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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - A Toast to the Routine

Okay. So, the New Year is pending and just like everyone else, I feel compelled to resolve myself to significant changes, such as eating healthier, exercising more, getting organized, nagging less, living purposefully, etc. etc. In essence, I feel the pressure to do something monumental, something that changes the course of my destiny in 2010. Sometimes I get scared that I'll never do anything that counts as "life altering." Fear is what drives me to make resolutions I can't keep.

And I have this crazy fantasy in which I sell everything but my husband and children and we move to Costa Rica, where we have a family business giving tourists burrow rides through the rain forest. I trade in my humdrum, deeply rutted life for an adventure. And not just an adventure, but a release from the day-to-day obligations that bog me down and keep me from living an inspired existence.

But then I picture myself 6 months, a year, into my fantasy life, and what I see, along with a sore butt from riding a donkey all day, is arguments about whether we can afford new carpet in the living room, lecturing kids about doing their homework and the importance of learning math, driving carpool, volunteering to help the church youth raise money for summer camp, attending dance recitals, spaghetti for dinner, cereal for breakfast, repairing the roof, cutting the grass, paying the water bill . . . In essence, within months of our arrival in Central America, within months of our Great Escape, I'll be doing the same things there that I'm doing here.

And today you know that’s good enough for me. Breathin' in and out's a blessin' can’t you see. Today's the first day of the rest of my life, and I’m alive, and well.
--Kenny Chesney

This year, instead of making pie-in-the-sky resolutions with which I can't possibly follow through, I'm facing my fears. I resolve myself to the routine. Even though it means more of the same-old-same-old, the routine also means my children are reasonably well-adjusted, my parents are healthy and active, my husband loves me despite myself, and I'm still here to take it all in. In the big scheme of things, the routine isn't so bad. In fact, it's a pretty good sign that all is well and I'm doing fine; maybe even better than fine.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Let's brace ourselves for embracing the routine. Get ready for it to begin all over again on January 4th. As women, we have a noble purpose in the year ahead. We are the keepers of the routine and we must keep ourselves well-equipped for the job.

Today is the day to go out and buy a new purse, a new wallet, and a new pocket calendar. In fact, go ahead and splurge and buy a fancy new ink pen, as well.

Happy New Year. Live it Well.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Days After Christmas

"Daddy," says my daughter to my husband, while patting his belly affectionately, "looks like you've been ganging up on some sweets." They are baking together with the new Easy Bake Oven Santa brought. I think she's using the tried and true method of making him feel self-conscious so she can weasel out of sharing the final products with her father.

These are the merry days after Christmas. The most wonderful time of the holiday season. Neighbors up and down my street are snatching down their decorations, sick of staring at them since Thanksgiving day. They have no idea the magic they are missing.

In their haste, they're missing the tree lights twinkling like a fairy forrest backdropping the two-man hunting blind erected in the living room. They have no idea the beauty of nerf-gun darts dangling from Christmas tree branches, resting like unearthed grenades in the snow village, and threatening the serentiy of the manger scene.

The stress of finding the perfect gift is passed. The busyness of baking is over. The turkey and the ham continue to provide sustenance. No one cares, now, if the tree comes crashing down, spraying ornaments across the floor. This is when the memories are made. When the new games are played. When the New Year is anticipated.

This is the time to gang up on some sweets, during the merry days after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For Now and For Later

For your Christmas cravings . . .
My family calls my kitchen "Mama's Smoking Restaurant," because, well, I burn everything, from cheese toast to homemade hot chocolate. I just wasn't cut out for cooking gourmet meals. I stress about holiday entertaining.

I've dreamed of having the perfect kitchen and all the culinary skills to go with it; a kitchen in which my family and friends gather to talk and visit and take in the warmth and aromas while I prepare a sumptuous spread. And though I fall short of my vision, by the magic of the Internet, I can live vicariously through another woman who has it all - the kitchen and the talent. (I wonder if she has EVER even let her eyes gaze upon a box of Cheesy Mack, nevermind put it in her shopping cart and taken it home for that last-minute, just-in-case meal.)

Fortunately, writer and chef extrordinaire Karin Calloway, on her blog, shares her Viking kitchen, her ALL Viking appliances, perfect kitchen, and her sumptuous recipes for dishes I can't even pronounce but that make my stomach growl and my lips smack together just looking at the pictures. And she shares her chef secrets. She makes me believe that even I can overcome the casserole and defeat the frozen pizza.

For the New Year . . .
Parenting is hard work. I'm always second guessing myself and my motives and whether my children will turn out okay in the end. And despite all of my mistakes, I know that everything I do with and for my children is filled with the best of intentions. But every year, at the end of December, when I'm thinking about buying a new calendar, I resolve to be a better parent to my children.

This year, I've found a book to help me achieve my goal in 2010: Pressured Parents, Stressed Out Kids: Dealing with Competition while Raising Successful Kids by Wendy S. Grolnick, PhD. and Kathy Seal.

This book explains why we pressure our kids and how our competitive drive, when it comes to our children, which is manifested as pushing them too hard and controlling them too much, causes us to worry. Beyond simply explaining why we do the things we do, however, it provides helpful advice on how to overcome our anxiety and be the best parents we can for our kids. Learn how to transform worry and fear into positive parenting, aid your child in developing intrinsic motivation, maintain a strong relationship with your child while at the same time encouraging his or her autonomy, and to avoid the parent-child conflict we all dread.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Confessions of a Christmas Bah-humbug

My eggnog is half empty and my fruitcake is still frozen. If anyone actually knew how much I dislike the most wonderful time of the year, she would call me something far worse than Scrooge.

I hang my head in shame at the charade of joy masking my Heat Miser heart. While my children's heads fill with anticipation and excitement, my chest tightens with dread of another Merry Christmas. The shopping, the gift wrapping, the guessing, the decorating, the party going, the hostessing, the baking, and the pressure to produce a magical moment, within a few short hours on one morning of the entire year, that will carry lasting importance in the mind of a child are all too much.

I have a life here, and it doesn't stop just because some carolers come around singing Jingle Bells. The regular obligations of life don't go away with the turn of a calendar page. My family isn't all cozied up at home, drinking hot chocolate by the fire, awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. My kids would fail their tests at school. I'd have teachers and coaches calling and asking why my children weren't completing their homework or attending practices. My boss would not wish me good tidings.

I hear you mumbling under your breath while reading this: Well, Lucy, you don't understand the meaning of the season. It's not in the gifts or the parties or the decorations. It's the expression of goodwill toward men, the hope for peace on earth, the celebration of the King of Kings. Christmas is in your heart.

In theory, that's all good, and I can latch onto it if I close my eyes real tight and click my heels together three times. But in reality, if we're all sitting around a plastic table top tree on Christmas morning twiddling our thumbs without any presents to unwrap and all our neighbors are mad at us because we didn't go to any of their parties or invite them to ours, there won't be any peace on earth or goodwill toward men. On the flip side, I probably will create a memory my children will harbor well into adulthood.

This confession is just between you and me. I wish to remain a closet bah-humbug, quietly nursing my stomach ulcer lighting up the yuletide. Please don't tell jolly old St. Nick a word of what you hear. I vow to start in January to get ready for next year.