Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Essence of Goals, of Existence

This new year brings goal setting, resolution proclamations and it is in this season that I'm reminded of my mediocrity. No, really, it is not self-deprication for the sake of compliments.  I don't have any sweeping goals to achieve or big projects to tackle.  I do think about my priorities and sure, I want to be a better mom, a stronger woman, a more effective teacher, a more giving human being, a more trust-worthy friend. But I don't exactly know how to say "I'm going to do x." So I'm wondering if that is what separates me from smashing success.

Maybe I'm a realist, maybe I'm an underchiever. I prefer to think of it as a place of spiritual contentedness to not have to say things like I'm going to lose 20 pounds or run a faster pace marathon, or never let Anna Cate watch teenager shows or have the best bulletin boards ever or always make my bed becuase here is the deal: I have to trust that my desire to make meaning of what I've been given is in the subtleties of my existence rather than a mountain peak.  I have goals, broad ones. This past week, I just finished a challenge through our gym www.rarecrossfit.com.  It may not sound like a big deal, but it was for me. On day 1 back in November, I did 1 burpee, day 2 I did 2, up until day 60. Overall I did, over 2,000 burpees (if I count all the extra burpees in class).  Anyway, the point of this is that I wouldn't say, I'm going to do so many burpees, but when the challenge appears, I took it, which is my way of goal setting.

So I'm going to renew myself for this first blog about the new year to state some of my goals, in the broad, big-picture way that my right-brain does things.  I want to enjoy and create quality moments with my family, teach my daughters what is important in life, give of myself to others with a heart of service rather than obligation. I want to take care of the body God gave me by making strength, moving  and eating clean food a daily priority.  I am going to trust myself that as challenges arise -- whether it yes to burpees or no to the processed sweets, yes to a day spent outside or at a museum and later on the menial housework, which all means saying no to "me time" some days and YES to "me time" others.
It is a balance.  So, I like to think of myself as balanced challenge seeker rather lazy goal setter. Mediocrity or Balance? Semantics.

January has been filled with quality balance. We celebrated BJ's birthday by making him a cake.

Anna Cate showed Molly about the goodness of licking the bowl.

The finished product,

which he liked.

I love January when BJ has Saturdays off so much!!! We have slipped back into a Friday night winter tradition of making pizzas on Friday evenings.

The girls get to watch a red box movie. BJ caught this moment of Molly trying to be just like her uhh kaate or sissy.

Last weekend, we went to Charlottesville to cheer on some friends from CROSSFIT in these crazy "games."

We went to lunch and enjoyed a children's museum.

At the children's museum, I enjoyed watching them explore and enjoy their surroundings, reminding me about the important things in life.

Modeling your priorities is key as displayed by BJ's propensity to play.

After our crazy week filled with lots of burpees, teaching, church, night time stories, cuddling, conversations big and small, we enjoyed a birthday party with dear friends to celebrate a sweet little boy turning 2.

We are so thankful for friends, our family here in Virginia.

Anna Cate and Maeve were just as happy as if the party were a play date.

Or a concert.

There are times in my life when I think about conversations I had or witnessed that didn't seem so poignant at the time, but have been defining words. Like when my Dad dropped me off to college and gave me this piece of priceless advice: Friends don't have to be your own age. That is the single best piece of advice I have ever received.

Well, one such conversation was when BJ's mother was dying and she said to him, "please promise me you'll stay close to the Hauns after I die." It would make her so happy to see these connections and these sweet faces in our lives. It makes me happy, too.  

Like the goals or the challenges, the things or friendships in life that are important take care of themself when there is this underlying committment to what is important.  Anna Cate reminds me every time I drop or loose something, "people are important; stuff isn't," a proverb she learned from my mom.  

So often these girls say or do things that overhwelm me with gratitude, awe me with praise or simply crack me up!!!  Anna Cate is such a fabulous big sister, evidenced by preparing this tea party for Molly. 

Tonight, she said, "I'm so glad I had a sister that you made."

Molly's vignettes aren't always as kind but just as endearing. When you ask her whose girl she is, she says, "Molly's girl."  Sister knows how to be in charge of #1.  When she professes her love with a big "I LOVVEEE you," the ear-piercing scream pales in comparison to her precious little soul we are encountering deeper with her developing vocabulary.

So there is not always a clean ending, a hard fast goal. Yet, the ebb and flow of life, the ways we weave our priorities of family and friends into the daily routines buids the foundation of this big ole life I feel so lucky to have. A hug from my daughters, an aha moment from a student, an overall exhaustion from a great work out, a clean breath knowing I'm doing all I can for my body, a knowing smile from my best friend and the father of my children, the laughter or sigh with a friend...it is all in what my goals are in this life -- meaning.  I wish I was a goal setter that I could achieve it all with more precision, but I'm not going to say I'm falling short of achievement because I'm finding meaning. I 'm grounded in my priorities with all that challenges me to be a better me, even if that me isn't into clear goals.  

The beauty of this season, this time of the year and of my life, is in the details as well as the overall landscape. 

To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Holidays, Real Life. Pause, Fast Forward; Calm, Chaotic. Love!!!

It all comes together in this symphony of life.

