Thursday, January 30, 2014

Check this out guys!

“I want to go outside, see the ba…ther,” Pickle tentatively mumbled the last word, like she knew it didn’t sound right.
”Ba-ther?” I was puzzled myself.
”Yea, ba..ther… ba…fer… feb..?” she toyed with the words in her mouth.
After several back-and-forth’s, I figured it out. “You mean weather?”
”Yeah!” She exclaimed, “Let’s go outside; check the weather!”

I was hesitant. There’s chai simmering on the stove, waiting for My Guy to get home with Little Miss, and the sun is setting. It was probably starting to get frigid again, although the high that day was a balmy 20 degrees, compared to the –5 on Monday.

The two-year-old and I spent the day indoors, mostly playing with her toys downstairs in the family room and keeping the cable guy company. She sat on her knees and watched him while he upgraded our equipment and in response to his question, you’re cute you know that?, she said, “Yeah, I know.”

After a quiet day in, I couldn’t bring myself to jump at the chance of being outside. In fact, I was anxious to be done with the dreaded tasks of the witching hour – violin practice, the girls’ dinner and bedtime prep – so I could fast forward and enjoy a double-date night with My Guy and another couple that involved a tour and tasting at the local craft distillery and uninterrupted, grownup conversations in some restaurant with lovely, ambient lighting afterwards.

But, of course, you know what happens with kids and best laid plans… While I busied myself in the kitchen, Pickle had already pulled on her hat, scarf, and mittens over her pajamas (it’s always Pajama Day when we don’t leave our house), and she chose her sparkly Mary Jane’s for her feet. “I’m all set!”

I laughed at the coatless, sockless girl and was tempted to say, no you’re not, but acquiesced and helped her with her jacket and changed her fancy footware to boots instead. Still sockless, however, at her insistence. Whatever. We probably wouldn’t go far anyway. If she wanted to feel the cold outside air, the sockless feet might convince her of the cold “ba-ther” more efficiently. And perhaps we’ll quickly be back on task and on schedule again.

When we stepped outside, we caught sight of the rest of our family and both girls happily ran towards each other on the sidewalk. Reunited! The two-year-old then marched towards the lake, and we had no choice but to follow. She didn’t stop until we reached the snow-covered beach, “Check this out guys!”

The trees and buildings faded behind, and the view expanded to the breathtaking twilight on the lake before us. Suddenly the clock stopped ticking in my head, and all intentions to hurry ceased as I became overwhelmed with awe and gratitude. I would’ve missed this had it not been for Pickle. This little girl, who forced me to slow down and veer off course so we could do this, who inadvertently reminded me that it’s often the little things that mean the most, who insisted that we look up from our busy lives.

And behold the view.

Sunset

 

Amid the constant chaos and frenetic pace of our lives, it’s hard to remember that we do, indeed, live in a beautiful world. In our relentless pursuit of happiness, we forget that propelling ahead is not the only thing that will get us there. Sometimes we go further by standing still.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Frozen, and it’s not just the Polar Vortex

The girls are in bed. The monitor, abuzz with a chirruping two-year-old 30 minutes ago is now silent. At last, Pickle is asleep. Then, out of the blue, we hear her belting out “Let it go! Let it go! Let it go!”

It’s the song from “Frozen”, the latest Disney movie that has captivated the girls in my house, and apparently, around the world, as I’m positive the 60 million views on YouTube means we’re not the only ones with the case of Frozenitis. My girls both wake to the soundtrack, and most days, we would’ve listened to the CD in its entirety by 8am. Twice by 9AM on weekends. Four or five times by bedtime. I know, you’re probably thinking, shoot me

Except I secretly (and now not-so-secretly) enjoy it. I sing and dance along dramatically with them, and I watch them role play Elsa and Anna – the two princess sisters(!) – every day. Even Pickle has closed my door and asked me, “Elsa? Do you want to build a snowman?” and started singing. When I responded, “Go away, Anna” like Elsa does in the movie, Pickle readily reenacted the scene, with the same sadness in her voice, “Okay…bye….” 

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It’s awful, this Frozenitis. But it’s cute at the same time. Awfully cute.

You’d think that, by now, I’ll be ready to “accidentally” lose the CD in the trash somewhere, but I just read that Disney will release a sing-along version in the theaters soon, and I’m excited! It’s a family date! 

