Thirty Three: A Post About Me

 

Lake Placid shortcut girl

Me at our hotel in Lake Placid, NY

Anyone who knows me (and pretty much everyone who reads this blog knows me), knows I am very into my birthday. I blame my semi-only child upbringing and two great parents. Parents who celebrated everything. Every. Single. Thing. Let’s put it this way. We went out to dinner to celebrate my cross over the threshold of womanhood. My Mom grew up poor and liked to celebrate and reward good behavior, good grades, milestones, awards. My father was proud as a peacock to have a daughter who did anything well and was never really known for his modesty. “That’s my girl!” he would say. I lost my Dad in 2009. And I think it’s at my birthday when I really, really miss him.

So the product of all this: me. A big girl with a desperate, little girl trapped inside who wants me, me, me and more me. (You do know that’s why I have a blog, don’t you?). God help my poor husband at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas and, of course, the only day that is about me all day long: my birthday.

So yesterday I turned 33 and have to say I was very lucky to be so spoiled by my husband and children. Mike took me away for a night and it was Just What the Doctor Ordered. Couple time, me time, quiet time and relaxing time. Much needed and much appreciated. Nine years with me, Michael has learned my affinity for my birthday. And although he doesn’t go all out every year (to keep me guessing, I suppose), he really made this year top-notch.

While we were away, I played the “question game” with Mike. A chance for us to talk about things we never get to talk about. With questions like, what have you learned most about marriage? and what have you learned most about yourself as a parent?, we ended up talking about things we never get to talk about—how we are both feeling about this whole “marriage and family” thing that we have been a part of. A time for genuine reflection and analysis.

It made me think of a list I started in July. I was doing a writing prompt activity with a local author who I follow on Facebook. She challenged everyone to complete one writing prompt a day for August. In this prompt, she asked you to write down things you’ve learned over the years. As I wrote, it kind of took the shape of advice I would give my children, but more evidently my daughter. Once I started the list, I could not stop. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Forgive and forgive often.
  • When you have a negative thought, don’t feel compelled to share it.
  • “Knowing who you are” is not always an accomplishment. Keep finding out more about yourself. Never be content. Keep changing.
  • Don’t mistake your husband as a best girlfriend. He can be your best friend but only a girlfriend can be a girlfriend.
  • Say thank you. For everything.
  • Be careful with your words.
  • Listen. Don’t just hear what you want to hear.
  • Apologize for your moments of weakness in life. Recognize them.
  • Pay close attention to regret. It’s a powerful feeling. It tells you when to be more kind, more gentle, more adventurous, most dutiful, more direct, more loving, more loyal. It’s those regrets that help program your future behaviors.
  • Be available. Even when you are busy, don’t tell everyone how busy you are. People who are too busy all the time end up very, very lonely.
  • Your sibling is the only person in the world you have shared your parents with. Value this relationship and its ebb and flow. It’s a rich and powerful one.
  • Take care of your money. No one else will.
  • Always drive slow in your own neighborhood.
  • In the tough times, take a 15 walk or a 15 minute shower and see how things look afterwards.
  • Travel. At every age. Not just when you are young.
  • A friend is not someone you want to be like. They are someone you like because of how they bring out the things you like in yourself.
  • Trust your gut- always.
  • Bake cookies from scratch. It’s what your Nana would want you to do.

As I write these down, I can pinpoint which ones came from my mother, my father, my friends, my own unique experiences and even my own children. Even at 33, I feel young. I have learned a lot, seen a little but know that the best is still yet to come. So, I thank my Mom and Dad for instilling a sense of excitement and need for celebration for silly things like birthdays. Because, without them, there might not be a chance to reflect upon how far you have come and how much further you have yet to go.

At last year’s birthday, I never would have thought I would start a blog that would be my primary artistic outlet and recreation. At Shortcut Girl’s inception, I was skeptical, even of myself and wasn’t sure it I would keep it up. But here I am, about to publish post # 87, and feeling really, really excited to have a new frame for my life. I always wanted to be a writer. And look at that. Here I am. “That’s my girl!”

