#ThinkKit Day 12: We’ve put another quarter in the slot – free play! Hit the reset button on a moment this year: what would you do over? Whether or not you analyze your actions – how would you act differently? Would the outcomes shift, or stay the same? From a single sentence to a whole day (and everything in-between), feel free to explain your choice, from how you felt immediately after the moment passed, to any thoughts that ran through your mind beforehand. Take a mulligan!

Ah, the mulligan. I don’t know…I don’t like the mulligan because it suggests regret.  And, I don’t like regret.  I think regret and resentment are two very destructive emotions that are hard to release and even harder to overcome.  And, there is no reason to have regret because it’s simply impossible to go backwards in time and undo things. I mean, literally.  We haven’t solved the issue of time travel yet.

When I was in my 20s, I don’t think I could get through a single day without wishing I had a dozen ore more mulligans. I made many, many mistakes–every day.  In my 30s, I think I started to see those mistakes for what they were: mistakes–not the end of the world.   Only about half of them really truly mattered.  Now, in my 40s, it seems as if there is no such thing as regret.  I mean, everything happens for a reason–even if that reason is for you to feel bad about what you did: that’s the lesson–don’t do that again.

I have had some very painful lessons, just like you have had I am sure.  Lessons that have taken years to reveal their real purpose and meaning.  I think about the journey of finding a place for our middle son where he was valued and supported in the classroom.  An incredibly painful journey that lasted years (and on some level, we still can never really exhale on this one), but had it not been for all of that pain and all of those failures, it would be much harder today to recognize success.  Those bad times changed how we defined success. They changed our expectations of both our child and the schools.  They taught us how to truly advocate for what our child needs and they taught us to believe in him like we never had before. I has made me not afraid of challenge in the classroom–for any of my kids.

Now, that’s regret on the macro level.  Naturally, I still do have regret on the micro level.

I sometimes regret wearing an outfit (a shirt that doesn’t stay where it needs to or a pair of pants that wrinkle quickly in  the most unfortunate area, the crotch). Most of the time, I realize before I leave the house that it’s iffy, but I decide to go with it anyway. I regret that.  I often regret eating ice cream on some nights because after I am done, I realize it just wasn’t worth it–it really wasn’t that good.

Then, there are the times when my family is all going somewhere and I decide not to go because I think it will be more fun to stay home alone and enjoy some time to myself.  But then I miss everyone and I am board. I regret not going.

Most often my regrets, center around words.   I have a temper and sometimes say things that as they are coming out of my mouth, the voice in my head tells me “this will hurt the other person” and I say them anyways.  I have said things to my kids I wish I didn’t say; I have said things to my husband I wish I didn’t say.  But I did. And while I regret saying it, I offer an apology and move forward.

To me, regretting the micro is not really regret.  It’s oops, sorry.  It’s what can I learn from this and change in the future?  What I think of as real regret is on the macro level–the longing to redo a moment in life where the two paths diverged in the woods and you regret the one you chose. You think things would have turned out differently if you would have chose the other one–and you can’t let that feeling go.  That to me is real regret. And that, I just don’t believe in.

 

 

#ThinkKit Day 11: Nametags and punchbowls aren’t necessary (but we’re okay with that!) – who did you meet this year? Was it awkward? Enlightening? Was your first impression correct? Was it accidental & meant to be, pre-arranged, or somewhere in-between? Whether you found a soulmate, held a new baby, or finally trusted someone to style your hair just so, write about a new person (or people) in your life.

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I have met many people this year, mostly because I talk to anyone and everyone. It drives my kids nuts but I like to talk to people. Sometimes it’s because I am anxious about something and I have found talking to people helps quiet the conversation in my head and allows me to relax a bit.  We went to the top of the St. Louis Arch this year and I was terrified. Once at the top, making small talk with the park ranger helped me feel a bit more relaxed and took my mind off my own anxiety.  Sometimes, other people need to talk–for whatever reason–and I am one of those people that puts out the vibe, “I am open for listening” and so they somehow find me and chat.  Like a grandma at a swim meet or a mom waiting in line at the post office.

