Happy, Shiny Day

There is always a summer day that stands out to me – The Happy, Shiny Day. There is a quality to the day that makes it quintessentially summer, special and a little sacred.

This very blog chronicles some of those days. I am not always sure it is happening, when it  is happening, but when that day begins to inhabit my thoughts in mid-September and take up residence in the spot labeled ‘Best Summer Memories’, it takes it’s place at the head of the line and earns itself that title. When it turns into a day whose heat and sunlight fuel my hope in February, it is forever sealed into the mental album where the others of their ilk are stored.

I knew this day was going to be in the running for a summertime award, when all three invitees amicably accpeted my invitiation and readied themselves in record time. When my request for time on the bayside, rather than the oceanside was met with resounding positivity, my happiness quotient expanded.

I sank down into my beach chair on the bay of Sandy Hook and I sank deeply into a space of sheer gratitude as I watched my boys play together. Play – with kind words and happy voices. I bought them ice cream and wished for a few more weeks of summer. Someone may have uttered the words, ‘Thank you for the beach day, mommy’. That someone may have been a teenager.

Sea creatures, and tidal pools and endless strand lines to comb for teasures are always ingredients that mix up into a delightful concoction for me. I wish that I had magical chemistry equipment that could distill these days down into a ‘Felix Felicis-type’ serums and save them in medicinal blue bottle for another time.

The school year has barreled into September like a NJ Transit Train with blaring horns and loud announcements. It’s dumped paperwork, early morning alarms, tight schedules, homework and a bit of unwelcome chaos and calamity on the platform as it sped off with my two of my boys.

I count the days to the Autumnal Equinox – I know it’s coming. So, I will line up my happy, shiny days like glossy, beautiful magazine photos for reading and purusing during the cooler, grayer and darker months that are coming. I will try to stay positive, but don’t blame me if I need to resort to what is in the cobalt blue bottle. 

This Is Not The End

There are more days of summer in September than there are in June, but people will easily accept June as ‘summer’ and September 1 as the heralding of fall.

Not so my friends and I forbid you to imbibe in anything “Pumpkin Spice” or to hang a wreath swathed in fake fall foliage on your front door until I say you can. I will be highly offended if you do, and lord know how we all feel about being offended. Except for me, because I’m a big girl and have way thicker skin than you.

August is totally gypping me out of the hot and sunny days I feel owed after all I put up with during The Season That Shall Not Be Named. Sometimes, I sit an conspire as to how I can transplant New Jersey, the whole friggin’ state, to a much warmer and temperate climate. If you know anything about me, it’s that I can’t function for long periods of time outside of New Jersey. Moving the whole state feels as rational of an option as it felt to me when I was trying to figure out how to leave the labor and deliver room while in labor with Ethan. I was completely certain that if I walked past the neon exit sign, the whole crazy mess would end. But, I digress. Often.

I won’t take September too seriously, though, with all it’s ‘School Supplies’ and shit. I will still attempt to sneak off to the beach every chance I get – even if that chance is in the evening and may cause my children to be out late at night. I will not participate The Great and Ridiculous Back-to-School Shopping Event. Gavin will still be wearing exactly what he’s been wearing for the last 698 days – jeans, a dark, graphic tee and a flannel shirt. I have explained summer to him and he is uninterested. Mikey will also return to school in his uniform – some super-matchy outfit consisting of sporty, nylon shorts, a brightly colored tee and crazy, mismatched socks that he still manages to match to his other clothing. I will probably acquiesce to a pair of overpriced Nikes for him. There – you happy now!?

Ethan is a grown-ass adult and Sean is a feral, homeschooler. Neither of them require much in the way of wardrobe changes.

Watch me, as I attempt to wring every last little drop of sunshine from the official 24 days left in summer. There are still a few things on my list. October is coming soon enough, but look at the date on this post.

It’s endless.

What I Know For Sure

Oprah always asks her Super Soul Sunday guests what they know for sure. I have not decided yet whether I will plan ahead or just go with the moment when she asks me.

Right this minute, I know these things for sure.

I know that learning to make the perfect iced coffee (or the drink of your choice) at home is a worthy skill to hone. You will possess the capacity to bring yourself a little bit of joy at any moment.

I know that hanging your newly laundered sheets out in the sunshine imbues them magical, sunshine-y properties and the most glorious smell. If you follow my advice of making your bed ‘hotel style’ each day, you will, at the very least, end it in the mosty satisfying way.

I know this guy is a crack up and even when he is exasperating – he is funny as hell! I know that he loves these coins. I know my life would not be the same without him.