I blame my two girls for our affliction, but I think I love it too because it brings me back to my own sing-along obsession when I was their age. I knew the words to all the songs in “Grease”, and when I was watching it in the theater – I think I was three or four – I stood on my seat and sang them with abandon and embarrassed my Kuma (aunt) who was probably regretting bringing me along with her, although I could tell she was also highly amused in the way she related the story to everyone.

I always sought to join a choir in school, and might have opted to go to church in college just to be in a choir. So this singing thing? Yeah, I so get it. And that’s why I sing along with my girls, from the depths of my belly, my lungs, my heart; I love hearing all three (and sometimes four, when My Guy is around, although I’m pretty sure he’s not going to admit to this) of our voices in concert, “Let it go! Let it go!”

The icing on the cake? With two princesses as the main characters, sisters nonetheless, my girls never fought over who was Elsa and Anna. What? No fighting? Bonus! Little Miss, who’s always enamored with beautiful dresses and opulence, of course gravitates towards Elsa, and naturally, my goofy Pickle plays Anna with ease.

Little Miss had “Let it Go” memorized in less than a week after she received the soundtrack as a surprise. The girl who didn’t know words like isolation and conceal was already clutching at her heart and flinging her arms to match the emotions that these words brought to the song. Oh, did I mention I also had a thing for school plays?


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The Polar Vortex kept us home again for a long weekend, and I thought surely another 17 rounds of the Frozen soundtrack would do me in. But it didn’t. They happily relived the movie over and over, and I did that with my childhood in my head. That’s the thing with being a mom of girls. More often than not, you see yourself as a little girl in the most unexpected moments, unlike what Elsa sings, “I'm never going back; the past is in the past!”

With these girls, my past is sometimes right in front of me. And honestly, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s a gift, really.


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Monday, January 20, 2014

A Room of Their Own

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” – Joseph Campbell

When I shared my favorite space in my own home last week, I had also asked my favorite bloggers to share theirs with me. I was intrigued; I know quite a bit about these women from their writing and yet, when it comes to the real, physical world, I know almost nothing at all. If my room makes me happy, what does their happy look like?

Today, I am honored and grateful that they had agreed to share a glimpse into their lives with me, especially the part to which I am not usually privy. I love seeing this side of them, not just because it satiates my voyeuristic tendencies as I’m always curious about how people live in their homes, but because it allows me to look beyond their words to see the person they are. After all, aren’t we our truest selves in our homes? So thank you dear friends for sharing your lovely little corner of your world with us.

And here they are, in their own words.

Cathy:

CathysPlace

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This is my kitchen nook and my favorite space. This picture is from the morning. It's beautiful and gets the morning light. I like to sit here and drink my coffee in the morning while enjoying the sun. (See the picture of the sunrise.) 

My table always has a vase with flowers brought to me by my boyfriend. It has placemats from my childhood and my kids' childhoods. The two from mine are the turtle and one that says "Cathy's Place". Then I have one that's a map of the US states with all their capitals which I used to help the kids with when they were going to be tested on it. And then there's a numbers placemats from when they were very small.


Cecilia:

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I actually don't have a favorite spot in my house because it is generally overrun by clutter. But just a week ago I paid my 9-year-old $1.25 to clean up my desk area, and this is what he did with it. I love my wood desk and when I look out my windows all I see is green. To think that 10 months out of the year I don't notice any of this because my desk is littered with books and papers! My son also took the liberty of taping some of his origami gifts to me up on my wall. I have this thing about sticking little pieces of paper on the wall until I took a second look and thought, "That's beautiful, and that leaves a little bit of him in my room." As long as I can keep this space looking the way it does now, it will serve as my personal oasis in which to think, read, and write.


Corinne:

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There's a space in the corner of my living room, tucked away from the open space where we do all of our living. I almost missed the built-in bookshelf the first time I walked through our little half of a house rental. Right before I walked out of the room it caught my eye, and I was in love. It is my favorite part of the house. The children's books are upstairs, scattered through the playroom and their bedroom. The built in shelves contain some of our collection, a hodgepodge of college texts and great novels and inspiration and classics and poetry.