 

8 Shortcuts You Haven’t Tried Yet

1. Dry shampoo: For the girl on the go who does not want greasy hair!
2. Smooth shave: Smooth legs, no expensive shaving cream!
3. “Cheater” Homemade pizza: Thai Chicken. Make it for your friends, it’s better than delivery.
4. Dump cake: The birthday cake that you just didn’t have time to make!
5. Editing your own photos: The professional look without the professional cost.
6. A sock bun: For the days when you just can’t handle your hair.
7. Yoga for the mind: Generating gratitude to help center you.
8. At home highlights: Do-it-yourself make over, right at your bathroom sink.

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Yoga for the Mind: 5 Things

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The Backstory

It’s been a week since someone in my family (my sister in law and Celia’s godmother) got the best news ever. Well, it was good news only because of the bad news that preceded it.

Long story short. A doctor said, “Pack your bags and move to Fiji.” This statement followed the delivery of a very grim prognosis. Inoperable brain tumor.

Less than a month later, the inoperable turned operable and the remaining part of the tumor post-surgery was termed benign. A family breathed a huge sigh of relief, and so did an entire community. People from coast to coast were sending Facebook prayers, well wishes and cheer to a person who, if it were someone else’s hardship, would have been the first one getting everyone together.

Gratitude

I am lucky for many reasons. But one is that I married into a huge extended family. My husband is one of seven children. I love being part of it– mainly for the big-ness of everything- big birthdays, big holidays, big parties, big helping hands, and let’s not forget, big personalities:)

So, after seeing my sister in law Liz and her husband (Mike’s eldest brother) brave her way through what must have been the craziest not-so-merry go round, I found myself thinking a lot about gratitude. About being grateful and staying grateful, day after day after day. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

In three months, some of us will forget Liz’s brief brush with the unthinkable and will be wrapped up in our woes of the everyday. But what if you made yourself stop every single day, no matter what? Stopping in order to think, visualize, appreciate.

5 Things

Oprah tried to get everyone to do it in the nineties. Keep a gratitude journal, she said. Write down what you are grateful for each day. I did it, I thought it was worth a try. But it seemed hokey, touchy feely and maybe even a little forced. I needed something more permanent, more conversational, more rewarding.

Hmmmm. When did it start? Back in, gosh, 2005, maybe? My best friend since fifth grade, Kristy, encouraged me to email her a list of five things a day that make me smile. It was something she was already doing with a family member and it seemed to be a good pick me up.

Always up for some type of daily writing and/or journaling, I was game. And the rest, as they say, is history.

If I Was Right About The Date, We Have Been Doing It For Seven Years (Holy crap!)

We call it 5 Things. “Don’t forget 5 things.” or “Do 5 Things, it will make you feel better.” And it does. Over and over again.

This is why it works: Someone else is “listening.” If you are just thinking about your own experiences and how you are grateful for them, there isn’t a connection with anyone else. But here, the connection is paramount.

Also, it makes you stop- reflect- savor the moment and even better, look for the good in the world around you. Some days that’s hard, some days it’s easy.

Here’s my 5 Things from May 29, 2012:

1. Parker: “I’m just kiddin’!” About everything. He’s adorable.
2. Celia’s disposition. She’s so low maintenance, it’s hilarious.
3. My husband who thinks it is totally normal for an eight month old to have olives:)
4. A relatively un-busy week
5. My yard— I know I already said this— but I really, really love that yard!!

Doing 5 Things has done great things for my friendship with Kristy, it brings us close every day we write (typically only done during the school year, we both work on a school calendar). And because we are so in tune with each other via email, we tend to naturally text and call each other more often to follow up on previous emails (i.e. “Revision to “low maintenance” child item. Now she will only eat olives for dinner.”)

I asked Kristy what she likes about 5 things and she said this, “Listing 5 things that bring a smile to my face each day helps me start my day on a positive note. Even on the worst days I can try to refocus by remembering my baby’s dimple or saying thanks for steaming hot cup of coffee.”

So, pick a friend, a spouse, a sister, a parent and share 5 Things with them. It will help keep you grounded when a doctor tells you to spend some time in Fiji and will bring a smile to your face when you see how many exclamation points your friend uses in describing her garden.

Gratitude, it’s the shortcut to a happy, healthy life.