While my kids often roll their eyeballs at all the talking I do, I hope they also see how productive it can be.  You want to meet someone? Ask.  You want to know about something? Find someone to talk to about it.  A great example is when we were in Cleveland this summer staying at a hotel downtown and the elevators were out–all but one.  And that one was iffy at best.  We were in the lobby enjoying a cocktail before dinner (theirs was of course a Shirley Temple and two John Wayne’s).  We heard several people telling stories to the desk staff about getting trapped in the elevator and we started talking about our fears related to elevators.  Next thing I know, the elevator repair guy walks by.  “Excuse me,” I shout out.  Stunned, he turned around.  “Are you working on the elevators?”  He said he was and it seemed as if he were preparing himself to get an ear-full.  “Do you mind answering some questions for us?”

He graciously agreed to answer whatever questions we had.  My boys ask about what happens if the elevator falls and crashes to the bottom (which, he explained is almost virtually impossible), what should you do if you get stuck in an elevator, why does it sometimes take so long to get an elevator–everything they have ever wanted to know about elevators.  There.  See what can happen when you talk to people?!?  I even felt better after talking with him.

My kids have met some great people too and simply because we asked.  Sam recently went to see a robotics competition at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He’s really focused lately on where he is going to go to college.  Keep in mind he is only in sixth grade, but he told me he needs to have a goal in mind, he needs to have a plan.  Fine. I said and I have found ways to get him on the campuses of schools he is interested in.  I simply asked. So we show up for the robot competition and he is hanging with hundreds of college freshman who are all geeking out–and therefore, he is geeking out, just in heaven.  And, the President of Rose-Hulman stops by the event.  That’s pretty cool.  He walks by us and of course, I say, “Excuse me…”

I introduce him to Sam and tell him why we are there and he talks with Sam for several minutes and then, takes  him back to the robot arena–front and center.  He introduces Sam to some students, who let him try their robot.  He gives Sam a high five and encourages him to keep Rose-Hulman on his list of colleges.  Sam said to me on the way home, “You know, I feel like Rose-Hulman is really at the top of the list for me.  I mean, what are the odds that the President of Purdue would show up to a robot challenge?  I would probably never even get to meet him.  But at Rose, he’s there because it’s smaller.”

He’s right.  Although, he has met the President of Purdue before–when he was Governor of Indiana, at an event where he was a special guest of his idol, Ray Kurzweil. How did he get to be a guest of Ray Kurzweil, tech genius and futurist unlike any other?  I just asked.

 

ThinkKit Day 10: Time to get weird. We want to hear your strangest story from the last year (or more). Will it make us raise an eyebrow or three? That’s what we want. Whether it’s a tale of colliding coincidences, a strange Saturday you just can’t shake, or if it makes you squirm just to remember: get weird.

I am so glad I didn’t write this entry on the day it came out because just a few days later, a great example of weird.  First, I should say that weird follows me everywhere–I am guessing because I am open to it and…well…because I am weird.

About a month ago, I was having a conversation with myself (internally, this time) thinking about things I wanted to learn to do this upcoming year.  For some reason, and trust me, I have no idea why this came to my mind…I thought I want to learn how to tie knots.

Knots.  That’s what I want to master. I know, so strange.  Which is what makes this next part even stranger.

I often listen to podcasts while on the treadmill.  I despise the treadmill but sometimes if I am listening to a good On Being or This American Life I can momentarily forget that I am on that damn thing.  I was listening to a podcast of Ted Radio Hour called “To the Edge” that I randomly selected and which originally aired on November 28th.

The first story was about an explorer who goes to the edge–to extremes–a polar explorer.  The second story was about someone who goes to the edge hiking the other direction: under ground.  This guy explores caves that sometimes take them four days hike from the entrance.  HUGE underground caves.  He talked about how devoid of color and light they are, using only flashlights to see the gray, tan, black and brown colors for days on end. Then,  experiencing a sort of sensory overload when he comes out to the surface and sees color again for the first time.  His next exploration will take them into a cave for more than 30 days.

The next story was about an average woman who decided to do something extraordinary.  Feeling less than fulfilled with her rote life, she set out to do something she never imagined she could. She made a list of things she could do.  On that list, row across the Atlantic Ocean.  Then, she made a list of the things she would have to know how to do to accomplish that task.  The list didn’t look too bad (because, she noted, she wrote it at such a high level, absent of the detail of how to learn to do those things) and so she took on the challenge.  She did it.  She spent 103 days at sea alone in a row boat but she made it.  Then, she took on rowing across the Pacific.  She said if the first was about her inner journey, this was about her outer journey.

