting people who would challenge my perceptions of the world.  I had no idea that some of those people would weigh less than five pounds.  I had a goal of traveling to new places, and those new places turned out to be completely different than the ones I expected to visit.  I had a goal of reading more nonfiction and I had no idea that the entire year would become a dedicated literary project.

My resolutions were stated at the beginning of 2010.  But they evolved organically throughout the year and came to mean more to me by year’s end than I ever intended at the outset.  I can only hope that my new set of resolutions will come to mean as much.  But I do hope.  I hope that through my care and feeding of them, I will find that they feed and care for me in kind.

Here’s to 2011 and all the goodness that it may bring each of us this year!

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.

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.

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.

Music
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. 

Treats
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. 

Movies

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.

Decorations

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.      

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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.

What Really Matters

Monday, November 29th, 2010

This is a tricky time of year when it comes to the word “meaningful.”  For many of us, Thanksgiving serves as the gateway holiday into a six-week period of major ambivalence.  We think Rockwellian thoughts of hearth, home, and family.  And yet we run down our metaphorical batteries with errands and obligations that make us anything but happy.  We have idealized visions of what this time of year should be, but somehow our very attempts to realize those visions dismantle them, one ironic piece at a time. 

What is it about the pursuit of “what really matters” that causes us to sacrifice everything that really matters?  Why, in the name of family and togetherness, do we spend most of December fighting traffic in mall parking lots?  Why, in the name of homemade baked goods, do I sacrifice multiple leisurely evenings with my husband?  Why are we so prone to let the holiday season – which is marketed with rosy cheeks and roaring fires – turn into stress and drudgery?

As we sit down to make our list of New Year’s resolutions at some point during the upcoming month we inevitably take stock of ourselves – strengths and weaknesses alike – and earmark for improvement those things we wish were different.  And while I am a believer in this exercise, I think the timing is a bit inopportune.  On the one hand it allows us to indulge in the holiday season’s guilty pleasures with reckless abandon.  But on the other hand it also enables us to adopt the mindset of “just getting through” the holidays and thereby let them devolve into an empty shell of their actual purpose and potential. 

This year I’ve found myself with a rare and unexpected gift – some extra time.  Every December since we were married, GAP and I have thrown a Christmas party.  It has traditionally been the Saturday after GAP’s company party, and usually ends up being the week before Christmas.  But this year everything is shifted up a week, leaving me two full weeks before Christmas but after our party circuit winds down.  When I realized that this was the case I was initially flustered at the short turnaround time, but ultimately embraced it when I realized that two full weeks of decidedly lower-key holiday merriment would follow.

And so, in an effort not to destroy those two weeks of quietude with the side effects of procrastination, I am making some Holiday Resolutions for myself:

  1. I know what I need to get most of my recipients, and will take advantage of that fact by shopping now.
  2. I will shop online as much as possible to prevent unnecessary trips into jungle-caliber malls and shopping centers.  I will consider shipping fees a reasonable price for sanity.
  3. I will wrap presents as I buy them, not in one marathon session on December 23rd.   I will not wrap late at night.  And I will not wrap without a mug of hot chocolate or glass of red wine nearby.  (I love wrapping, but it’s easy for it to become a chore if I procrastinate and don’t take any care in setting a pleasant ambiance.)
  4. I will not worry about mailing holiday cards until after our party has been thrown. 
  5. I will not obligate myself to cook 85 different varieties of cookies for coworkers.

As with any goal, I don’t know how successful I will be.  But experience has shown me that I’ll come much closer to my ideal by the mere act of identifying goals.  I want this Christmas season to leave me room for what really matters.

Thankful

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

At the risk of sounding trite, this is obviously an apt time to note the things for which I am thankful.  It is not an original idea, but it is an important one.  After all, for all the Ten Dollar Thoughts we may think, if none of them is grateful in nature, then all the others suffer for it. 

I will clarify up front that I am interminably thankful for all of the things that most people are thankful for: good jobs, a fine home, health, family, and friendships.  But to keep this post at least moderately interesting I will shift my focus to less likely (or at least less obvious) objects of my gratitude.

