I feel so much gratitude these days, so much happiness that sometimes it's overwhelming. We live in a beautiful area in a great condo that we can actually afford, I like my job, Ryan likes his job, Esoterik Guitars is going well, Ryan and I have learned how to be beyond good to each other, things with my stepson are the best they've been since he was little (he's now 13), and things with his mother are finally peaceful. We eat extremely well, we are financially comfortable, and we have an amazing group of family and friends that are there for us whenever we need them. We are so, so lucky.
.... and then there's Caitlin.
Caitlin just amazes me every single day. She's so sweet and kind, so charming and generous and smart. She's so open to learning new things and considering ideas that challenge what she thinks is true. She continues to teach me how to be a better human being every single day.
I haven't been writing things down as much lately, so I'm going to do a little recap of some things that have been happening.
She is eight years old and in the third grade. She is an excellent student and really enjoys school. She says her third grade teacher (Mrs. Williams) and her second grade teacher (Miss Ward) are both so amazing that they are tied for first place as her favorites. When given the option to play hooky and stay home with me on occasion, she chooses to go to school. Mrs. Williams is the same teacher that Gavin had in third grade - she still has a thank you note that he wrote to her pinned up in her classroom.
Last night Caitlin decided that when she left Hamburger Town (where she lived before she was born) to come live on Earth with us, she got here through a hole in the space-time continuum. Wow!
Her current nicknames are Rollerblades, Blader-rolls, Sunshine Bear, Sweet Girl, Cait Cait Lo Bait, and Angel Pie. She calls her dad Ah-Da-Doo and me Ah-Ma-Moo. No idea why, but it's really cute.
She informed me yesterday that her style is changing from liking pink and purple clothes to a more "sporty" style with a little bit of rocker style thrown in (I approve!).
Her best friend is Annamae, and they are both thinking about switching to Teach Elementary next year for the more challenging work.
She loves to read to the point that she just bought herself a book light (blue, with an owl-shaped clip) so that she can read at night while her brother is asleep, and we frequently have to tell her to "put the book down." She likes to read while she eats.
Her current career goals include: Neuroscientist, botanist, artist, marine biologist, and entomologist.
She still likes playing with Barbies, but Hello Kitty is out, Tinkerbell is out, My Little Pony is out. She likes to play Minion Rush on the iPad, and still likes to do art and play board games. She and her friends like to make up "stations" (which I think consist of different games or toys at each one) and spend a little bit of time at each one.
Her favorite colors are currently black, blue and purple I think.
She is obsessed with hair chalk, and picks out her outfits each day very carefully. She loves to wear skirts.
I'm sure there's more I could include, but that'll all I can think of for now.
Life is so good. The future's so bright I gotta wear shades.
I have lately been thinking about how often I simply react to things without thought. The end result more often than not is negative, not positive. I am trying (when I remember) to behave more proactively, to live with intention.
I've also noticed that I have a tendency to mentally remove myself from situations and view them as an observer (usually a snarky, cynical observer) rather than actually being in the moment and experiencing my life. I have started the practice of saying to myself "This Moment" to bring myself back, to remind myself to pay attention and not get distracted, to not insulate myself in the safety of not really being there. It is safe, to not really participate. I'm less likely to be vulnerable that way, less likely to get hurt, less likely to embarrass myself with visible emotion. I can act on autopilot.
I've become lazy about living my life.
I've become afraid to be fully present and engaged.
But that's not how I actually want to live.
I've also noticed a habit I have picked up of seeing people through a lens of cynicism, especially my husband. I've developed a tendency to assume that I know what people's motives are, and have tailored my responses around that assumption, rather than on what is actually happening or being said. This is disastrous. Who am I to say that I know what someone else's motives are? Who am I to impose my own opinion of who I think they are, or what Ithink they mean, rather than simply noticing and appreciating the complex, interesting, and unique individual in front of me? I'm not inside their head - the assumptions and the instant reactions to the assumptions have got to go.
I have been actively making an effort to strip away the years of mental conditioning that I have built up, and to see people with fresh eyes - a brand new perspective versus my same-old same-old point of view. It's pretty exhilarating. I highly recommend taking your point of view and making it go all topsy-turvy.
One frequent result of my old behaviors (which of course still exist - I am a work in progress, as we all are) was angry, frustrated reactions to things or situations that didn't really warrant anger or frustration. Unfortunately, anger and frustration all too often translate into a raised voice or a nasty tone, both of which I would prefer to eliminate from my life.
