Saturday, January 26, 2008

First friend-date

I spent time today with a new friend from my neighborhood, and right now I'm basking in the glow of a good first friend-date. I feel happy to have a new friend. Sounds so corny, doesn't it? She's easy-going and down to earth, we both have young kids, we have similar tastes in books and movies and music, so conversation is easy. I like her sense of humor, too; she's intelligent and there's a spark mischief in her smile that is just fun.

We joked about today our "first date" -- you know, the first time you get together as a twosome and try to get to know each other -- and as much as we were joking about it, it really did feel like a first date...mentioning snippets about our personal lives in that off-hand, quick-summary-of-me sort of way that says this is who I am, like it or not; giving small compliments; laughing at one another's jokes. And then when we parted company, I had a moment of "oh, I hope she liked me!" and "oh, I hope I didn't say anything embarrassing or offensive!" (I wonder if this is the reason that men don't really form new friendships after a certain age, because it feels too much like dating and that just makes them nervous.)

When we moved here last year, I had immediate dreams of making connections with people and really putting down lasting roots. I wonder if that's why I get so excited when I find a new friend in the neighborhood...and I wonder if this friendship will be like some of the ones that my grandmother has with the mom-friends who she got together with for play time with her kids, who became the grandma-friends she played bridge with every month, who became the old ladies who still call her every Saturday afternoon to chat -- 55 years after their first friend-dates.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Friday, January 25, 2008

It's raining money!

Well, ok, not really raining money, per se. A girl can dream...

But evidently there will be some extra money sent my way in the coming weeks---some for freelance work (yippee!), some because of this save-the-economy rebate (OK, cool), and some because of a whopping big tax return (which I do get a bit jazzed about, but really, it's my money to begin with...so it's kinda like wearing a pair of pants that hasn't fit in a while, then getting a compliment about your hot new pants).

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure how much any of these checks will really be for, and a portion of the money will have to go toward paying off my credit card debt (boo!), but for the fun of this posting, let's just say I'll have a thousand bucks to burn this spring.

Hmm...a thousand dollars, all to myself. I've been living a pretty frugal existance for some time now, so a thousand duckets in my bucket sounds like a fortune...and I'm finding myself daydreaming about all the fun I might have. Here's a little list of all the money-spending ideas I've come up with so far:
1) Go shopping with my sister-in-law and purchase something classy and extravagant: a Coach purse. Or maybe a Dooney & Bourke duffle. Or maybe some designer sunglasses. My very own. Nice.
2) Spend a few hours at a spa and have an hour-long massage, followed by a facial, pedicure, and manicure. Ahh...
3) Finally pick out paint, curtains, and a rug for our living room. Then hire a painter!
4) Replace the leaky skylights and unsealed window panes in our sunroom.
5) Give my husband a laptop so he can play Scrabulous with me while we sit in front of the boob tube...how pathetic, eh?
6) A $500 iTunes gift card and a $500 Amazon.com gift card for myself...whoa, what a lot of music and books!
7) Shopping spree at TallGirl Shop. And Zappos.com...shoes, shoes, shoes!
8) Plane tickets to visit my friends in faraway places.
9) Purchase the fancy Canon camera I've been coveting...oh, what photos I'd take!
10) Invest? Hmm...probably not wise in such a turbulent economy, but maybe fun.

The responsible side of me says, hey mama, stash it away in a high-yield CD for a rainy day (or larger calamity). Because, really, you never know what lies around the bend. But really, what fun is that? (And that would go against one of my New Year's goals about worrying about things that haven't happened.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year...reflections and goals

Holy cannoli, it's 2008. I'm not big on New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day is generally just a downer because it means my vacation is over, another Christmas has passed, and I have to face the January blahs. Ick. January is not my favorite -- so gray and cold, and not a whole lot to look forward to. In fact, I don't really like February, either, and usually it's not until about the Ides of March that my mood starts to perk up again. So, you see, New Year's Day is usually a bummer.

This year, though, I'm approaching this day and this month in a new way. I want it to truly be a HAPPY new year. So I'm reflecting here on 2007 -- a year that was definitely challenging for me personally -- and I'd like to set some goals for myself for 2008 -- a year that has started with me in a very content, happy, peaceful state of mind. I hope this personal "ohm" can carry through the next 12 months...wouldn't that be nice?

At times in 2007 I felt at times like I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders; at least I carried the weight of my family on my shoulders, and that was enough. I was anxious most of the time, grouchy and frazzled through the rest. I don't like to be this way. Duh...like anyone does. But I've always prided myself on looking at the positive side of people and situations, always tried to find the silver lining, learn the lesson, move on. Chris and I had to learn how to deal with this new house, and I found myself anxious about the house and all its upkeep and expense with each passing week. But here's what I've learned, after living here through all four seasons: We can do this. The house and yard will not always be sparkling clean and perfectly groomed. And that's ok. It's ok for a few dust bunnies to lurk under the couch, it's ok for the kitchen floor to be sticky on occasion, it's ok for the laundry to pile in the laundry room for a few days. And, it's ok for the lawn to grow beyond 4 inches, it's ok for a few weeds to populate the garden, and it's ok if the leaves go unraked until early December. If I can spend more time laughing with my husband and cuddling with my child, it's ok for the other stuff to fall away a bit. This house is lived in, and it's ok if it looks lived in.