My husband and I have accumulated many books over the years, and they spill onto the floor and into other bookshelves in our living room. But the built-in is my favorite. It's where I color coded the spines to look like a rainbow {my husband laughed at first, correctly guessing it was an idea from Pinterest!}. It makes me smile. When the living room floor is covered in games, chess or cards or papers being drawn upon, when the couch cushions are strewn across the room or gathered into a fort, when the TV is tuned into another animated movie... the bookshelf makes me smile. I can get lost in the titles, the colors, the stories. I can find myself in that built-in, glancing through titles is like looking back at a photo album for me - I can remember dates and times and phases of my life. Our life through books. The corner built in bookshelf is my calm place, my peaceful place, my favorite place in our home. 


D.A. Wolf:

 My Cozy Corner

Dusty Little Chairs

My home is small, arty, and admittedly messy. It's welcoming to kids, teenagers, and young adults, and equally, to the man I love. Would I like it to be cleaner? You bet. Could it do with a serious dusting? Um... that, too. Would I like more space for storage - especially in the kitchen? Naturally. Who doesn't need more storage?

But it's just fine the way it is, and those who require "everything in its place" would be more than disheartened, raising a disapproving brow. 

Children? They love it here. I can usually dig up paper and crayons, God knows I don't worry about more mess, and I have an affinity for collecting diminutive chairs - a habit I adopted from my mother - so "little people" always have somewhere to sit.

But my favorite spot is one corner of the den that has transformed into my home office. It's where I work throughout the day and evening, and also where my Guy and I occasionally eat dinner. The walls are lined with bookshelves on both sides of the room, and above them are works of art - some done by friends. In essence, I'm surrounded by words and images. What could be better?
If you look closely, you may see dictionaries and textbooks, novels and poetry, family photographs and shoes.

Yes, I did say shoes - one pair of low slides in bronze, and a single steel high-heeled pump. Both are sculpture, lovingly made by a local artist.

My printer, office supplies, and files are all within reach, and as I tap-tap-tap on my laptop at a table covered by a red cloth, it's a space that suits me. I suppose this says a great deal about what I value - learning and creativity, comfort and coziness, a sense of family - and yes, cool shoes.


Elizabeth:

 

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This is a reading corner in my bedroom.  My husband and I salivated over this chaise lounge for months at a local antique store, but unfortunately it was simply out of our price range.  When we returned to the store six months later it was still there, the price had dropped dramatically, and we knew it was meant to be ours.  Now it sits in a sunny, previously-vacant corner of our room, and we fight over who gets to lounge there, reading a book.  It's the place I immediately gravitate to for a mid-day respite, cup of tea in hand, when my three-year-old goes down for her nap.  I also love the little table lamp that goes alongside it, which houses a tiny framed baby picture of me, a daily reminder of my journey through this life. 


Jana:

Jana

JanaPanorama
   
Here’s my attic, the room of my own, where I do yoga and write. And sometimes nap.


Kristen:

Kristen 

When we were house hunting last spring, I fell in love with the house that would become ours when I first laid eyes on the kitchen. Bright but warm, spacious and inviting, it's no surprise to me that it's become the proverbial hearth of our home. The kids sit at the island doing homework or drawing pictures while I whip up dinner. I cherish the memories we've already made here and look forward to those yet to come.


Rudri:

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This is where I write, read and reflect. It is a space where I seek refuge from noise. My husband has nicknamed it my "gohklu", an Indian word that means nook. I derive comfort in this small little corner of our home.

* * *


I have to say, every picture here suits the person who shared them, and did you also sense a pattern here? The space we choose for ourselves says so much about us.  From a group of bloggers/writers and mothers, it’s not hard to see what’s important to us: words and relationships—the one we have with our family as well as the one we have with ourselves. Both of which require space to grow and evolve.

Another important thing to note is that this room has no prescribed dimensions. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a room at all. For it to work, it needs only to contain ourselves and our thoughts, and be meaningful to us in some way. As Kahlil Gibran had once said, “Let there be space in your togetherness.” Whether it’s a place of gathering or escape, I fervently believe that, to cultivate happiness, everyone needs a room of their own. A place we can honor the part of ourselves we treasure the most.

Do you have a room or space of your own? If so, what does it look like? And what does it say about you? If not, I hope you are inspired to create one. As you can see, even the tiniest corner can bring you the biggest comfort if it means something to you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Happiness is…a room of one’s own.

