Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Alter the Ending (Part 2)

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Einstein

A few weeks ago, I made time in my work day to attend a seminar on "Time Management & Work/Life Balance."  The speaker, Pam Vaccaro (http://www.designsontime.com/), promptly shared that these ideas were mythical and she really just used them as buzz words to get butts in the seats.  While I really enjoyed her entire presentation, one particular point stood out to me.  To make her case, she shared a story about Starbucks.  And you know how I love Starbucks :)

Long story short, there was a time when Starbucks lost its way. Perhaps they got a little too big, tried to do a little too much and just stopped being what made their customer a customer.  So, they embraced a set of Core Values and EVERYTHING they do can be tied back to these values.  Ask any employee what these values are - rumor is, they're embroidered on the inside of every green apron.  I was struck by the simplicity (and obvious nature) of this notion - with the proper focus, anyone can achieve greatness - even in relation to the smallest of tasks.

So, instead of halfheartedly (pun intended) making a list of resolutions I'll never keep and then feel bad about not keeping, I'm creating my own "core values" for 2012 and beyond.  I can't possibly imagine being good at all or any of these, but I'd sure love to give it a go.  So, in true Rachel fashion, I put on some rather unattractive, snuggie-like socks and while sipping some red wine, made the list below.

  • Go Slow; Take Pause; Be Present
I hope to give up multitasking in 2012. I've tried it for years and at times have been a multi-task master.... but was I really any good at a single task?  Dinnertime has become a particular type of raucous in the D'Souza/Siebert household and really, dinnertime should be protected for enjoying a good meal and sharing one's day.  If someone comes into my office at work, I will shut my laptop (or better yet, come out from behind my desk to sit with them!) and give them my full attention. 

Single Tasking Day is observed on February 21st.  Join me in celebrating!
  • Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Traffic; Crabby sales people; Squirrels eating my tomatoes; Someone who mispells "their", "there" or "they're";  I love to slip on my crabby pants and get all worked up about the small stuff.  But the time and energy I waste on these things is too precious.  So - count to four breathing in, count to 8 while holding, count to 8 breathing out.  And I'll let the small stuff go.
  • Listen To (and love) Your Body
Almost 9 months post-partum, I weigh less today than I did when I met Brian.  In fact, I weigh what I weighed in college.  Thank you heart healthy lifestyle!! And yet - none of my favorite clothes fit the way I'd like. My rump is smaller (as is my bosom) and the stretchy skin on my belly is going nowhere fast.  I sometimes seem to forget that my body carried a chunk of a baby.  I caught myself scurrying from the bathroom to the bedroom one day.  Ever observant, Brian caught a glimpse and said, "honey, are you hiding from ME?" I am probably in the best shape of my life and was still self conscious.  How silly is that?! My body deserves alot of love - if I hadn't listened, who knows if I'd be here now.   So, 2012 is Love My Body year.       
  • Do What You Love *and be good at what you do!
I've had alot of change this year. The upside of this is making time to do the things I really enjoy - in my job and in my "free" time (I sometimes think that "free" time is a myth too!) 

I'm not sure that I've discovered all the things I love to do yet, but I'd like to make time for that in 2012 also!  And, it's never too late to learn something new, so for the things I do that I'm not so good at, I will take the time to figure out how to be better.

  • ...... And, Do What You Avoid
Organizing Clutter. Scheduling maintenance appts (dentist, for my car, etc). Scooping Mowgli poo.  In fact, I'm working on this blog instead of hanging a mound of clothes.  I find that, when I do the things I avoid, I walk away feeling quite accomplished and without a nagging dark cloud floating over my head.  Rather than avoiding, I will *try* tackling the tasks I often leave until they become overwhelming.  And if needed, I'll ask for help.  It's always more fun when you have company (Thanks Virginia, for inspiring this one!)
  • Be the Friend a Friend Would Like to Have
I wasn't the only one who had some unexpected/unplanned/unwelcomed "excitement" in 2011. I am still surprised and feel completely grateful when I think of the people who pitched in to help/support/just be there - as busy as their own lives were. 
  • Listen
An addendum to bullet #1.  Stop talking.  Ask three questions. And listen!
  • Make Time (Trust me, it's there!)
There are 24 hours in a day.  Do you know where yours go?  Sometimes, I find myself sitting down for the first time at 9 or 10pm wondering exactly what I did with my day?  I am going to try to spend my time more purposefully and make time for the things I always wish I had more time to do. 
  • Laugh
When I laugh, Cameron laughs.  And this is the most beautiful thing in my world. What else is there to say?
  • Embrace the Challenge
Adversity is always going to be there.  You can either fight it or go with the flow.  I choose to adapt.  It's not always easy or fun or what you want to do, but I think in the end, you wind up happier. 
  • Savor What Makes You Happy
I'm not sure that I know all the things that make me happy and I definitely wish I did more of the things that do.  Whatever/whoever it is that brings me joy, I hope to recognize it, embrace it, and keep it close (remember Kirsten Dunst in the movie Elizabethtown, taking "pictures" with her hands of the things she wanted to remember?)