  1. I am thankful for my new camera.  It was a gift from GAP and IEP for Mother’s Day and it has re-energized my interest in photography.  I dabbled in photography a bit as a kid, but had fallen away from it over time.  With my new camera in my life I find myself looking at the world with a more artistic eye, and applying much greater appreciation to the lighting and composition of films and photos I see.
  2. I am thankful for hot chocolate.  Since I don’t drink coffee or tea, for much of the year my mornings typically lack a marquis beverage.  But when fall turns the corner into winter I have a big mug-full almost every morning.  IEP has adopted my habit of dipping his buttered toast into the chocolate and I love that we share our breakfasts this way.
  3. I am thankful for the large park near my office.  On days when I just have to get out of the building at lunch I can take the long way to my favorite sandwich shop and cut through the park.  The road that runs through it takes me past a large pond with a path where I watch people walking and jogging and getting fresh air, and through a densely wooded area that allows me to pretend – if just for half a mile or so – that I am out in the woods, as opposed to out in the suburbs.
  4. I am thankful for steam vaporizers.  When winter colds hit (as they did in full force the last two weeks), a steam vaporizer is one third of the cold-fighting trifecta (along with sleep and NyQuil) that usually gets me back on my feet within a couple of days.
  5. I am thankful for my favorite silver ballet flats.  They are comfortable.  They are attractive.  They match everything.  And when I realized how much I loved them I had the good sense to get back on Zappos and order a second pair so that when I inevitably wore out the first pair (a day that’s coming soon) there would be a backup pair waiting in the wings. 
  6. I am thankful for my church.  I’m thankful that I don’t always agree with the sermons and that I’m forced to confront the gaps in my understanding of my faith.  I’m thankful that when I go there I feel at peace.  And I’m thankful that even when I feel my spirit drifting from God I can let Him know, just by walking into the sanctuary, that I’m trying to work my way back.
  7. I am thankful for my dogs.  I am thankful that because they are large and our yard is small I am obliged to walk two miles with them every day.  In a year I walk an extra 600 miles or so (we skip a day here and there), which is exercise I almost certainly wouldn’t get without them.  (Not to mention that the dogs themselves are princes.)
  8. I am thankful for books.  I am thankful that my shelves are littered with titles I’ve read and loved, and titles that are waiting to be explored.  I’m thankful that every time I open a book I learn something new, and that in this country I have the opportunity and the right to read whatever I may choose.
  9. I am thankful for blogging.  This medium, which I’d never even heard of until a few years ago, allows me to keep my long-distance family apprised of IEP’s latest adventures and developments (I also write a private family blog).  And it allows me to explore my thoughts and engage in virtual conversation with interesting people every single week.  I believe that I approach my life in fundamentally different and better ways because of my blogging. 
  10. I am thankful for IEP’s hugs.  Truly, they are unparalleled.  He only hugs when he’s really feeling it.  And when he’s really feeling it he hugs big.  He squeezes his little arms with all his might.  He presses his plump cheek into yours and holds it there.  He giggles a little.  And then he does the entire thing three or four more times just to make sure he got his point across.  There’s nothing in the world quite like it. 

I would love to hear what things you are thankful for, be they the classics I mentioned at the top of this post or altogether different.  I believe that sharing our gratitude makes us more mindful of it ourselves.  I also think it offers a fresh and interesting glimpse into the essence of who we are.

With that, I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving holiday.  May you travel safely.  May you hug your family and friends.  May you eat well.  May you wear elastic waist pants.  May you have seconds on pie.  May you fall asleep on the couch.  And may you enjoy the rest of the weekend in whatever way pleases you most. 

PS – I won’t be posting on Wednesday or Friday this week.  See you back here next Monday.

Hot Cross Buns

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

As I mentioned yesterday, I am newly obsessed with The Pioneer Woman’s blog.  Yesterday when I pulled up her site I was delighted to see that her latest recipe was for Hot Cross Buns.  My mother made Hot Cross Buns on every Good Friday of my childhood.  And while I have lovely memories of coming home from school to find a fresh batch on the kitchen counter (sometimes with extra frosting left in the bowl!) my favorite Hot Cross Bun memory comes from my adulthood, and from China.  This story is not meant to be thought-provoking or challenging in any way.  Rather it is a cherished moment of my life that I felt inspired to share. 

If you’re not familiar with Hot Cross Buns, you can learn a quick bit about them here.

I was 26 years old.  I was less than a month away from my wedding.  I was in Shanghai in the middle of a two-week business trip to my company’s Japan and China offices.  So things in my life were pretty calm at the time.  Right.

I’d spent the first week of the trip in Japan.  Sushi, tempura, industry trade show – all the usual suspects.  The second week took us to Shanghai for a 5-day training session with our Pac Rim distributors.  We were staying at the St. Regis hotel which was then, and is still, the most mind-bogglingly luxurious hotel I’ve ever stayed in.  I had a personal butler assigned to me at check-in.  The room was huge and stunning; the bathroom even more so.  Every time I left my room – even if it was just to run down to the hotel gym for a quick workout – someone came in and refolded the towels, tidied my toiletries, smoothed the duvet, and tucked under the corners of the toilet paper.  And every afternoon around 2:00 a snack was delivered to my room on a silver tray.  It was usually a pastry of some kind.  Something delectable that made me slide to the floor and want to never return home.  (What wedding?  GAP once lived in China.  Surely I could find a back-up version of him running around somewhere, right?)