I read a blog post today that had an excellent idea for what to do once I've started down the road of negativity - telling myself to "Come Back." I don't have to continue down the road just because I started down it. I can stop and come back to where I was before.
Two phrases I am now incorporating into my life in an effort to be a human being that will be "remembered for my smile, not my scowl," a person who is "a safe haven, not someone to avoid" are "This Moment" and "Come Back."
Here is the blog post by Rachel Macy Stafford that inspired my own:
Forgive the one who wronged you.
Decide this isn’t over.
Decide you’ve only just begun.
Lower the bar. It’s good enough for the people who love you.
Scale back. Surrender the pressure to “do it all.”
Take ten minutes to do something you love.
Take an old hand or a young hand in yours. See loving memories and future possibilities in their palms.
Whisper: “Let it be. Let it be.”
Declare: “I cannot control, so let me release.”
Turn up a good song.
Call up a good friend.
Hug the person nearest you.
Hug the person farthest out of reach.
Put something of value in someone’s empty cup.
Put something of value in your own cup.
Walk outside and spot something beautiful.
Dig inside and find something beautiful you thought was gone."
“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” – Clementine Paddleford
Never play the princess when you can
be the queen:
rule the kingdom, swing a scepter,
wear a crown of gold.
Don’t dance in glass slippers,
crystal carving up your toes --
be a barefoot Amazon instead,
for those shoes will surely shatter on your feet.
Never wear only pink
when you can strut in crimson red,
sweat in heather grey, and
shimmer in sky blue,
claim the golden sun upon your hair.
Colors are for everyone,
boys and girls, men and women --
be a verdant garden, the landscape of Versailles,
not a pale primrose blindly pushed aside.
Chase green dragons and one-eyed zombies,
fierce and fiery toothy monsters,
not merely lazy butterflies,
sweet and slow on summer days.
For you can tame the most brutish beasts
with your wily wits and charm,
and lizard scales feel just as smooth
as gossamer insect wings.
Tramp muddy through the house in
a purple tutu and cowboy boots.
Have a tea party in your overalls.
Build a fort of birch branches,
a zoo of Legos, a rocketship of
Queen Anne chairs and coverlets,
first stop on the moon.
Dream of dinosaurs and baby dolls,
bold brontosaurus and bookish Belle,
not Barbie on the runway or
Disney damsels in distress --
you are much too strong to play
the simpering waif.
Don a baseball cap, dance with Daddy,
paint your toenails, climb a cottonwood.
Learn to speak with both your mind and heart.
For the ground beneath will hold you, dear --
know that you are free.
And never grow a wishbone, daughter,
where your backbone ought to be.
Last night Caitlin and I had a Mommy-Daughter Night.
I put my phone away. I turned off the computer and the TV. It felt weird to be so in the moment with no electronic distractions. To me, that is something of a wake up call about my dependence on technology. I have been slowly reducing my use of it, but the habit ("need") is still strong. I will change this.
We started with a game of Battleship, which I won by a narrow margin (I'm pretty sure she peeked at my side, the little stinker).
After Battleship, we busted out some art supplies and got to work. I used crayons to color a picture of a giant crescent moon (with a very happy face, of course) in the night sky next to a unicorn. I made her horn, mane and tail multicolored, and the moon blue. Caitlin made a book with four pages: the title page (I Love You, by Caitlin), I love my mommy, I love my daddy, and I love Gavin. Illustrated, of course. We listened to Pink Floyd "Animals" while we did our art. I had forgotten the simple joy of doing something artistic and completely unstructured while listening to music. It was freeing. I imagined I could feel my brain cells moving in completely different ways than usual. I loved it.
Then we played a game with these new, tiny little figures that she had picked up that day with Nana. I don't know what they are called, but they came in tiny little balls. Caitlin lined up the figures on the edge of a book, set another book in front of them as a "stage", and put on a show for them that consisted of bouncing the empty balls around on the stage. One minute of our time equaled an hour for the tiny people and animals.
We then watched Kronk's New Groove, had popcorn and pumpkin bars, and snuggled on the couch. After brushing our teeth, we snuggled in my bed, read a story (Bad Kitty and Poor Puppy), and went to sleep. Not the best night of sleep I've ever had (she is a restless sleeper!), but it was nice to wake up with my little girl snuggled up next to me. Daddy was kind enough to switch beds with her so that we could have our sleepover.
Once again, this amazing girl has opened my eyes to wonderful things I completely miss when left to my own devices. She inspired me and reminded me of the beauty inherent in the simple things. I am grateful to have such an amazing tiny teacher.