So, how daunting does my list look?! I've made it public, so you'll all know the good/bad/ugly when it comes to how I did :) Thank you for being on this journey with me and my boys.  I wish you all -the- happiness- you- can- possibly- have- without- bursting in 2012.

Happy New Year.

"Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it." -  Goethe

PS: For those of you wondering, this post and its' predecessor are named for a recent Dashboard Confessional album.  Take a listen :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Alter the Ending (Part 1)

I've always found the time between Christmas and New Years a little disconcerting.  In my experience,  there's too much and not enough to do, all at the same time.  There is, of course, this eagerness to celebrate with family (my dad's birthday is xmas) and enjoy the wine/food/naps/jokes/games/laughs that come with these gatherings.  Yet, year after year, I find myself eager to wrap this one up and ready to ring in a new day, a new beginning, another chance to be a better version of myself.

Even with Cameron, this year is no different.  Having him does bring a whole new level of joy to the holiday season (well, really to life in general).  The kid made out like a bandit - we have one of every toy from Santa's workshop in our house.  His favorite so far is a pair of little wooden maracas that Santa (daddy) picked out.  It is too cute to watch him shake his little chubby fist as he plays with them. 

The day after Christmas, I find myself thinking about resolutions - what will I do in the new year that's different from the last?  In 2010, I made three resolutions (in no particular order):
  • No texting while driving
  • Make & bring my lunch to work 3 times a week
  • After the baby comes, work out 3 times a week
I guess you could say all of my resolutions reflected "healthy" behaviors.  How did I do?  While I try to stick to stoplights and before/after parking (and NEVER with anyone with me), I do still text in the car.  I wasn't particularly good at #2 & 3 until after the heart attack, when they stopped being options and started being part of my new normal.  So happily, at the end of 2011, I can say I kept 2 of my 3 resolutions. 

2011 has been the best year of my life.  Definitely not the easiest or most fun, probably the hardest and most frustrating.... but "best" is the most fitting word.  I gave birth to my healthy beautiful son and I survived (not suffered) a SCAD/heart attack.  I've surprised myself with things I never knew I was capable of.  My relationship with my husband has evolved as we discover a new identity as parents.  The kindness and generosity that friends, family and acquaintances have shared with me this year literally brings a smile to my face when I think about it.

During this in-between time, I can't help but think of what 2012 means -  the end to the best year of my life and all the opportunity and possibility of another new year.  My 8 year old cousin has high hopes for 2012.  When making her Christmas wish (her sister, 7, wished for more love in the world), she wrote: "I wish my cousin never has another heart attack."  What a lucky girl, that her Christmas wish will come true :)  With this end/beginning looming ahead, I tiptoe hopefully in the direction that 2012, full of joy, anticipation and my own wishes-to-come-true.

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year." 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." - Winston Churchill

Sunday, December 11, 2011

8 months and counting

At least a few mornings every week, I wake up to a peculiar little noise. *click click..click...click, click* - a tiny, barely audible little ticking.  The first few times it happened, I didn't think much about it.  I suppose I figured it was the house settling or noisy pipes or something.  A couple weeks ago, Brian figured it out - Cameron, having discovered the tooth in his mouth, was picking at it with his nails.  *click click*- he poked around his mouth, trying to figure out what it was that let him make such a noise.

I have to say, this made me feel like I have the smartest baby on the planet :) - just like every mom feels I'm sure!

Cameron is a little over 8 months now.  He is Mr. Personality - the kid loves blondes and is a rough and tumble little guy.  He's on the verge of crawling and inchworms across the floor in search of toys or to get ahold of Mowgli (who has no idea what he's in for once this kid starts moving!). 
Being dangled upside down by his ankles is one of Cameron's favorite pasttimes - along with being thrown in the air and splashing around in the bath. When I pick him up from daycare or walk into a room, he turns toward the sound of my voice and breaks into the best grin when he sees me.  He loves being read to and helps turn the pages of his bedtime stories. 

