Monthly Archives: June 2008

Vacation Calls

Part of what I’m doing for myself this summer that’s creating more space in my life is giving myself a lot of time off.  Yes, yes, it’s true that if I don’t work there is no income, but if I don’t take some time off, I will become cranky and unproductive and that doesn’t serve anyone well.  If only I could figure out how to give myself paid vacation…

This week marks the first trip of the summer.  We are heading to the other side of this big blue lake to Michigan, where we will stay in the beautiful rental house by the beach with Matt’s family for the second year in a row.  The kids are out of their minds to get back there, and I don’t think it’s just because I allow them to have “vacation cereal” (as my brother and I called it when we were kids, allowed to have it on our summer trips to Cape Cod).  They have both hollered, “I’m having Fruit Loops on the first day!” multiple times.  God help us if their cousins have their eyes on those, too.  Their wish lists are long for these five days, and so we’ll be piling the bikes on the back of the car and bringing our floaties for the unsupervised beach front near the house, and probably pretending that the car breaks down as we pass McDonald’s on the way there.  Because that was one of the biggest deals of the past year, hands down.

And this year we’ll be watching the weather before going down to our beach.  Let’s hope this year’s stories from Michigan are a bit less dramatic.

Margins

Several months ago, the pastor of our Unitarian Universalist church gave an excellent sermon that resonated strongly with us.  A woman about our age and recently back from maternity leave after having her first child, she addressed the issue of “extreme living”.  Citing our culture’s deep fascination with “extreme” sports and various other highly esteemed extremes, she argued that a good many of us are involved in “extreme living,” including such favorites as Extreme Working, Extreme Spending, Extreme Drinking, and Extreme Eating.  She said it a lot more eloquently, but you get the idea.

She went on to discuss the importance of leaving margins in our lives.  A metaphor she used is that our lives ought to have margins around them, much in the way that a book page has margins, arguing that the text on a page would be far too difficult to read and even to understand properly were it not for those open, empty spaces around them.  When we are living our lives to the extreme – stretched to its very limits with no open spaces – we can neither see nor understand what we are doing.

Ah.  Right.  Ahem.

I haven’t had much in the way of margins in a long time, probably in about 5 years, but the good news is: I do this summer.  Every few months after our big move from San Francisco to Chicago two years ago, I have thought, “Now we’re settled!”  And then another six months go by, and I discover that we hadn’t been.  At all.  Perhaps six months from now I’ll look back on this summer and think, “P’shaw! I thought that was ‘settled‘?” but the difference in our lives and schedule from last summer to this one is tremendous.  I can’t get over how lovely it is.

What do I mean when I say I have margins in my life right now?  Well, it’s things like being more leisurely – and having longer workouts a few days a week – in the morning and not leaving the house until 8:30 or 9:00 for work since I’m not driving the carpool.  Not running Lyle to and from nursery school on my days off, and allowing him to nap as long as he’d like on those days, since we don’t have to go pick Baxter up at school at 3.  Having loads more time with the boys, and playing “road trucks” with Lyle on the floor multiple times a day.  I also rescheduled my clients when things got quieter for the summer so that two days a week my schedule is jam-packed but the third day I can work from home or get errands done, rather than driving down to the clinic.

It means that when Baxter learns to jump off the diving board, I have time to dig out my childhood photo album and show him photos of me jumping off the high dive when I was a few years older than him.  He loves this, and spends a long time poring over my childhood album, connecting with my experiences and laughing about photos of his uncles and aunts as small children.  When he asks for a photo to be taken of himself jumping so that he can “show [his] own kids someday when they learn to jump off the diving board”, I remember to bring the good camera and take such a picture for this purpose.  I am thinking straight and am able to do lots of fun extras.

Because I am spending the mornings with Lyle instead of sending him to school right now, he naps on my days off: he’s not clamoring for that time with me.  This means that, with Baxter reading entire chapter books in a 2-hour sitting (thank you, Animorphs), I can lie down and read a book or even fall asleep for one of my 10-minute cat naps while Lyle sleeps, something that has never happened before.  Some nights I even go to bed earlier than 11pm.  Blissful.

I’m still behind on things.  I will always be behind on things.  I also have major changes coming up in my practice in the next few months and I am going to be operating outside my comfort zone in multiple ways.  I am aware of an undercurrent of anxiety about these things because I am having stress dreams for the first time in years.  But having some margins in my days – not living life to an extreme – leaves me feeling relaxed enough not to be concerned about that.  Things will get done.  My comfort zone will shift to include all of the new things I’m going to be doing; I have great support people in place to help me with each new endeavor.

From this vantage point, where I am not over-committed all day every day, I can see the text of my life.

I’ll be fine.

Chat with Me!

I just added a nifty bit of code to my home page ( on the top right of this page).  It appears to be a “guest talk widget”, which I assume means you don’t have to be on gmail to use it, but we’ll see how it works.

If I’m available, you’ll get the green light.  Stop by and say hello!

NOTE:  Now that three readers have stopped by for a lovely series of chats, I can tell you that it works.  I also have the following request: identify yourself to me before we chat!

Good Morning

Riding my bike through the leafy sun-dappled streets of my neighborhood at 6:15 this morning en route to the gym, I had a lovely experience.  Two different middle-aged men paused on the sidewalk to greet me with a smile and a hearty “Good morning!” as I rode past them, our paths intersecting for all of one second.