We lay propped up by two pillows each in bed, a book in my hand and either a phone or tablet in his. Sometimes we chat, sometimes we do our own thing. Sometimes I lean against him as we continue wordlessly in our own worlds, on the same bed, and sometimes he turns to kiss me on the top of my head, unexpectedly and unsurprisingly at the same time.

We try to turn off the lights by 11PM, although earlier is ideal, but more often than not, we’re a few minutes late. For two night owls, 11PM is already an anomaly, so we don’t push it, even though when the alarm sounds at 5AM, we always, always wish we had the lights out earlier.

Rising from bed is a struggle for us, and we have come to over rely on the snooze button because prying ourselves away from a warm body to a winter-cold room when we don’t have to, requires iron will. But we do it anyway because we’re the most productive in the pre-dawn hours, while the children are still asleep. 

This is our new normal. And I love it.

I love going to bed with My Guy and having that time at night to decompress together. With our bodies next to one another, we don’t need to talk to connect, although we often do. From our previous routine of frequently missing each other at bedtime because either one or the other had a deadline that kept us up, this new normal is really nice. I had resolved to read more, tired of my own excuses of being too busy, so now, I get to do that too. In case you’re wondering, I’m toggling between Alice Munro’s “Dear Life” and Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier At Home”.


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The latter, especially, has given me a lot to think about, not in a self-help, step-by-step guide kind of way, but more in terms of validation. Yes, indeed I am happier at home. I’m not too far into the book, but already she has shown me, in this book and her last, “The Happiness Project”, how the decisions I’ve made and my subsequent actions have affected my own happiness.

While I’d like to dive into a Top 10 Reasons I’m Happy like she’s known to do in her books, which I suppose, is typical of their genre, I want to first, before anything else, focus on the one change I made that had a colossal impact on my life: Redecorating my bedroom.

I know, how trite, but I can’t deny its effects on me. It’s, of course, not the most important reason, because clearly having a great relationship with My Guy and a stable, comfortable family life trump physical space, but for someone who lives, works, plays, and rests in the same space, within the walls of my home, 24/7, my physical space becomes a crucial part of me.

You’re probably thinking, redecorating, how trivial or how indulgent, and maybe it is, but Ms. Rubin also emphasizes that one of the universal truths of happiness is that what works for some, may not work for others, and it’s okay! 

Because I tend to neglect my own space to focus on other areas of my life, this was a big step for me. Decorating is indulgent, I think, which is why we’ve spent so many years in this home with the same furnishings as the last, choosing to spend any monetary surplus, which was scarce during the year following our departure from our cushy salaried jobs, on travel instead. Anything above that was spent on the girls. Their room, their interests.

When Pickle started to sleep on a big-girl bed, I was finally able to redecorate their space with the two twin beds the way I had always envisioned. It was a satisfying experience, but now that it’s done, it’s just a checkmark off my task list. I had enjoyed it, but I don’t continue to derive enjoyment from their pink and purple room since I’m rarely in there myself, other than to put away laundry and to tuck them in each night.

For years, the master bedroom had been a place for sleep and nothing more. It was always the last room to which I paid any attention, even though I knew that having a dull, lifeless room zapped more of my energy and focus than it did restore them.

My Guy knew how I felt about our bedroom, and he’d occasionally buy me new bedding or something small to spruce up the space to lift my spirits and elevate the aesthetics, but it had little effect. I loved his gestures, but I couldn’t love my room, and every night, as I retired to a room painted in a color (not of my choosing) that I loathed and a worn, old bed, I couldn’t feel a sense of home and belonging, even though I did throughout the rest of the apartment. It felt wrong that the one place that should’ve provided the most restorative peace, was the last place that offered it.

Then one day last spring, we decided to do something about it. That puke-yellow-ochre or whatever horrendousness that was on the walls simply had to go. Two years of it was enough. That was also the time that things were better for us financially, so we finally decided to treat ourselves to this small indulgence. We hired painters to paint our bedroom while we were away at a water park in Wisconsin.

We went with painters because the thought of DIY’ing when we already had so much on our plates made us more anxious than happy, and if the point of painting was to elevate our spirits, then DIY would not have been the way to go. I then battled my practical nature to “save some money” and agreed to hire painters. It was also one of the best decisions of my life.


bedroomwindows

When I walked into the room after our little vacation, into what was suddenly a bright, sunny, joyous hue of blue that had the ability to also calm and restore, I almost cried. Or maybe I did. I couldn’t believe the difference. The effect it had on me was instantaneous. Suddenly, things started to look up, and I swear, it’s because of the color.