Last week he was sick with the fever/ear-ache/teething trifecta and seriously, a sick baby is the most pitiful thing on the planet.  You can't really do anything for them, though snuggling does help.  On one particular day, I worked from home since he was too sick to go to daycare.  We had a great day in our pajamas, enjoying a warm beverages (he with his bottle and me with my coffee) and typing away on our respective gadgets.  Cameron has a plastic, boldly colored smartphone as well as a little neon laptop that speaks to him in Spanish.  So I replied to my emails while listening to a cartoonish voice sing "Hola, Hola- this means Hello. Adios! Bye-bye it's time to go!"  By quitting time, we were both exhausted.  Cameron was sick of being sick and I was a bit stir crazy. 

This day reminded me of a particular saying I heard shortly after Cam was born -  "the days are long, but the years are short."  I'm not sure where the last 8 months have gone, but they've flown by.  Of course, they haven't been boring (and time does fly when you're having "fun", but I'm not sure I'd call this year fun either!), but I just can't believe that he's been in the world almost as long as he was inside of me.  I feel like we're making the best memories - I'm so excited to see him play (with the wrapping paper and boxes) on Christmas morning.  And of course, I'm happy that he knows his mama and gets to enjoy me.  Sadly, I came across the blog of a woman who lost a friend to SCAD (http://eisforerin.com/2011/11/07/remembering-bethany/).  Reading this gives me chills - I'm sure you understand why.

So... the days are long but the years are short.  But they're all we have and we have to make the best of them!  I am having so much fun watching Cameron discover the world.  Brian and I spent about 30 minutes today watching Cameron feed himself his bottle as if he was performing a miracle (Do you see that?!  Look at his hands?! Oh - now he's doing it one-handed!!! He's not even spilling.) I'm sure we could have ran some errands or cleaned something up with that 30 minutes, but I swear, it was the best way to spend that time. 

"But what minutes!  Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day."  ~Benjamin Disraeli


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What I Got

"FOMO"- heard of it?  Last week, while I was getting a decent cardio workout on the elliptical machine at the gym, I read (and laughed) about this new phenomenon "fear of missing out."  The premise is that social media allows people to put the best, happiest version of themselves out there for the world to see.... which makes everyone else jealous, envious, and fearful that they're missing out.

On the one hand, I could see this happening.  There are times when I go on Facebook and one of my "friends" (i.e. worked with me at my first job, went to my grade school, but wasn't in my class, or is a friend of a friend's acquaintance) is doing something that looks amazing - standing in front of a gorgeous waterfall, eating a decadent (and decidely heart-unhealthy) meal with friends, or watching the sunset on the beach while the rest of us are freezing our asses off.  Recently, a friend lamented an upcoming birthday, worried that she'd "missed out" on milestones that "everyone else" had achieved.  This gave me pause.  Mostly because while there's grass on either side of the fence, neither side is greener (unless your neighbor is my husband- he is METICULOUS about our lawn and indeed, it is greener!)  Falling in love is dreamy and wonderful, but relationships are HARD work.  Having a child feels like a miracle, but raising one is exhausting.

There are things I wish I would have done including, but not necessarily limited to:
  • Spending a semester of college abroad (in Chile or Rome)
  • More public speaking (I get the worst stage fright)
  • Continued piano lessons beyond the age of 10 (although I can play a bit)
  • Living somewhere besides Chicago and St. Louis before "settling down" (although, what does that really mean?!)
  • Eaten bacon and ganache every day (okay, not really, but if I knew I was destined for a heart healthy diet, maybe I would have gone all out!)
This might seem like a silly list of inconsequential things, but they sort of matter to me (and my perceived quality of life).  Do I feel like I missed out because I haven't done any of these things - maybe a little bit.  But my life took me in a different direction, and for all the things I may not have done or all the things I don't have, there are so many beautiful precious things that grace my life daily. 

Life is made up of choices - there are always tradeoffs and contrary to popular belief (or perception), you may not feel like you have it all. But, the thing is - you probably have your health, people who love you, and people you love.  Over the last few months and especially during this holiday season, I've tried to focus on what I do have.  And those things are perfect for me.  (Try not to be too jealous :)  )

Sorry for the mildly corny and ridiculous concluding quote, but you get the idea!

"Well, life is too short, so love the one you got
'Cause you might get run over or you might get shot
Never had to battle with no bulletproof vest
Never start static I just get it off my chest
Take a small example, take a tip from me
Take all of your money, give it all to charity

Love is what I got
Within my reach....
.... It all comes back to you, you'll finally get what you deserve
Try and test that you're bound to get served

Love's what I got
Don't start a riot
You'll feel it when the dance gets hot

Lovin', is what I got, I said remember that
Lovin', is what I got, I said remember that" - Sublime