I spent each day in a hotel ballroom, giving presentations on the key selling points of my company’s products, changes to the competitive landscape, and pricing and discount structures.  I’d eaten all of the local fare that had been served and had, for the most part, been delighted by how much I loved it.  Cuttlefish, jellyfish, whole roasted fish, seaweed salad, etc.  Business dinners each evening featured dishes that rotated among the traditional menus of our distributors’ home countries – Thai, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia.  I was lost in an international smorgasbord.   

I’d gone sight-seeing with a colleague one afternoon and eaten dumplings purchased from a street vendor that have never been matched by any I’ve eaten since.  The bread was fried crisp on the outside and chewy underneath.  The broth inside was rich, salty, and surprisingly hot.  It dripped all the way down my forearms and I actually licked some of it off.  The bite of pork in the middle was tender and fatty and melted on my tongue.  I was in a food nirvana.   

I was also reaching a saturation point of visual stimulation.  Ancient gardens, Confucian temples, giant Buddhas everywhere.  My colleague and I had a personal local tour guide for two days who took us into nooks and crannies of her city that we’d never have found (or braved) on our own.  I was absorbing the culture around me like a parched sponge.  I had moments of homesickness, but for the most part I’d been able to separate myself from the impending wedding and gotten lost in the world around me.  And so it was that when Good Friday rolled around at the end of my trip I was barely aware of it.

That day our business agenda reached its scheduled afternoon break.  I returned to my room upstairs where I looked forward to slipping out of my heels, collapsing onto the fluffy bed, and delicately tearing into whatever scone, éclair, or other confection might be awaiting me.  I opened the door, walked into that now-familiar and serene retreat of a room, and stopped cold.  There, on the silver tray, was a porcelain plate with two Hot Cross Buns. 

They were beautiful.  Golden dough glazed with egg whites and studded with raisins.  Iced by hand with careful, but not perfect, crosses.  I was so touched by the gesture that I almost couldn’t bring myself to eat them.  But I did.  They lacked the delicate crumb and subtle sweetness of my mother’s, but it was irrelevant.  I was as far away from home – geographically, culturally, metaphorically – as I’d ever been.  And yet a hallmark of my childhood sat before me on a silver tray.

I still don’t know the answers to all the questions that spun through my head as I ate my Hot Cross Buns.  How did they know these tiny details of Christian culinary heritage?  Did they know I was a Christian?  Did everyone in the hotel get Hot Cross Buns for their snack that day?  Or was it just for the Westerners whom they thought might enjoy a taste of home.  Did they have any idea how their thoughtfulness would strike deep to the heart of me?

Since I’d left home after college I’d never made Hot Cross Buns of my own.  I guess I didn’t realize what meaning they held for me.  But in that moment I became keenly aware of their significance; significance to which I’d been heretofore oblivious.  The next year I made my first batch of Hot Cross Buns.  They too didn’t measure up to my mother’s, but they were good.  And they were mine.  And it felt good to take my traditions into my own hands.  I have plenty of time to perfect my technique.

I haven’t made them every year.  But I will make them this year.  I think IEP would like them very much.  And I want his memories of them to be as ingrained as my own.

Multiple Valentines

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Like most people, during my childhood I didn’t fully appreciate the wisdom my mother had to offer.  I was quite confident that the thirty years that transpired between her childhood and mine had seen the world change in sizeable enough ways that she could not possibly relate to my tortured adolescent soul.  In retrospect I realize that… I was wrong.

This is a week ripe with advice from my mother.  On Wednesday I told you about her philosophies on trying new foods (which I conveniently extrapolated out to an application to life in general).  Today I bring you her philosophy on relationships.  That philosophy is:

We have different people in our lives for different reasons.  No single person can fulfill all your needs.

She went on to explain to teen-aged me that we are multi-faceted.  We are complex.  We are nuanced.  And we change over time.  It is unrealistic and unfair to expect that any single person would fulfill all of our emotional and companionship needs.

Most of us live this philosophy out on a daily basis without thinking about it.  If I need career advice I go to GAP or my girlfriends from business school.  If I need recipe recommendations I go to my mother, sister, or Aunt B.  If I have parenting questions I go to my group of mommy friends (coincidentally also the MBA friends – we are smart mommies).  If I’m feeling overwhelmed and need perspective and objectivity, I go to my father.  If I need a laugh, or affirmation, or to be challenged I go to GAP.  And if I need to see an unapologetically overcast romantic comedy on opening night, I have someone for that too.

Tonight, which is for much of the world behaving as Valentine’s Day, I have a date.  But it is not with GAP.  GAP has a date with IEP wherein they will stay at home, babble loudly at each other, wrestle on the bed, make big splashes in the bath, and read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? for the 478th time.  They are both quite jazzed about the whole affair.

My date, on the other hand, is with our friend Robert (not his real name).  Robert loves a good romantic comedy.  Robert loves seeing movies on opening night.  And Robert LOVES anything featuring Jessica Biel.  Tonight’s date was meant to be. 

I am excited for this date for a number of reasons.  I am excited that I don’t have to drag GAP to a movie that does not interest him whatsoever (and then listen to him chortle sarcastically at what I’m certain will be a silly plot with even sillier dialogue).  I am excited for a big fountain Coke and box of Milk Duds.  I am excited to hang out with Robert, who is fun and funny and one of my favorite buddies.  I am excited that I don’t have to go alone.  (Going to movies alone is a wonderful experience.  But seeing “Valentine’s Day” alone is too much, even for me.)  I am excited to be doing something fun and festive on a Friday night.  And perhaps most importantly, I am excited that GAP and I are confident enough in each other and comfortable enough in our marriage that we are happy to see each other’s needs met fully, even when we are not the ones to meet them.

On Saturday night GAP and I will have our own Valentine’s Day celebration.  The tentative plan is to dust off the fondue pot that we purchased years ago and have used roughly twice.  We will sip red wine.  We will talk about books and politics and upcoming travel plans.  We will pop in a movie.  And we will curl up on the couch and feel happy to be at home together on a cold winter night.

I am not typically a big fan of Valentine’s Day.  But this year I’m quite looking forward to it.  I have two dates with two people who serve completely different purposes in my life.  It is a blessing and relief to have multiple Valentines.

Resolved

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Here we are.  The very beginning.  I will welcome you to this blog, and then we will get on with it, okay?

Excellent.

Welcome to this blog.

Okay, fine, I’ll add a bit to that… We (my blog and I, clearly) are excited to be here and we hope you are too.  Don’t get too comfortable, though, because this blog is not meant to be a virtual club chair, upholstered in chintz and scattered with pillows.  This blog is meant to be uncomfortable.  Not shoes-too-tight uncomfortable.  Rather, perhaps, shoes-too-big uncomfortable; the kind of uncomfortable that reminds you (and me) that we have room to grow and that we should do just that.  And so, with that in mind, I will be writing about topics that will challenge me, stretch my mind, and prompt me to think about things in new ways.  As I work to challenge myself, I hope to challenge you too. And I hope that you, in turn, will challenge me back.  It’s a two-way street, this blogging thing…

Now that we’ve dispensed with introductions, I’m moving along.

New Year’s Day has always been one of my favorites. I suppose this is because it’s a holiday with nothing to do. No large meals to prepare, no presents to open, no eggs to hide, fireworks to ignite, or costumes to don. And while I love those other holidays and their pre-ordained activities, there’s something soothing about a holiday that arrives without an agenda.

Of course, what do we do with this perfectly empty holiday?  We ruin it with resolutions. We make long lists and craft complex self-improvement programs.  We quit smoking. We quit drinking.  We quit cursing.  We work out.  We make vows. We will pray more, thank more, praise more, hug more, forgive more, love more. We will quit watching reality television and start reading Pulitzer-Prize-winning novels. We will cook from scratch. We will drink 76 glasses of water a day. And on, and on, and on.

And so I am prone to wonder.  What do I want for this year? In what ways do I hope I will be different when the doors of 2010 close?

They are compelling questions, and questions that I haven’t answered in several years; at least not in the form of a list of resolutions.  Why?  Not because I have no room for improvement.  Certainly not.  I suppose it’s because to me resolutions beg us to define ourselves as a set of faults.  These are the things that are wrong with me.  And I think that’s rather a sad way to start a new year.

But yet, anything less somehow seems like a cop out.  I have decided that resolutions are negative and sad, and so I will not make them. Cheater!  Hardly in line with the aforementioned purpose of this blog.  Perhaps there is a middle ground.  But as I consider what that middle ground might be, every option I weigh seems like a watered down version of a resolution.

And so, if I am setting out this day to commence a year of challenging myself, then I see no option save for a return to the classic list of resolutions.  I will almost certainly fail at some of them.  But perhaps I will find some victories as well.  And perhaps I will have made strides that I’m proud of at the end of this year.  One thing I know for certain, I will not have any accomplishments under my belt if I don’t have any goals.  With that, this year I resolve to:

  1. Challenge myself mentally by considering new ideas and by more frequently thinking about things broader in reach than the confines of my daily life.
  2. Read more non-fiction.
  3. Meet new people who challenge my preconceived notions about the world.
  4. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  5. Travel to interesting places; some new adventures and some old favorites.

Now that we’ve got that covered I imagine I will spend the rest of this day idle (perhaps while munching on fruits and vegetables).  Because despite my goals for the year, today is a day for taking it easy (and recovering from whatever it is you did last night).

 I have high hopes for this year and for this blog. And I hope you do too.