Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ordinary days


I know it sounds strange, but it’s been a challenge to blog lately because things are swimming along this summer. And I’m not drowning. In fact, I’m on my fourth week at home with my girls, and I can’t remember a more perfect summer.

I read the New York Times article, Redefining Success, Celebrating the Ordinary and something finally clicked for me as to why I was so reluctant to post my blogs these days, even though I have about five idling in the queue. I realized that I was afraid to come out about what I’ve been doing with my days because, well, I haven’t been doing anything out of the ordinary at all.

I haven’t gone back to Paris with my family like I had hoped. Heck, I haven’t even left the state in a year!  I didn’t get a swanky new job or a fancy title. My preschooler didn’t win any prizes. We didn’t buy a house or a horse. And Thumper still isn’t walking yet.

In fact, all we’ve been doing is to move from one body of water to another. One day the beach, another the pool at the aquatic center and the next, an inflatable pool at a neighbor’s, trying to beat the unrelenting heat. And on temperate summer days, there are long walks to the park or the market or to absolutely nowhere at all.

Yet, I’ve been strangely settled. Content. And - dare I say it?- happy.

I feel sheepish and a little tremulous as I find myself admitting to this but now that I’ve said it, it feels like a bud that just erupted into a full bloom or the satisfying end of a sigh.

But I wonder: Do people admit that? Should they? My Chinese half - also the superstitious half - thinks it’s an invitation to some unforeseen disaster around the corner, poised to attack when someone openly, audaciously, admits that they’re happy.

And so I go back to doubting myself - a familiar territory. Because this happiness thing can’t possibly be. After all, nothing special has happened. How is it that I’m now happier than I’ve ever been yet I have nothing extraordinary to report?

But when I read the article, it all made sense to me.

How do we go back to the idea that ordinary can be extraordinary? How do we teach our children — and remind ourselves — that life doesn’t have to be all about public recognition and prizes, but can be more about our relationships and special moments?

And that’s what this summer has been about for me. Relationships and special moments. Finding the extra in the ordinary.

Like laying in the dark with Little Miss as we have a quiet exchange about our day when sleep does not find her so easily.

Like listening to giggling girls making mischief together in some part of the house as I prepare their meals in the kitchen.

Like braiding Little Miss’ hair for the first time, because she had always worn it short.

Like being greeted by My Guy with his homemade waffles and coffee in the morning. On a weekday.

Like hearing Thumper’s tentative first words, an imperceptible garble to some but to me, it’s like watching the world form around her with each word, “baa” (sheep/ball), “ah-ah” (monkey), “maa” (more/milk), “dah” (duck/dog), daa (car), etc.


Like watching Thumper offer the crying Little Miss a kiss and a hug as consolation. And vice versa.

Like not having any plans on the eve of the 4th of July and a couple of emails and texts later, we had four families at our house the next day for a potluck and another trip to the beach.

Like an electric night with my big girl as we walked down to the pier to take in the sight of her first Independence Day fireworks (she was always asleep by this time of the night before this) as her daddy stayed home with her sleeping sister.

Like My Guy who bought my friend and me a pedicure just so I could have a morning off and someone to accompany me while he watched our girls.

Like getting together with a group of neighbor moms for drinks on a random Tuesday night and coming home at midnight feeling more rejuvenated than tired.

Like being able to eat outside on the porch for every meal because the weather has been so incredibly good to us this season.


Like going on a date on a gorgeous summer evening and walking the streets of Chicago hand in hand with the one man who helped make all of these moments possible.

Katrina Kenison, author of “The Gift of an Ordinary Day”, says in the article:

“Ordinary has a bad rap, and so does settling — there is the idea that we should always want more. But there’s a beauty in cultivating an appreciation for what we already have.”

When I had a well-paid job before, I had more once. Many things that money can buy. Now I have neither Paris nor prizes. What I do have are relationships and special moments. Every. Single. Day.

But they’re ordinary. Yet, when I think about it, the most vivid memories from my childhood are of ordinary moments.

Like laying on my mom’s lap as we watched TV while she combed my hair with her fingers. I did that until I was well into my teenage years.

Like my father teaching me the breast stroke at the pool by the National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, my hometown.

Like playing Monopoly with my parents on my dad’s rare evenings home with us.

And I want the same for my girls. Remembering a gesture, a kindness, an evening spent under the stars, on a picnic blanket. The sound of laughter echoing in our living room.

Perfectly ordinary things. Nothing to write home about.

Yet, sometimes, as I’ve learned, they could be everything.