Earlier in the process, after much consideration, we decided on blue, except every color comes in a ridiculous number of shades, and we labored over the perfect hue at the paint store, with a multitude of blue swatches in our hands. Then, an obvious choice emerged, as its name, Serenity, is the same as our little one’s middle name as well as that of a particular fictional space craft from a beloved show of ours, “Firefly”. Besides, how could we go wrong with a paint called Serenity when that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve with our space? We felt it was a sign. In fact, looking back, I think that it was a good omen.

Opportunities started (and continue to) fall on our laps with Serenity on our walls, and that summer, I worked hard with two goals in mind: With the money I made, we were going to upgrade our old queen bed to a king-sized one and vacation in the mountains. We did both.

The bed is now our favorite piece of furniture in the house. We took a chance with a memory foam mattress and couldn’t believe what we had been missing all these years. It is the most comfortable bed we’ve ever slept in, and because we share similar tastes, the aesthetics of the new bed pleased us immensely. Many of our furniture came from our past lives, and now that we’re in a much better place together, both emotionally and financially, we’ve been making only necessary upgrades, like a much needed dresser or wardrobe, and of course the girls’ room.

But the wall color made us realize how important our bedroom was to us, and we started to pay closer attention it, instead of neglecting it to enhance our family room or living room, as we might have done in the past. Now, my bedroom went from my most dreaded space in the house to the most cherished and loved.

How could it not be? It’s now the room with my favorite color scheme, my favorite bed, my favorite books in my favorite bookcase, my favorite view from my favorite desk, where I retire and wake with my favorite guy.  

This new normal of ours feels and works better because we begin and end our day in a space we both love and enjoy. In fact, I think every aspect of my life is positively affected by this room. Both restoring and energizing, we rest better, we work better, we play better. 

I come in here mid-day to read or to lay in bed to feel the memory foam absorb my weariness as a way to recharge, I work and write from my new desk, and because of the bigger bed, the four of us frolic in here at random moments of the day, not just the mornings.

One of Ms. Rubin’s “Secrets of Adulthood” is that “outer order contributes to inner calm”, and that has become my own mantra as I work towards a happier life. We have been trying to declutter like mad, minimizing our belongings, which works for our “less is more” approach when it comes to aesthetics. And maybe that’s why this room works for us. Of anywhere in this house, there’s less stuff in here.

As much as I’d like to be a proponent of redecorating our way to happiness, I also know that it’s not an easy thing to prioritize when we have bills to pay, mouths to feed. But, in my defense, this room took five years to get to where it is now. Five years of always putting our children’s needs, even wants, first, five years of setting aside our own discomfort to tend to theirs, five years of settling and neglecting, five years of suppressing a deep longing for a space I could call my own.

A fresh coat of paint changed everything, but even then, it took over eight months to finally arrive at this point, when a certain potty-trained girl rid us of the last vestiges of the girls’ belongings (and clutter) in our room. For a couple who live on instant gratification, it was also character building as it exercised our patience greatly.

We didn’t do much, really—we painted, we replaced the bed and carefully chose bedding that worked with the walls, we moved a changing table out of the room and set up a new desk in its place, and we put up new pictures on the wall. In the grand scheme of things, and compared to the rest of the changes in the house, this wasn’t much. And yet, it made a world of difference.

I’ve always known that part of happy parenting is to put ourselves first, and while we’ve been protective of our date nights and time alone, I forget sometimes, that space, too, is important. It’s where we recover, recharge, and grow so we can be better as individuals, as partners, as parents. We are more readily there for each other when we are whole ourselves, and space plays a big role in restoring the pieces of us that come apart during the day.

Now, every night in this room, I feel the invisible seams tighten and, conversely, my grip loosen, and all my disparate selves, fragmented by myriad tasks and roles throughout the day, find their way to my center. It restores not just my strength and energy, but my faith that, no matter how difficult the day was, I will be able to do this again the next day. 

And happily so.


bedandbookcase

 

* * *

Monday, January 13, 2014

This is what anxiety looks like

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The Christmas tree branches drooped sadly, with the ornaments hanging on to dear life, in the corner of our living room, begging to be put out of its misery. It’s been well after the 12 Days of Christmas, but there it stood, once glowing with the warmth and celebration of the holidays, now a reminder of tundra-like snow days, canceled parties that altered our plans, and a steadily avalanching workload that had us neglecting our house since the last hurrah with our friends one Sunday evening, amid a snowstorm.

I think it’s exhaustion, not just from the day, but from all the events leading up to the holiday. There was daily magic to create for the girls – Advent Calendar, Elf on the Shelf –, and there were holiday activities and parties a-plenty, not to mention playing host to out-of-town family for a week. All wonderful, but also terribly depleting. By the time 2014 arrived and the last of the guests departed from our home, we were mush.

Hence the sad, crispy Christmas tree.

Once the girls were back in preschool on the first week of 2014, I had to get back to my freelance tasks that had sat waiting since before the festivities. I indulged in a two-week holiday, allowing myself to shift my priorities to focus entirely on my family for the last two weeks of the year.

But getting back to work after the prolonged break was a struggle. At first, I thought the inertia was from losing momentum and a regular routine, but when I looked around and saw a house still shrouded in the silver, red, and gold of holiday paraphernalia, I knew it was the impending task of un-holidaying the house that zapped my energy. Just the anticipation alone weighed me down, because no matter how wonderful Christmas was, and how satisfying, taking the decorations down is an arduous, dreadful process.


dining
Storage bins waiting to be filled; Yes, my cat’s in one of them.


It’s interesting how things that gave me so much joy and energy for a month are now the source of my anxiety. I think Gretchen Rubin nailed it on the head in her her book, Happier at Home, when she said, “When I felt engaged with my possessions, I felt enlivened by them, and when I felt disengaged from them, I felt burdened.”

Exactly. Disengaged. Burdened. And that burden has poisoned the well of productivity, dulling motivation and prohibiting us from accomplishing anything around the house. Making the bed, something I did every day, became an unbearable task. Dishes? Forget about it.

Bedroom 

kitchen
For the record, I can’t believe I’m posting these pictures in public!


Yet, we couldn’t live this way for long. At least I couldn’t.

And that’s how the weekend was consumed by Operation Take Back Our House. It started on Friday, when the girls were in preschool and My Guy at work. I turned on Home and Garden Television as background noise, and also for inspiration, as I slowly stripped the tree and the rest of the house of the reminders of our December days.

That was just Phase One. With the decorations put away, we found our energy again and decided to spruce up and organize different parts of our house to repurpose certain spots. With Pickle fully potty trained meant losing the changing table in our room and acquiring prime real estate back. Because I’ve always dreamt of a view while writing, we turned that spot into my writing space with a new desk (of my choosing) but a chair and lamp that My Guy knew I would love because of their color scheme (grey and yellow happen to be my thing these days).

We purchased the items together on Sunday morning, but when I came home from my run in the afternoon, it was all set up, waiting for me. My Guy even included a simple decorative item – a miniature replica of Serenity, the spacecraft from “Firefly”, a show that’s not only a favorite because of its own merit, but because it is linked to the beginning of our relationship.

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I am a lucky, lucky woman.

However, at the back of my mind, I knew luck had little to do with this. It took, and still takes, a lot of hard work to be this happy together.

It’s Monday now, and our Weekend Warrior mode is still on, which is a good thing, since we’re not done with the last phase of our project. Things are slowly falling into place, and the house is coming back together to what it was, and what we hoped it would be. I am fully aware of how my ability to feel joy – not happiness itself – is inextricably linked to the state of my home.

Which leads me to the topic of happiness. It’s the new year, a time of resetting goals and resolutions that are essentially our way of finding happiness, and while I’ve shied away from writing about it, the superstitious Chinese in me fraught with the fear of losing it the moment I admit to it, I think it’s high time that I dedicated some words to happiness.

Because it’s elusive, because it’s fragile, and perhaps even fleeting, I want to capture and bottle this time of our lives, which I feel is the happiest we’ve ever been, but this post is already longer than I intended. The sun is rising, and the girls are waking.

Today, however, in my own space, my room with a view, so to speak, and with the dissipating clutter that prevented me from looking further than my own stress, I now see the sky transforming from a soft black to what is now, a grey, smoky blue. The sun will soon shine through these windows that surround me, and while my view of courtyard greenery and the rest of our building isn’t the stuff of dreams, I do get to look up and see the sky.