The final story was about Philippe Petit.  He is a wire walker who in 1974, somehow spent the night in the World Trade Center Towers and then rigged a 140+ foot cable between the two towers using a crossbow.  That morning, he walked on the high wire with no net, not safety devices, nothing.  Completely to the edge.  A quarter of a mile in the sky, he talks about faith replacing doubt the moment he steps off the edge. He talks about inspiration, the importance of using our own inspiration to inspire others.  Mountains can be moved, he says.  And at the end, Guy Raz says what Phillippe is doing now.  He has a new book out about his latest passion: knots.

I came home from the gym and immediately went to Amazon to find a book on how to tie knots. I put it in my cart for Christmas.  I don’t know why yet, but for some reason, I will need to know how to tie knots.  So, this year, I will learn.

 

ThinkKit Day 9: The calendar still says 2014, but let’s push forward. What are you looking forward to in 2015? Is there an event, special occasion, or reunion that you’re counting down the days until? Planning a trip? A life change? A move? Or maybe it’s the simple pleasures – the release of a movie, something or someone hitting a stage near you.

I am looking forward to this:

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Day 8: Get on your soapbox. What issue, idea, or stance were you vocal about this year? Or did you let it internally build up? Was there an event, person, or time that triggered your strong reaction? Or was it a slow-burn? Why do you feel so strongly – is it personal? Emotional? Strictly reasonable?

On an ordinary day, in ordinary times, this would be a dream topic for me. There are several things I feel passionate enough to rant about.  But right now, it’s almost too difficult to rant and rave about my main passion.

As you can imagine, there have been lots of conversations in our house these days–both just me and Jeff and with the kids.  The kids have become pretty clear of one thing: Most of you will NEVER understand our side of this big debate. You just see things differently,  You can’t truly understand. You can’t truly sympathize, empathize or even visualize.  Let’s just say my kids have seen how people really feel about cops the last few weeks and have watched the media and many others glorify criminals.

I plan to write more about this topic in the future, but for now, let me leave you with one story.

My husband works in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country.  IN THE COUNTRY, people.  Like the 17th highest homicide rate.  It’s full of not so great citizens.  Weapons are a common occurrence and when he shows up to a run, most of the time the criminal doesn’t overtly advertise he has a weapon.  That would sort of take the element of surprise away for the bad guy–it would sort of lose it’s shock value if he just had it all hanging out for the cops to see.  Although, sometimes it does go down like that, most of the time it doesn’t.

Knowing how prevalent guns are in this neighborhood, I asked my husband.  “How many of your runs turn out to involve a gun?”

I threw out 80%, maybe 90%.  He came back quickly and say with conviction, “100% of the runs I take involve a gun.  My gun.  At any moment, the suspect can try and get my gun and use against me.”

Wow.

 

 

ThinkKit Day 7: Wave your magic wand – whoosh – what would you transform, create, or make disappear in 2015? Don’t be afraid to change the world, or merely alter the mundane. Just be prepared to defend your decision with reason, or irrational emotion! 

This is an easy one.

Wave my magic wand and –whoosh–make this disappear.

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ThinkKit Day 6: Work, home, and _____. Where was your third place this year? Did you like it, love it, …or was it out of obligation? What feeling, sense, or vibe did you get from your third place? 

I am not a frequenter of places, except for home. I work from home, so work and home are one in the same. And, on my favorite days, I never leave home. If I could live my whole life within 3 miles of my house, I would and I most often, do. Grocery, the local family restaurant, the bank, the fish market, the pizza place, the liquor store, the gym—almost everything I need is right within reach. And, it’s not because I am dedicated to the whole “shop local” movement—I mean, I am and it’s great, blah blah blah, but it’s really just because I am a homebody.

My first preference is always to stay home rather than go out. Now, when I do go out, I am often glad I did. I enjoy the experiences, like trying different things and going new places but the idea of it is often overwhelming. It’s often overwhelming enough to make me not want to do it.