I know that I am loved and cared for when my friend/sister/mother/mentor tells me over lunch that my daily walks are wonderful and that I should keep up the good work and then tells me that I should consider REALLY sweating and adding some weights to that. I know when I find this girl and I feel better each time I work out with her that things are going in just the right direction.

I know for sure that when all of my people were home on Wednesday morning, breathing the same air and scurring back and forth in our little house, I was really happy. It seemed like ages since we were all in one spot at the same time. Those moments are getting fewer and farther between and I have a feeling it’s supposed to happen this way.

I know that what ‘I knew for sure’ 20 years ago is not what I know for sure now. I’ve noticed that I know so very few things with complete certainty these days.

I’m still ready to talk to Oprah, though.

Off The Rails

There is a roller coaster at the pier at Seaside Heights in which you hop into a little car and a chain pulls you to the top of the metal structure with clicking and clacking noises. It perches you at the top and releases your car to swivel, swerve, turn and dip by the shear forces of gravity.

My mornings go the same way. Clack, clack, clack and then ‘Go!’. The same 7 chores, in the same order and then a turn here, a dip there, faster, slower. Almost always exactly the same and firmly attached to metal rails to ensure the same route each time.

The remedy to the predictable routine, is to go off of the rails. A sure fire way to do that is to leave town. Usually I try to get my family to do that as often as physically and financially possible. But not this time. This was my first solo road trip ever.

I was invited to a friend’s wedding in Vermont and I truly wanted to be there for the occasion. I have never driven that distance alone, rarely do much of anything without our whole family, Dennis or at least one kid, and had never slept in a hotel room by myself. I don’t experience many days without an extensive to do list and a great deal of domestic responsibility.

I am fond of trail signs.

I am also fond of trails

Look at that sky!

Endless landscapes.

Firetower at Mr. Olga

Simply couldn’t resist. 

The wedding I attended was beautiful and all you would want for a dear friend and I squeezed every single drop of fun out of 36 hours in Vermont – 3 hikes, a climb to the top of fire watch tower, a ride on a high and fast ski lift and a beautiful reservoir kayak excursion. I felt free and accomplished and renewed.

When I woke up Monday morning to no coffee and no way to make it, I simply grabbed a five dollar bill and walked the quaint main street of Wilmington, Vermont until I saw an open sign at ‘Dot’s’.

The coffee was great and the experience of having nothing else to worry about except for a cup of coffee was fabulous.

Day Trippin’

If you don’t know what ‘Earthing‘ or ‘Grounding’ are and you don’t have a friend who reminds you that the best way to traipse through the New Jersey Botanical Gardens is barefoot, I suggest you remedy both deficits.

I love day trips with the fervor usually reserved for say … your firstborn. I dream of places to scoot off to at a moments notice and always have a list running in my head. I love packing my sage green, insulated picnic basket and trekking somewhere new and exciting or old and wonderful. I know from experience that the things I think are so important on the list for the day…can wait. Day trips pluck me from the thick mire of tasks and to-dos that hold my feet firmly in the muddy constraints of life. I can hear the metaphorical sucking sound as I break free.

If it’s one of my best days ever, you will find me floating in a river-fed, natural pool hewn out of rock in the middle of the woods. If you don’t believe in the healing power of nature, good vibes, the transformative power of stones, maybe you will get lucky and I will take you on a pilgrimage to a place that will change your mind.

I am the dot in the middle of the EMPTY pool! Photo by Sean Costello

Days like this lightening my load, feed my soul and clear my mind – and all for $13.

Crocheting is Hard

I love crocheting.

I think about patterns and yarns when I am washing the dishes and stitches and multiples when I am folding laundry. I have dreamt about crocheting.

I don’t know exactly how this started. One moment before my obsession with yarn and a second before I learned how to single crochet, I would have never believed you even if you had just returned from the future and told me I had ‘a yarn stash’, 42 sizes of crochet hooks, books of vintage patterns or completed multiple gift-worthy projects. One moment, I was a non-crocheter and the next I had produced an octagonal, spiderman-themed blanket for Sean.

During my first project, I learned several different stitches, how to change colors, increasing, decreasing, attaching with a seam and working in the round. Might as well dive right in!

Many times, I have tried to learn to knit. I come from a family of prolific and talented knitters – but it didn’t ‘stick’ and did not acquire a knack for it. Crochet stitches make sense to me and I like how it feels to make them and I love how they look when they are made. Except for hats. I dislike crocheted hats.