I have finally started to feel like this is our home, too. I suppose it's natural for it to take at least a year -- live through each season -- before a house feels like you belong in it. Just today, though, when walking with Hayden to the little park up the street, I realized, yeah, I love it here. This neighborhood just fits us and our lives right now. The neighbors are friendly and we've started some great relationships. I love it that people wave when they drive by, even if they don't know us, and I love it that we can hear children playing almost every day.

Our money has been tight this year, too, because of this house and its giant mortgage, which has made it difficult to love this house or to feel attached to it. And that's caused some tension between me and Chris, both spoken and unspoken. But I realized another thing this past month, when we not only had to pay the quarterly bills, but also had to fill the oil tank and buy all the Christmas presents and accouterments: By the time NYE rolled around this year, we had $50 in our checking account. But I wasn't stressed about it. Can you imagine?! A few months ago I would have had to lock myself in the bedroom because of the sheer anxiety of that situation. However, this week I looked around and noticed the laughing child playing with his new toys, the relaxed husband munching on cookies. I felt the heat pouring from our vents, and I knew all the bills had been paid. And I felt comfortable. Yesterday I notices a line in a Jack Johnson song that goes something like "We have all we need and that's enough." So true. We've made it through our first year here, too, which means a lot. And I have realized this year that the majority of people my age with young families live the same way...it's tight, but we make our way through, doing the best we can.

Chris and I had become somewhat distanced from each other this year, too, and it took a (very) minor crisis in this past month to slap us back into shape and realize that not only are we in this for the long haul, but we want to be. During this minor crises, I horrible thoughts flashed through my head -- all these scenarios that could have rocked my world and taken away so much -- but when we talked and I realized that none of these scenarios was factual, I realized too that I have a lot to be grateful for, but also a lot to fight for. That's important. I suppose from time to time I need a little whack in the back of the head to remind me that despite the everyday petty frustrations of marriage, ours is a strong one, a happy one, and a marriage worth rolling up our sleeves to work on. It's so cliche to say that marriage is hard work, but truly, it is. (Hence the cliche, I suppose.)

I read a line in a book recently, related to this point. The novel wasn't particularly striking, but the narrator had described her family and her childhood home as ideal and Rockwellian, the kind of household that the neighbors envy because it bubbles over with happiness (which is how I picture ours, too); in her adulthood she realized something about her mother's past that didn't fit into that idyllic picture. When she brought it up, her father said something like "It's hard work being happy. But it's worth it." That struck me: In our youth we think that happiness is just something that happens, something you might take for granted until it's gone (like the sun -- you don't realize how much you love it until you have a streak of rainy days). As I get older I'm learning that perhaps happiness really isn't a coincidence or random occurrence. Perhaps you really do have to work at being happy -- concentrate on positive thinking and living, create happy memories for your spouse and child, overlook (or snuff out) the petty frustrations that often clog up your heart, consider the things or people or issues that cause unhappiness -- and fix them (or dump them) if necessary.

But I'm not afraid of hard work, whether it be for my marriage or my happiness. And I am happy -- though I think I could be even happier if I could just let go of some of the junk I've carried in my heart this past year. Let 2008 be all about dumping the junk...living simply and happily, which brings me to my goals for this new year:
In 2008, I will...
  • Pray each day -- for patience, courage, wisdom,forgiveness -- and in gratitude for the beautiful life I live.
  • Recall one thing each day that makes me smile, and say a thank-you prayer about it.
  • Write down the things that my husband says or does that make me happy, and turn to that notebook whenever I'm feeling frustrated with him.
  • Focus 100% on my job during the work day, and leave it behind at 5:00. Remember that I work to live, not live to work.
  • Exercise as often as possible -- dance, walk, stretch, garden -- instead of eating.
  • Create new traditions with Hayden during each season.
  • Pay the bills with my husband so we each know what's happening in our checking account.
  • Write in my journal at least 3 times each week.
  • Update my iPod weekly.
  • Read instead of watching TV.
  • Go out with a friend (without our children) at least once a month.
  • Put the best photos from 2006 and 2007 into photo albums!
  • Breathe deeply...aaaahhhh.

In 2008, I won't...
  • Be afraid of this house or its expense or maintenance.
  • Get mad at Chris if he doesn't infer just what I mean or think.
  • Dwell on anxiety about money.
  • Take out my frustrations with myself or my job on Hayden or Chris.
  • Do anything out of obligation or guilt.
  • Worry about things that are beyond my control.
So this New Year's, I feel good. No disappointment in my lack of NYE celebration, no sadness about going to work, no "I wish I'd done such-and-such" feelings. I hope this carries on...at least through January, anyway. Here's hoping we all have a happy new year.