I try to stack my meeting all in to one day so I only have to get dressed in real clothes and go out once. I like being in sweats and having messy hair and eating my own food and drinking my own wine.

I have this rule where if someone hires me, I try to look nice. If I hire them, I get to determine the dress code. My time—my rules; your time—your rules.

Make up is the worst. I usually wear it for client meetings or if I am going out with friends, etc. But it’s a pain in the ass. First you have to put it on and then, you have to take it off. And for what? I really don’t think it makes that much of a difference. I much prefer to never have it on at all and just plop in to bed after brushing my teeth.

And, I don’t like places that are far away. That’s why I am always late. I want everything to be no more than 15 minutes away. I want everything to take no more than 15 minutes to get there—the thought of having to leave for something 45 minutes early is annoying.

Now that I have had that rant and sound like an isolated crazy person, let me just assure you of something. I am an isolated crazy person.   I am an introvert at heart. As a child, my favorite playmate was no one. My favorite way to recharge is in the house by myself. My idea of a dream vacation is everyone else goes away and I stay home.

It’s not lazy. Lazy is not a word I would ever use to describe myself. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s that I am so busy doing other stuff I don’t have time to drive far. I don’t want to take the time to put on make up. I am too busy doing important stuff. Like steaming cauliflower and purging closets.

We just got home from being at a swim meet all day and only have about an hour and a half until we have to leave to go to a friend’s house for dinner. Andy rallies the troops and organizes the “Christmas Tree Getting Trip” for all the boys in the house (that’s how we do it around here). Sam is freaking out and doesn’t want to go because he has too much stuff to do around the house (aka a puzzle) and has been gone all day. He just wants to be home and hang out in his underwear. I totally get it.

 

ThinkKit Day 5: What did you say goodbye to this year? Was it a bad habit? A ’94 hatchback? Or something less tangible? How did you feel the day after? The week after?

In 2014, we said goodbye to the car that Andy had deemed, “Pimp Mobil.”

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Cars are funny. At least for me. I have so much attachment to them. I know some people just think of them as the thing that gets them from point A to point B, but that’s like thinking of food as just fuel.

Cars have meant something to me since I was a little girl. My dad loves cars and part of our Saturday routine was going to look at cars, test drive cars and sometimes even buy cars.   He would get a call from a dealership and out we would go to spend our day driving whatever they gave him to try. A Lotus, an Audi, a supercharged Porsche 911.

He never bought a Lotus, but sure did love his Porsches. Which brings me to another interesting point: I wasn’t allowed to drive them, but my brother was. That policy seems very unlike my dad, who made sure I knew how to drive a stick even before I actually had a license because he never wanted me to, “have to depend on a man” to get me home.

I got a car for my 16th birthday. We went out to dinner to celebrate. My dad told me I could drive my mom’s car home. He went to go get it and he was going to pick us up in front of the restaurant. He pulled up in my Honda Prelude. The blue one I wanted so bad. I cried.I cannot find the picture where I first see it, but here is a picture of me on my 16th birthday when we got back home for cake. Yes, that is really what my hair looked like when I was 16. Hey, it was the 80s.

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About a year and a half later, I wanted a new car. A convertible. We shopped around, looked at a few and I had one all picked out that I loved. It was a blue Cabriolet. I can still see the light blue interior with tiny little polka dots on it. It was awesome. Then, one day, my dad brings home this red one instead. I cried.

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This time, I cried because I wanted the blue one; not the red one. In retrospect, probably not the best response I could have had. I had this car until I went away to college. It hung around the first year I was gone, then became a victim to the slow division and liquidation of mutal assets during my parents divorce process.

I was living in Philadelphia and needed a car. My dad bought me a cute little Honda Civic, a hatchback, and my brother drove it out for me. Finally, I had a car again. It was the perfect city car. I parallel parked it in the smallest of parking spaces; I hugged the turns on Kelly Drive and I weaved in and out of city traffic being sure not to block the box. I had that car for years, even when I moved back to Indiana in 1994.

Then, I was hit by a drunk driver and the accident scared me. It made me think my car wasn’t as safe as the new cars with those airbag thingies. I bought another Honda Civic, a red coupe. I loved that car too. I had my first cell phone in that car. Drove it to my first real job and had it when I got married and when we moved in to the first house we bought together. But soon, we started talking about having babies. I wanted something more practical.