This was not creepy: they didn’t want anything.  There was nothing lascivious about their tones (which is not always the case in a big city – I’m not always this lucky).  It was a simple greeting, much like you’d get on your way into church as someone smiles and shakes your hand.  I responded in kind, thinking how improved my morning was for these brief interactions with strangers.

I thought about this again as I biked back home later, and decided that I would make an effort to do the same.  As I passed other bikers and pedestrians on the streets and alleys around my neighborhood, I smiled and gave them a cheery “Good morning!”  Previously tired and passive-looking citizens on their way to work broke out in smiles and automatically returned the greeting.

Not a single other person in this string of interactions looked anything like me.  Faithful to the demographics of this neighborhood, they and their ancestors hailed from all over the world.  I was struck by how the simple act of saying “Good morning” to strangers in my neighborhood left me feeling more connected to my community and the world at large.

Good morning, Wonderfriends!

Pass it on.

You Said it, Looky, Daddy!

I really have to figure out how to give someone a Perfect Post Award.  Right this minute.  Because Looky, Daddy! deserves one.

Go read this.

Skedaddle!

I’m no Super Woman…

I always insist to people that I am not a Super Woman – not because I don’t do a lot, but because I don’t believe that this loaded title is something anyone ought to aspire to.  Thanks to this quiz, I can now explain that I am truly not Super Woman:  I am Super Man!

You are Superman

You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Now that I can handle.
Thanks, Squab, for the link!

They’re Learning to Swim!

I could not be more pleased with Week One of the boys’ swim class.  They are enrolled in an intensive swim program (one hour per day for two weeks, Monday through Thursday) at Northside College Prep High School here in Chicago, and it is really wonderful.  Both of them are making excellent progress and loving every minute of it, but it was Baxter I watched the most today.

He was swimming independently, head still held just above the water (he hates water on his face) and with flippers on his feet (yes, these), across the width of the pool.  But best of all, he was smiling about it.  Smiling!

We were promised a 1:3 ratio for the class, but Baxter has a private instructor and Lyle’s instructor has just one other 3-year old in her charge.  It appears that there were more high school kids who wanted to work in the program than they anticipated.  This means that they are both swimming non-stop for the entire hour.  At first, I wondered how that would be, having teenage swim teachers, but I am completely impressed.  Baxter looks up to his 14-year old teacher with 100% awe and respect.  “He’s twice my age, Mommy!” he told me the first day, and each day since he has come home with some other fact about this slightly older boy who is actually teaching him to swim.   Their interactions are very sweet to watch.

Today I saw him allowed to swim over the lane line and into the deep end for the first time.  I watched as he glanced up at the diving board, and wondered if they’d let him jump from the diving board by the end of next week.  My eyes got a little teary at the thought, because that seemed so advanced from where this kid started on Monday.  But the next thing I knew, Baxter was sitting on the side of the pool, taking off his flippers, and shouting “MOMMY!!!” to me up in the bleachers, with an enormous grin.  Yes, he was allowed to jump from the diving board.  Today.  Here’s the proof:

He waited in line and walked to the end of the board without hesitation, jumping straight off and down into the water.  He popped right back up and started swimming.  He told me later that he was a little frightened, but that he knew his teacher was right below him.  (I mean, seriously, what could inspire more confidence than a 14-year old waiting to catch you?  Yikes!  But for Baxter, this was plenty.)

And so now I am left to wonder, what will next week bring?  I cannot wait to find out!

Swim Classes Seem to be Paying Off

or: Real Mermen Love to Read

Pass the Vino to Mr. Wienie Dog

I had an extra special day today.

It started with a really great early morning workout that was twice as long as usual now that we’re on our summer schedule here at home (hooray!), and continued with six consecutive hour-long intense therapy sessions at work.  I spent one entire hour of my afternoon as a canine named “Mr. Wienie Dog”. (I did not name myself.)  Seriously.  I didn’t speak for a full hour, just gestured and intoned along with my barking.  From my position on all fours on the floor.  Yes, this qualifies as work for me.  (It was great for my client’s attention to non-verbal skills!)

As my caffeine-less (egads!) afternoon wore on, I became increasingly aware of my fatigue level, and at some point before I left work, instructed myself not to have my customary glass of wine with dinner or I was sure to pass out before the kids.

All this is shared to help you understand why it was notable tonight that after a mere fifteen minutes at home with my exhausted-from-swimming, over-excited-about-being-home-together boys, I did not think twice before breaking open the nearest bottle of cold chenin blanc as I warmed up the roasted chicken.

Fifteen minutes, Wonderfriends.

I think I’ve said in the past that my boys get along really, really well.  What I meant was, they get along really, really well when one of them is at school for 7 hours a day.

I’m just saying.

All that and Good-Looking, Too.

Our weekend was filled with warm sunshine, swimming in the cold lake, a big end-of-school bash with some fantastic families at our house, a rainy midday movie, and a backyard birthday party this afternoon.  Most of all, we were with loads of friends every time we turned around.  I can’t believe we’ve been in Chicago just shy of two years and already we’re so dug in here.  Our lives are rich and full of all that we wanted them to be, in a way that we have not experienced anywhere else.  We are in the right place.

It was fitting that we also celebrated Father’s Day during this heart-warming and satisfying weekend, because similarly, Matt makes our family life rich and full of all that I wanted it to be, back when I imagined having a family.  In this way, too, we are in the right place.

Happy Father’s Day to a truly phenomenal father.