Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life lately: Happiness edition

Things have been good lately.  Really good.

On Sunday we hosted Neil's work Christmas party.  It started with a group bike ride on the trail, then we returned to make pizzas for dinner and munch on an obscene amount of delicious snacks and treats.  After dinner, we gathered around the fire pit in the backyard talking and drinking wine out of mugs.

Yesterday the high was sixty-eight.  Sixty-eight!  Today is turning out to be just as gorgeous.  The summer here is miserable, but the winter is blissful.

Snapshots from yesterday:

HP and I met up with a friend and her little girl at the park in the neighborhood.  Two hours of outdoor fun.

After nap time, we played in the backyard and creek.  Dirt + water + rocks + sticks = hours of toddler entertainment.

HP helped me make pumpkin pizza dough for homemade pies, which mostly involves him kneading it for a second and then sticking a big hunk in his mouth.

I attended a yoga class in the neighborhood--always a highlight of my week.  I leave feeling calm, centered, and realigned.

The whole day slow, peaceful, and lovely.

Tomorrow we leave to visit our families for Christmas.  First stop, Missouri.  Second stop, Arkansas.

I hope to write some over the next two weeks, but if I'm honest with myself, I know I probably won't.  I'll be too busy relaxing with our families, catching up with old friends, and generally enjoying the last two weeks of the year.

See you in 2014!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Introversion, what it isn't

This article popped up in my reader a few weeks ago.  It bothered me.  At first, I couldn't figure out why.  After all, it was just one person describing her experience as an introvert.  But really, it wasn't her experience as an introvert.  It was her experience, and she happens to be an introvert.  Introversion is not a one-size-fits-all explanation for behavioral quirks.  As an introvert myself, I bristled at her words.  Here's why:

Introversion is not social anxiety.

Introversion is not shyness.

Introversion is not the inability to be a good friend.

I am a textbook introvert.  I look forward to and enjoy spending time with friends and family, but I need breaks.  Often.  I need time alone to recharge so I can be my best self.  Being an introvert does not mean that I have trouble making small talk, that I become anxious when I have to meet a new individual, or that I am reclusive my nature.  It means I get my energy from solitude, not from other people.

When I am visiting people for days on end, I know that occasionally I will need to go into another room, stop talking, and be alone.  I go a little crazy otherwise.  Not crazy because I am uncomfortable with people or because it feels like work to socialize, but crazy because I find it mentally and emotionally draining to be "on" all the time.  I need space to just be in my own head before I am ready to rejoin the crowd.  I know these things about myself.  Introversion is not debilitating; it is just another way of being. 

I do not mean to dismiss her post; I think Glennon's post was brave and needed voice in the conversation.  She is honest about challenges in her life in a way that few people are and through her platform, many people think: Hey!  Me too!  I thought I was the only one!  But in this instance, she used introversion as an excuse, which perpetuates the many negative stereotypes and misunderstandings people have about introverts.

On one point though, we both agree--the beauty of Quiet by Susan Cain.  It was one of the best books I read last year (or really, ever).  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Adventures biking in the cold

The weather turned cold over the weekend.  Cold is relative, of course, but here in Austin anything below 40 degrees is cold, and it dropped into the twenties and thirties over the weekend, which is downright frigid.  (Sadly, the weather was so awful that my parents' flight to visit us was canceled.)

Last night was my first meeting with book group I recently joined.  (We read Wonder, for those of you who are curious.)  All morning I tried to think of excuses not to go--not because I didn't want to, but because I was being a wimp about biking in the cold.

I hate biking in the cold.  Walking in the cold--no problem.  But biking?  Ugh.  I'd just rather not.  The wind makes it feel ten degrees colder on the bike.  And then there's the problem with layers.  Finding the sweet spot of enough not to freeze but not so many you sweat profously ten minutes into the ride is nearly impossible.

Eventually I was able to rise above the internal whining about how I just didn't want to and remember that: (1) It's not actually that cold out.  (2) I have been cooped up in the house for days and need to get out and move.

So I biked, and it was fine.  Unsurprisingly, I made a big deal out of nothing.

This morning's adventure into the elements was less pleasant.  HP and I headed to the Thinkery--the new children's museum in town.  I checked the weather--cold, but no rain.  In fact, there was a zero percent chance of precipitation all morning long.

It rained the whole way there and back.

