Sunday, December 29, 2019

Happy 49th Birthday to Me

Here we are in that black hole between Christmas and New Year’s where no one seems to know what day it is, we're feeling sluggish from too many cookies and we've reached our capacity on family togetherness.  So, who wants to celebrate my birthday? 

While December 29 has its challenges, I never have to go to school on my birthday. And its proximity to the end of the year makes my special day ideal for self-reflection and goal setting. Since I'm 49 today, I thought it might be fun to come up with a goal leading up to my 50th birthday that involved the number 50. So I asked friends and family for ideas. Boy, did I get ideas! I've whittled it down to my top 25. How do I choose?

1.   50 connections with friends and family

2.   write 50 letters

3.   50 acts of kindness

4.   50 volunteer hours

5.   donate $50 to a worthy cause

6.   50 mile bike ride

7.   run 50 miles in one month

8.   50 gym workouts

9.   practice yoga 50 times

10.                     50 spin classes

11.                     50 pushups

12.                     50 days without alcohol

13.                     limit screen time to average of 50 minutes per day

14.                     get rid of 50 things

15.                     complete 50 home projects

16.                     limit discretionary spending to $50 per week

17.                     50 dates

18.                     dine at 50 restaurants

19.                     50 adventures

20.                     plan to visit all 50 states

21.                     read 50 books

22.                     write a book with 50 chapters

23.                     try 50 recipes

24.                     letter 50 quotes in my bullet journal

25.                     be OK with 50 things not going as planned

There's time to work on a few goals this year; I have lots of ideas on the list from which to choose. They all align with my core values of relationships, health, and personal growth. I'm sure I'll mess up and life will intervene (see goal #25), but just the act of setting a goal helps me clarify what's important to me. Zig Ziglar said, "What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as who you become by achieving your goals." 

Considering the suggestions, I realize there is overlap in many of the ideas on the list. Whether writing a letter to someone or a random act of kindness, the items that most appeal to me are the ones that connected me to others.  So, I've decided to make my official goal 50 connections with friends and family over the next year. Catch up over coffee? Or something more adventurous? Let me know. I'd love to see you!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Monday Blues

When I woke up this morning, I was not feeling so good. Immediately my mind went to all the things on THE list. The list that’s twice as long this time of year. And I start to think of all the things I meant to do this weekend but didn’t…the weekend chores that help me feel organized and focused for the week, the wrapping, the shopping, the baking.  It makes me feel anxious. Like sweaty palms-pounding heart-pit in the stomach anxious. The kind of anxious you can’t explain to people because it doesn’t make any sense.  Like, hi, I’m in a really bad mood because I spent all weekend doing fun and meaningful things with friends and family and I didn’t do any chores.

To attempt to cure my case of the Mondays, I decided to reflect on one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou: “My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”

Survive—check. Despite the lack of a two-hour delay that I really, really wanted on this icy, rainy Monday, I’m here.  Check.

Humor—Someday I’m going to cross everything off my TO DO list. Hahahhahahahaha. See? Humor, check.

Living with passion—check, check, check. Festive holiday party, check. Date night dinner, check. Holiday lights and an amazing performance of Fiddler on the Roof, check.  Throw in the happy chaos of a basement full of college kids and a few too many cookies. I lived with passion; I ate with passion.

Style—Well, I’m definitely crushing it on the style thing this morning.  I’m wearing bright red pants with purple rainbow unicorn socks pulled up to my knees.   I honestly don’t know if I could ever have the kind of job where I had to wear power suits and heels. Elementary school spirit weeks are my kind of style. Style, check.

Compassion—This weekend as I laid wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery, I paused before each name to think about this person—someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, mom or dad. This Christmas season I will see my family. I have my family. Looking around at the evergreen and red against the white headstones, I remember to pray for those who have lost a loved one or who are feeling lonely during the holidays. 

Thrive—This morning I left a list of things to do on the kitchen table and told my family I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I packed some workout clothes and planned to exercise with friends after school. Because thriving doesn’t have to mean doing it all by myself. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and struggling, I don’t need more productivity to thrive. What I need is a break to reset my mindset and breathe some fresh air. Also, probably more leafy greens and fewer peanut butter blossoms.

How are you feeling this morning? How are you doing with the countdown to Winter Break? Maybe you’re crushing it and you can’t relate to this post at all. But if you are feeling the pressure of holiday to do lists, I leave you with another favorite quote by Anne Lamott:

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Giving Gifts to Both of Me

My mom says people generally have two versions of themselves: their ideal selves and their real selves. When it comes to cleaning out stuff, it's an important distinction. Take my cheeseboard, for example. No, really, take it. I don't want it anymore.

Because Ideal Self is quite the hostess. She entertains effortlessly and always has a wheel of brie in the fridge for an impromptu happy hour.  She even has a little cheese knife with a mouse shaped handle. Adorable! However Real Self has never once used this appetizer platter. Not that I don't like cheese. I love cheese. My friend Chrissy and I went to Milwaukee last summer and ate so much cheese. We also laughed like idiots trying to capture the perfect cheesy picture. Instead, it's the entertaining that's intimidating. Real Self would rather order pizzas than fashion a cheese platter. Real Self is usually in her pajamas watching Netflix on Friday nights.

I'm getting better at realizing the difference between Ideal Self and Real Self and it makes it easier to part with things that don't align with my lifestyle.  Last year I hosted a White Elephant gift exchange.  Traditionally, every guest brings an unwanted item but I had enough stuff to supply all the gifts myself. Some of these were probably teacher gifts. Others were from my dad, who is a notoriously interesting gift giver. (He once gave me a shower head for no apparent reason. Another time he gave me placemats with tractors on them. I actually kept those because they make me laugh.)

Adventure gift to a concert
Once Paul gave me a banjo for Christmas.  I took lessons for about a year hoping to live out the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, "My baby plays a guitar, I pick a banjo now." Alas, Real Self discovered playing the banjo is really hard. Maybe Old Crow Medicine Show could change the lyrics to more accurately say, "My baby plays a guitar, I dust my banjo now."  

I recognize that this makes it a challenge to give me presents. Paul has jokingly lamented that other husbands have it easy buying their wives jewelry, while I prefer a handmade coupon book of adventures. Real Self would much rather spend time WITH you than get a sweater FROM you. I struggle with gift giving too. While Ideal Self is a fantastic gift giver and wraps presents like Martha Stewart, Real Self hates shopping and usually relies on recycled gift bags to wrap everything. 

Speaking of music, 'tis the season for hearing holiday music on every radio sation. I've never been much of a Mariah Carey fan--I don't like glitter either but that's a different story--yet I find myself humming this song when I think about gift giving: 

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree

Here's where Ideal Self and Real Self agree. Neither of us want a lot of stuff for Christmas. We don't need the perfectly wrapped presents under the tree or a gourmet cheese platter. We both want to spend quality time with our family and our friends.  All we want for Christmas is YOU.