I distinctly remember most upticks in my skill set – when I could vividly spot an error (an fix it!), the first time I noticed a pattern was poorly written, and when I finally understood crochet diagrams (those beautifully perfect little mathematical buggers).

I have always been a fidgeter, with nervous habits like biting my nails and picking my cuticles. Phooey, such an ugly habit. Now my nails are neatly manicured and I have not had a problem with these habits in a loooooooong time.

I know for a fact that crocheting decreases my anxiety and I believe that reading through a pattern and learning a new stitch have both taken my mind off of something stressful or upsetting. I have been in situations where I regretted not having a crochet project with me, but it is not always appropriate – but I sure wish it was.

It is NOT HARD to find blogs like this, and this and this to inspire me and fuel my dreams and aspirations for future projects. I love hearing why other people crochet and who they crochet for. I have enjoyed honing my skills with lessons on Craftsy.

It is NOT HARD to find beautiful yarns that I cannot wait to work with like this, this, this & this. Yum. Anything named “Smooshy Cashmere” is for me!

It is NOT HARD to fill a Pinterest board with new and exciting patterns for interesting and useful gifty-type yarn creations.

It is NOT HARD because of the intricate stitches, math-based patterns or all the strategies and skills that allow you to produce near-perfect specimens of lovely, soft fabric.

It IS HARD but because crocheting calls to me and I don’t know how to answer it.

What IS HARD, oh so hard, is to find time. It’s hard to grant myself permission. There are pressing chores and tasks to tick off the list. Life rolls at a certain pace around here and the laundry waits for no one. Meetings, phone calls, paperwork and regular life often consumes the minutes and hours until there are only tiny scraps left with which to do the things that bring me the most pleasure. I often save it for car rides and late nights watching Dateline. Crocheting seems like a luxury and I don’t give it its own line item in my trusty bullet journal.

Crocheting is hard.

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Bits of Bliss

I don’t get a lot of downtime and I am rarely alone. Quite frankly, I don’t often sit down and silence is a strange and very unusual sound for me. I do not have significant blocks of time to myself.

I am though, cultivating my ability to savor tiny, miniature moments that I can carve out of my days here and there. I grab these little moments where and when I can. When that’s all that you have, you hang on to them tightly.

On Monday, I decided to clean the pool. When I don’t want to do other chores, I clean the pool. I sprayed and scrubbed, skimmed and vacuumed. As always, I brought my favorite, waterproof speaker with me and tuned Pandora to ’80’s Pop’. When I realized the sun was strong and hot, I decided my bathing suit was in order – because the more skin I can get into the sunshine, the better! I noticed the pool was sparkling blue, clean and clear. I also noticed that no one was calling for me, my Adirondack chair was within reach and ZZ Top, Robert Palmer and Culture Club were streaming from my speaker. I had the ingredients for a delicious little break.

So I plunked myself down in my yellow chair in one of my favorite spots – my tiny deck, in the tiny yard of my tiny house with my favorite decade of music swirling around my head. I put my feet up on the warm, wooden railing and tipped my head back. With my eyes closed, it might as well’ve been Tahiti.

Dennis asked what I was doing. ‘Nothing’, I said literally. I did that for the 17 minutes it took my phone to run out of batteries. My perfect little capsule of leisure came to an end and I commenced my ‘real’ chores and the rest of my day.

On another day, I found myself kidless (what?) with a few extra moments between appointments. My sister called me on my cell and asked me what I was doing. What I was doing was sitting in my car in the Shoprite parking lot with the AC blasting, eating a salad that I didn’t make, listening to Neverwhere by Nail Gaiman on Audible. All. By. My. Self.

My sister laughed at me when I told her I’d have to call her back.

I adjusted my chair for maximum legroom and adjusted the temperature controls further towards the little blue snowflake. I snapped open the clear plastic lid of a super-market salad bar salad. No chopping for me – just pure enjoyment. Neil Gaiman’s dreamy voice and fetching accent narrate his own books. Thank God. I’ll save Neil Gaiman for another post – I am late to discover his cache of books and am REALLY sorry about that.  I had exactly 20 minutes to kill. Just enough.

And it is just enough. But I have to watch for the moments so carefully. They are like the little blocks in Tetris that begin to pass in front of you so quickly and if you don’t watch carefully, you are not sure how they fit in until they are going so fast they stack up and end your game! I watch for them coming and realize I can fit that little piece in – right here, right now.

Because those little moments of bliss –

You gotta grab ’em.

Sometimes it takes a set back to realize we need to slow down and replenish, we can't do it all, here's an honest from the heart post about creative burnout