We used to have this little squirrel tarrier dog, named Sally, who had exactly 2 speeds: go-go-go or flat out asleep. Nothing. in. between.  I sometimes feel like that is our life. Yet, the holiday vacation provides a bit of the "in-between."

A little late, I know but I'm going to reflect upon the holidays. First, I'll tell how the four of us kicked it off with our gift night, a bit of a facelift for the girls play room:

This girl in her infinite giftedness for human connection knows how to show appreciation for gifts with the most excited expressions of gratitude. It is one of her gifts.

So I ordered the wrong slip cover for the chair, had to order the big chair. BJ thinks it was a trick to get a new piece of furniture, but it wasn't. They also got a new art table.

Along with some useful things like shoes:

A few days later and a croup diagnosis for Anna Cate the last day of school, we left for Tennessee, with our annual stop-over at Aunt's home. I don't know how it happens every year, but it is about 90 minutes of quality time, every single minute.

Both the girls instantly feel comfortable there.

It is so special, quality time on pause and fast foward all at once.

Then we were treated to 10 days of Bates family holiday style! So much good that it is hard to even reflect upon what to write...But seeing these girls together tops the list.

Mom makes sure there is a lot of family time, good food, and good times.

In addition to all the big moments,  there were quiet times of serenity.

Tradition commenced as Aunt Becki showed Anna Cate how to find the path of Santa Claus and Kitty joined them.

There was gift-giving galore. Uncle Doug has teased Anna Cate about dragons for over two years so she got him one.

Kitty and Molly each got a turtle sort of like the one Anna Cate was given a few years ago.

They were just happy to be together.

Elmo was the star of Molly's Christmas.

Kitty likes the little guy, too, and I enjoyed showing Kitty Molly's Elmo app.  Kitty is as excited about everything as she appears here. It is fabulous -- Kitty's excitement, but the free app is pretty great, too.

Douglas and Mom (along with a gift from Daddy's cousin of meat) made sure Chrsitmas dinner was divine.

I didn't partake of the meat, but I enjoyed the brandy.

BJ and I enjoyed our annual date.

Molly bonded with her other "cousin" Merc.

Cue mother's guilt for a dog-less household. But this kid is enough to take care of, I tell myself.

All 6 adults had a night out.

Then, we headed to Memphis to cheer the Vanderbilt Commodores in the Liberty Bowl.  I didn't go to Vanderbilt (didn't get in), but I've loved them my whole life.  At only 5 years old, Anna Cate does too.

We did the bowl game and all the festivities, which of course started on Beale Street.

With Lunch in a Bar, decked out in our black and gold.

My good friend, Carla Offenburger, here with us. Carla has been my pal since I was a child and seeing her connect with Anna Cate was a certain highlight of the trip.  Carla's husband, Chuck, and Daddy went to college together. Both of them were second parents for us on RAGBRAIs of my youth and when I was a student at Cornell College Iowa. I love you, Offenburgers!

And a Parade.

And a bit of a pep rally.

The day of the game, my little Commodore was all decked out.

Thankfullly, Molly Mae (and her cousin Kitty) were kept by babysitters for the day. Thank you Becki and Douglas!!!

We tailgated.

And cheered the team into the stadium.

Here, Coach Franklin extended a hand to Anna Cate on BJ's shoulders.The Commodores did not win, but it was a great experience being with family and friends, supporting our team. (Several of the pictures, I took from http://www.offenburger.com/

BJ and I tried to go out and celebrate our anniversary, but we were exhausted. On New Year's Day, we stopped by the Peabody to check out the famed ducks, and watch them "march" (run) in.

BUT we found a bigger celebrity....Coach Franklin.

Anna Cate saw him again (after the high-five) and he reached down to give her a hug.  Like all Commodore fans, this guy has my heart for sure!

The ducks were pretty cool, too. Anna Cate took this picture.

We did a drive-by to honor "The King."

On our last day in Tennessee, the first day of 2012, Douglas and Becki hosted us for dinner.
Where in the middle of the craze of family togetherness, I caught this moment.

My brother and I exchanged a sincere sentiment that we wished we lived closer, could know each others' kids better. But look at Molly's eyes, she knows, right?!

It seems like we got back into the swing of fast-paced life too easily and in a way, the time I had to stop and visit and actually fix my hair, put makeup on, play with my kids and slow dow a bit seems like  a dream. I didn't take as many pictures as I probably should have, and I've been absent from the space where I put my thoughts to words.  BUT here is the beauty in taking pictures and writing in general: I notice life as if I'm going to blog about it. In the midst of experiencing it all on fast forward, my soul says pause: Think, notice, reflect, say thank you. So, as we wrap up 2011 and open up 2012, I want to say thank you to this space and all of you who care to visit (like my best friend in the 4th grade who I haven't seen in over 20 years, Misty!) and share this journey with me. The passing of time is so fast yet so beautiful, exhibited by Anna Cate's glee over her toothless self.

Both the Tooth Fairy AND Santa Claus had to find her in Tennessee.

This morning as I was getting ready for church, I thought as I looked at my face how many lines I have around my eyes. Less than an hour later, I sat with Anna Cate and noticed her pride for her missing teeth. I wish I could embrace my lines with as much glee as she does her tootless smile, because I should.  I have the lines because I'm living, even if it feels like it is on fast forward.

I'll be back soon for musings on January.

The years teach much which the days never knew.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson