“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
A quiet moment between friends...
It’s okay to be sad. After all, without sadness, there can be no happiness. On April Fools’ Day, 2001, my crazy next door neighbor knocked on my door and summoned me outside to see the mysterious contents of a smallish cardboard box. I peered inside to find two tiny little balls of black and white mewing fur. I pushed the box away and started to back away shaking my head. I already had two cats of my own and was fostering a silvery-white mama Siamese cat and her litter of kittens. I certainly didn’t want or need any more cats in the house.
But my next door neighbor could be quite persuasive. He told me a friend of his found these two kittens in a dumpster and they needed mother’s milk. Heck, they were only a day old, still had their little umbilical cords attached, and I already had a mother cat who was nursing her kittens right inside. So I reluctantly agreed to take them in.
It quickly became clear that my family of three was going to grow. It was official: I was going to become the dreaded “cat lady” and was doomed to die alone or at least surrounded by all my cats. How could I possibly send little Sugar Ray to live with anyone else after ManRay had taken such a shine to him, constantly cleaning him just as his own as his adopted mama had done? I fell in love with the little pink pads on the bottom of his paws and the white tip on the very end of his very long skinny and swishy tail. If it’s possible for a cat to prefer members of his own sex, then Sugar Ray certainly did. I don’t think it was any accident that it wasn’t until a few months into his life that I even realized he was a boy!
In July, Sugar Ray became very ill and I had to do the unthinkable. On July 8, I had to say goodbye to my darling little man forever. I miss him terribly but am comforted knowing that somewhere he and ManRay have been reunited and he’s happily getting groomed by his favorite buddy in all the land. Safe journeys my little man, safe journeys to you.
Sugar Ray 4/1/01 - 7/8/10
Yesterday was a non-stop flurry of words as Jubilee shared her dinosaur tale with anyone and everyone who would listen. At her summer program, she was given a plaster egg, some goggles, and a hammer. While wearing the goggles, she pounded on the egg with the hammer until it broke open. And guess what was inside…a dinosaur! And there was a fossil left inside the plaster egg. Her story was much longer and enthusiastic and it was obvious that this was the most exciting and glorious discovery in all the land. Her teachers managed to spark Jubilee’s sense of wonder with their simple little project and for that I am eternally grateful. I only hope we are able to meet many, many more teachers throughout Jubilee’s lifetime as creative, thoughtful, and dedicated as these lovely ladies.
Jubilee's Hadrosaur & Fossil
I imagine every parent has some “thing,” some milestone, lingering in the back of their minds that will signify their child’s normal or accelerated development. It might be walking or talking, throwing or catching a ball, using a spoon or a toilet, or, in our case, creating a representational illustration for the first time. (Have I ever mentioned that we’re creativity nerds? In our house, creativity is valued more than money.) After 3 1/2 years of scribbling and mixing all the paints together, our girl finally painted something with purpose and forethought! I feel so fortunate to have had the camera handy to document this momentous occasion. How many times do we get to witness a child doing something for the first time more than once? Allow me to present Jubilee caught in the act of painting a “Sun Tree.”
Little Artist Hard at Work
The Sun Tree
Jubilee and I went strawberry picking this week, a first for both of us. It was invigorating to be outside on a beautiful summer day doing something so simple, so far removed from our everyday lives, as searching through rows and rows of low bushes for perfect little strawberries. It took me about a pound of strawberries into our adventure before I discovered the importance of having separate baskets. If we’d continued to share, I would’ve ended up paying for an empty five pound basket of already consumed strawberries. Despite the backbreaking task of stooping repeatedly for an hour or so on our quest to pick the most perfect berries, I think the look on Jubilee’s face made it all worthwhile. Simply priceless…don’t you agree? If only we could bottle this overt joy and share it with those who have forgotten what it feels like. It can’t be found in a paycheck, driven around the block, or bought from a store. It’s all about the little things in life: growing your own vegetables, picking your own fruit, making your own bread and jam, holding hands with a wee one, watching the clouds roll by or fireflies dance about and light up the night sky. I’ll take that kind of pure joy any day.
Sweet Strawberry Girl
Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I guess you really CAN teach an old dog new tricks. If you’d asked me a year ago what I thought I’d be doing in a year, I probably would’ve responded with something like, “Sitting on the couch, watching t.v., and sucking down Culver’s hot fudge Concrete Mixer’s. Why do you ask?” And I would’ve been so, so off the mark. Sometimes it feels great to be wrong. Instead of giving up on myself, I invested in myself this year.
In January the opportunity presented itself to join a weight loss challenge. Since it happened to coincide with the compilation of my annual new year’s resolutions, I took it as a sign from the powers that be to do it. After all, who am I to argue with the universe? I convinced eight of my friends and family to join me and set a reasonable and healthy goal of a pound a week for the 12-week challenge. I wasn’t out to win, just to make a permanent lifestyle change.
When that ended, I knew I wasn’t ready to be left all alone with my missing twelve pounds and no guidance, support, or leadership so I signed up for a Couch to 5K class. Another 11 pounds and one noticeably thinner, stronger (and sorer) body later, I did what I’d long thought impossible: I jogged my first 5K!
If you’re sitting there reading this and thinking that you could never do a 5K or fill-in-the-blank with whatever scares the bejeezus out of you, think again. If I did it, then so can you. I wasn’t born with the “I heart running!” gene. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m a lousy jogger. I’m slow. I have bad form. I complain a lot. I get sweaty and tired and sore. But what I do have is a taste and craving for small victories. What I discovered in January was that with every little thing you do for yourself, especially when it’s something you don’t want to do, you build yourself up a little. It’s like knocking down a lousy self-esteem brick in your psyche and replacing it with a positive one. The more myths about yourself you knock down, the better able you are to see what you’re truly capable of achieving. I’m rebuilding my self-esteem, one block at a time, and you can too! Cue Rocky theme music…
That's me, #848, on the far right.
This week, at a friend’s recommendation, I did something I don’t normally do. I watched Oprah. Her guest was Geneen Roth, author of “Women Food & God.” As Ms. Roth spoke, a woman in the audience began crying because recently her seven year-old daughter told her she wanted to change her pants before school since the ones she was wearing made her legs look fat. Then I was the one crying. In seven short years this woman’s unhappiness with her own body became her daughter’s. This really got to me. What have I inadvertently been teaching my kiddo? I began thinking about all of the things that used to bring me joy that I don’t do anymore now that my new job title is Mom Extraordinaire. Have I been teaching her that she must forgo her own happiness for the sake of others? Or that her body isn’t a wonderland? That she’s got bad hair? Aaacckk! I realized that the greatest gift I can give Jubilee and the greatest lesson I can teach her is self love. One of the most important rules of lifeguarding is that you must save yourself first because you’re not going to be able to help anyone if you’re not alive to do it. In an effort to be the best parent to my kiddo, I’m going to try to set a good example for her by practicing a little self love everyday. And so here’s only the beginning of a list of things that bring me joy that I’ve neglected to do since becoming a Momma. I challenge you, dear reader, to make one of your own.
cook nutritious, delicious, pretty meals
ride a bike
take pride in my appearance (because I am NOT invisible!)
write and send letters
bask in sunlight
see live shows, plays, & performances
attend a crafty workshop
see movies I want to see, by myself if need be
treasure hunting at thrift stores
go miniature golfing
pet my cats
clean & organize the house (I swear it brings me joy once I get going)
get close to and appreciate nature
savor every morsel of food I put into my mouth
take a short lake cruise
take a road trip
organize and display my photos
be as kind to myself as I would be to a kid