It wasn't pouring rain, more of a constant misting.  HP was fine since he was snuggled up beneath a blanket in the trailer and protected from the elements; he was practically toasty when we arrived.  I, on the other hand, was cold, damp, and cursing the Weather Channel.

I have rain gear from my time in Oregon--lots of it, in fact.  Not only do I have rain pants and jacket, I have a waterproof seat cover and matching booties that Neil sewed out of dental floss and an old tarp.  Of those four items, the only one I had with me was the rain jacket.  My shoes were soaked.  My socks were damp.  My jeans were soaked on the top and damp on the bottom. 

I considered turning back and scraping the whole plan when we were halfway out of the neighborhood, but I couldn't bear the idea of staying in the house all morning, terrible weather be damned.  So we continued.

Even with the cold and the rain, I am glad we went.  HP loved the train table and I loved how the morning flew by.  And let's be honest--I felt like a total badass biking in the cold rain.

Lesson learned: Wear the proper gear.  When you think to yourself, I'll be fine.  I don't need my rain pants!  Think again.  You definitely need the rain pants.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Simplifying gifts

Neil and I are not big gift-giving people.  For the last five years, we have not gotten each other gifts for Christmas or our anniversary.  We do find or make something small for birthdays, but nothing extravagant.  One year in Oregon Neil found a free bedside lamp on Craigslist the day of my birthday.  The next year I was working in West Africa he wrote new lyrics to the tune of one of our favorite songs and sent it to me in an email.  Last year I made a playlist of songs that referenced various parts of our relationship and wrote a short description of why I included each.  This year I got him a used belt from a nearby surplus store.

For us, the lack of big gifts is both freeing and practical.  Gift giving is not our love language.  Since we are both on board with this approach, it saves us money, time, and stress.  We still celebrate special occasions, just not with physical presents.

We are fortunate to have families that are on board with taking simpler approach to holiday gift giving.  The adults in my family draw names and only buy a gift for that individual.  We all still buy presents for the children in the family (five grandchildren, including HP), but no one goes overboard.  In Neil's family we get everyone something, but there is an understanding that the gifts should be practical, homemade, used, and/or edible.  Neil's family is not large (HP is the only grandchild) so finding or making something for each family or family unit does not feel overwhelming.

We want to make Christmas special for HP.  In my family we never got gifts outside of our birthdays and Christmas so those events were a big deal.  I want HP to experience the magic of opening presents on Christmas morning, but I think there is something to be said for opening a small number of thoughtful and meaningful gifts rather than a huge pile.

After many discussions, Neil and I came to an agreement on what to get HP this year.  From us, he's getting:
  • This wooden turtle shapes puzzle from Etsy
  • A knife safe for HP to use with me in the kitchen (stocking present)
  • Used books I got from the library book sale and a free toy swap
  • A small duck with wheels attached to a string that I found at Goodwill (stocking present)
  • Block beeswax crayons (stocking present)
I am also on the look out for a broom at a garage sale or thrift store that we can cut down to his size, but am not too worried about whether we find it in time for Christmas.

We could have scaled back even more since at this age HP does not even understand the concept of Christmas, but this feels like the right middle ground for our family.  We are getting him thoughtful presents that he will use and enjoy, but keeping it simple.

I would love to hear any creative gift exchanges or alternatives to gift giving you do with your families or friends.  A book group I am a part of is doing a used book exchange at the December meeting, which seems like such a great idea.  I am considering floating the idea of doing this for the adults in my family next year instead of a more free-form Secret Santa.  Share your ideas, please!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Giving thanks

If I could use two words to capture our Thanksgiving weekend they would be productive and relaxing.

Productive. We cleared brush in the backyard. We raked up mulch from the driveway. We trimmed bushes. We cleaned the disaster area that is our garage. We completed a small project in the bathroom. We re-created a path from our back gate to the dirt path and creek behind our property. We made real progress in organizing our digital photos. We finalized our gift list for everyone in the family.

Relaxing. We spent hours exploring outside with HP--walking the dirt (mud) path, throwing rocks in the creek, walking up and down the mulch pathway from our door to the gate. We watched a movie.  We enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal with a college friend and her family. We slept in.

At the end of the weekend just before we went to sleep Neil turned to me and said, "It's been a good weekend, hasn't it?" Yes. Yes, it has.

And for that, I am thankful.