I found a used Honda Accord wagon and we took out our first car loan together to get it. It was a great car and we brought Philip home from the hospital in it. Shortly after it was paid off, there was talk of baby #2. This time, I wanted a van. I found a used Honda Odyssey in the paper. It was located in a small town near the state line.   We drove to see it; I loved it. It was perfect. Low miles, single owner, in great shape. We bought it. We brought Sam home from the hospital in it. We moved to our new house in it. We drove to get stitches and to preschool and to playgroups.  Phillip, just a toddler at the time,  loved to play in this car and would spend hours washing it on hot summer days. We took trips and hooked up a TV so the kids could watch videos.

And then, I wanted a new van. I needed doors that opened on their own with a single pull. I wanted a built in DVD player and that new map thingy. We sold that van and bought a new van. This time, we bought a brand new van. It was the first new car Jeff had ever had in his life. I still remember when we went to pick it up. He said he wanted to drive it off the lot because he had never gotten to do that. He did it.

We had that van for 10 years. We brought Andy home from the hospital in it. We took so many trips in it to Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Missouri, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and more. That van took me to the hospital with a broken leg, took my mom to see a melanoma specialist in Columbus and brought Jeff home from two knee surgeries. There were some special “adult only” memories (especially that one in the Fresh Market parking lot). There were sad times like driving to funerals or leaving somewhere feeling hurt or unwelcome. There were many drivers—family members, friends and nannies. There were many passengers—family members, friends sometimes strangers. It was a good car.

When we got rid of the Pimp Mobile, we got a new van. It’s super fancy and very nice. I like it; I love it. But, it’s just not my old one. It’s funny how attached I got to that car. And sometimes, simpler is better. So the old van didn’t have blind spot sensors or a vacuum in the car, but it had old chewing gum in the carpet and that sucker that Sam hid under the seat. It was missing the “H” from where I backed out before the garage door had finished opening. It had that tiny scratch where the nanny ran alongside a bike in the garage. It had ten years of our lives in it.

We have already put a year into the life of this new van and it’s been a good year. The car already has almost 14,000 miles on it. Every one of them is full of a memory.

#ThinkKit Day 4: Whether you asked for it – or not – what good advice did you get this year? Did it come from an unexpected source? Was it unsolicited, or did you need a word or two after an eventful day, week, or month? Has the advice changed the way you think about the world? Changed the way you think about your advisor? Changed the way you think about yourself? Changed the way you act? Can you distill the message and help the rest of us out, or is it too personal to be universal? 

 

Here it is, people.  The advice that literally changed the space I occupy on this earth.  Thanks, Jamie!

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Aladdin

Sam: Mom, you know how Jewish people are really good at training little monkeys?

Me: Huh?

Sam: You know how they all have monkeys and the monkeys listen to them and do what they say?

Me: Where on earth did you hear that? What do Jewish people have to do with monkeys?

Sam: Well, Aladdin is Jewish and he trained that little monkey.

Me: I don’t think Aladdin is Jewish.

Sam: Yes he is.

Me: What makes you think that?

Sam: He wears that little hat.

Me: He isn’t Jewish. That’s a different hat and Jewish people don’t train monkeys! Sam: …Oh, okay, never mind then.

 

The Rock

So I am in bed on Thursday recovering from the flu. I am totally out of it. Andy comes in and stands by the side of my bed and says I have a rock stuck in my nose. I say okay and he leaves. I think to myself I should mention it to Jeff, but I fall back asleep.

The next morning, I am feeling better and go wake Andy up for school.

“I am all buggery,” he says.

“Yes, you are I can hear it.” I said.

A few minutes later he comes in my room where I am sitting in bed watching the morning news. “Andy, why don’t you blow your nose?” and I hand him a Kleenex.

“Thanks,” he says and he starts walking out as he is blowing his nose. “Hey….I got the rock out!” he shouts.

“The rock??!” Jeff and I both repeat what he said and look at each other. “Let me see,” I said and he proudly holds up the Kleenex to expose, indeed, a rock.

Here it is next to an almond and a ruler so you can get a sense of its size. I have no idea how he got it up there…let alone left it up there for more than 12 hours.

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