And soon, it will be a brilliant, spectacular blue.

Monday, January 6, 2014

When the weather outside is frightful

My first post of the year, and I’m writing from Chiberia. We’ve hit record low temperatures, with today’s “high” at –11. That’s –29 Celsius. And that’s not counting the –55 F (-48 Celsius) wind chill factor. There’s a weather advisory—DO NOT GO OUTSIDE UNLESS YOU’RE INSANE! (Or something to that effect)—and for once, the weather people are actually right. It’s frickin’ cold. 

It all started with a snow storm last week, right around New Year’s Day. We were stuck in the house on the first day of the year, but on the 2nd, which also happened to be My Guy’s birthday, we couldn’t fathom being inside again, so we braved the storm for a trip to the Field Museum. But, first, we had to go through this.


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We made it, obviously, even though we could barely make out the city skyline, and we actually had a great time. My Guy and I were enthralled by the Chicago World Expo exhibit, and the girls were enamored by everything else.


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Hi, Sue the T-Rex!

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So. Much. Information. 

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Look, a Pteranodon!


Then, the plan was to head home, put the girls to bed, and head out to dinner at a new, highly acclaimed restaurant and a movie. But the snow wouldn’t stop, and My Guy had to shovel to get *into* our parking spot so by the time he was done, he was just done. He didn’t want to leave the house again. We also didn’t want our sitter, who had to drive 30 minutes to our place, to have to negotiate the treacherous roads.

To try to make it up to him, I baked him his favorite butterscotch bundt cake, and we had sushi delivered while we watched Spaceballs on our stay-home date night. Not the most ideal birthday, but hey, at least nobody died. I think that’s a good tradeoff.


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Besides, we had a party planned for the weekend to celebrate the new year and his birthday, so we figured we could just save all the merriment for another day. Except the snow just would not relent.

Our guests were mostly from the far suburbs, as they’re My Guy’s friends and business partners, and making the trek to the city on a regular day would’ve been hard enough. But to throw in 10 inches of snow on top of that? Sheer nightmare.

So, again, we had to cancel our plans. No party on Saturday. Although he tried not to show it, My Guy was really, really disappointed, and what’s worse was that I couldn’t do anything about it.

He had been looking forward to having his friends over for awhile, and knowing it was a birthday celebration, I took the effort to actually not procrastinate this time and cooked the day before the actual party. I made a feast of Indian dishes and even baked some cookies for over 30 people.

And, of course, that was the day nature had other plans for us.

On Sunday, temperatures plummeted and the weather advisory kicked in. Not only would we have another snow day, there would also be a chill that would make the Arctic seem like Florida compared to Chicago Chiberia. Great. Another bust. What the heck were we going to do with those large pots and pans of food?

Then we realized, those traveling far might not make it (and who could blame them?) but perhaps our friends and neighbors from our hood wouldn’t mind attempting a few minutes of soul-invigorating air if we bribed them with hot toddies, Indian food, and decent company. By then, we were pretty sure anyone with a kid who’ve been stuck at home that long would be so ready for a break from their own confinement, so perhaps we would be doing them a favor?

And that’s how we had a house full of guests on Sunday, when most sane people were huddled by their heat vents in their homes.

We extended our invitation, or rather, plea for help to local folks in the morning, and by the evening, guests showed up in full snow gear to help us salvage our weekend. And boy did they surpass our expectations. We went from “let’s do this so we don’t have to eat curry for the next five days” to “ohmygod, we had the best time.”


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It helped that we were fully equipped for Snowpocalypse 2014, which included vast quantities of alcohol of every kind, but I think the party gave us all something beyond warm and full bellies. For some, it was perhaps a distraction from the grey doldrums of winter or a welcome respite from delirious cabin fever. Others, it may be that they needed to commiserate.

For me, it was definitely all of the above. 

After the departure of our guests, My Guy, who found it difficult to smile most of the weekend, beamed at me and said, “You know, we have really good friends. And they’re really good people too.” I had to agree.

And that, above all else, above the hot toddies and spicy curries and warm baths, was what kept us the warmest on the coldest night of the year.


*  *  *

To those who braved the elements that evening, thank you from the depths of my heart. Not only did it mean a lot to us, you made a certain birthday boy very, very happy.

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