Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Downtown Gratitude

Every Thursday evening at 4:45 I hustle all four kids out the door and down to the Ballet School, which is exactly four blocks away from our house, as the crow flies. On leisurely days we cross at the lights and round the corners to get there; sometimes we see a police officer friend, sometimes we get honks and waves from familiar drivers. We always check the time and the temperature on the theatre marquee and all four girls love to stomp across the metal grates in the sidewalk that make the loudest noise. We pass the salon where the girls typically get their hair cut once a year before Christmas (except we didn't do that the years we lived away) and the candy stores where we have lunch with friends or ride our bikes for chocolates in the summertime. These are the things we pass if we take the long way. However, when we're running late, or when it's very cold, or very rainy, we take the more direct route, which is straight across the library parking lot, down the alleyway between the apartment buildings, across the police station/pizza joint parking lot, not crossing at the lights, then finally through the big parking lots to Main Street, where the ballet school is.

One night shortly before Christmas, Martin was home from work in time for me to walk Anja on my own, but we still took the short cut (which is easier with only two people.) It's always nice to have a little one-on-one time with my oldest. I dropped her off at the door of the school--a little white building nestled between a large old building that houses our favorite brewery, and the food co-op, (which at one time was a gift shop where I worked.) Anja delivered safely, I turned and began the walk home the same way we'd come, using the shortcut across the parking lots and through the alley. As I was coming across the parking lot, I was met with a view that really made my heart sing. It was such a blend of modern warmth and Dickensesque charm--ahead of me was the pizza shop, all lit up with neon signs and twinkle lights on the trees outside, then behind that, rising above into the twilight sky were the tops of the old apartment buildings, then to the left the very beautiful stone Presbyterian church. I could see just the top of the library roof, and a ways beyond that, out of sight, would be my little house. It was such a comforting view--the city where I was raised, the downtown neighborhoods where I've lived for fifteen years--such familiarity in this urban setting.

I was so grateful to see that and to know that we are back downtown. It's a feeling of great contentedness, to feel like I'm where I am meant to be. I was never unhappy when we lived in the country--I loved it. We loved the lifestyle there, and it suited us really well. But it's funny, in those three years away, I never stopped referring to this downtown house as home.

Later in December it snowed on a night I was meeting some girlfriends out for a birthday dinner. We were meeting at a new Japanese restaurant on Main Street and had I not been only four blocks away, I probably wouldn't have gone because I don't like to drive in the snow. But instead, I put on my snow boots and walked. When I arrived there were seven of us total, and four of us had walked through the snow to meet each other. It was such a neat experience. As we were getting ready to leave it started snowing again, the most incredible snowflakes, so perfect they were unreal--it was like being on a movie scene, the snowflakes were so light and powdery. Being a Friday night, there were lots of people out and about, and as we parted ways everyone was so cheerful. The groups of strangers making their ways to the restaurants and bars and theatre were all so happy. It was one of the most magical walks home I've ever had, like walking through a perfect snow globe.

And maybe I'm biased. Maybe I look at this area with rose tinted glasses because it is home to me and everyone loves their own home the best. But I really think this place is something special. More than that, I'm just grateful that these views are mine, every day.

Monday, January 8, 2018

I'm Late to my Resolution (surprise, surprise)

It's a new year! 2017 is in the past (I know a lot of people who are pretty glad about that) and a shiny new year has begun. A clean slate. An opportunity for fresh starts and second chances. For resolutions! It shouldn't surprise any of you that I don't do New Year resolutions very well. Some people choose a word to see them through the year, and I've read a lot of really good ones in recent weeks. Some people step into the new year intending to make good, healthy changes to their lives, in their bodies or in their relationships, or just for their own pleasure. I really admire those people who can stick to something, who set high aims and do their very best to hit their mark. I think that's great! However, I am not that way. I try to be sometimes, but as the years go by it's becoming glaringly obvious that I'm really, really far from being an even vaguely organized person. In the kitchen, in homeschooling, in my music, in my resolutions. My life is messy and disorganized, and somehow I don't think people would feel very inspired if the word I chose for 2018 was "Chaos." 

So I did something different this year. Instead of saying, "This is the year that I WILL...(fill in the blank)," I said, "This is the year that I WON'T." This is the year that I'm just going to take what comes and try to use every situation as an opportunity to savor the moment. I'm not going to pile expectations onto myself or my kids. I'm not going to spend the year wishing I had more things or wondering when we can ever do such-and-such around the house.  I'll seize opportunities for action as they arise, but I'm not going to go looking for challenges. Because I'm lazy. Maybe that should be my word of 2018!

Here's really what I AM going to do: I'm going to remember that my kids will only be the ages they are at this time ONCE. I'm going to remember that this day is not plural. I'm going to remember that we seldom get warnings ahead of personal tragedy so if I'm not experiencing something devastating at any given time, I will be thankful. I'm going to remember that my kids are totally awesome and I'm the luckiest to be able to spend every day with them.  I'm going to remember that even though it can be a challenge to get everyone dressed and out the door, spontaneity ALWAYS makes memories. And I'm going to remember that we all have raincoats for a reason.

2017 was actually a really good year for us. We came back to our downtown house and settled in to stay. None of us wants to move ever again, not for land, not for chickens, not for a cow, not for a bigger garden. We love our house. And we've made some shifts and changes within the house that make us all love it even more, but mostly it just feels so much like home to all of us, even to Ingrid who was born when we were living on our first homestead.  Her first experience with this place was as en empty rental (that never rented)!  This year I just want to enjoy what we have. I want us to work our little urban garden boxes together and ride bikes and eat popsicles on the stoop and watch birds. 2017 was filled with all of those things and I think I did a pretty good job of appreciating what I had. I want to do it again this year, that's my only resolution. If I look at my days through the lenses of an outsider, it looks like this: The kids do their school work, we play games, we sew doll clothes, we make music, we draw and cook and talk and learn words and stories and history and myths... and our days just go by like that. There's no reason I shouldn't be looking at my own days just like that and thinking every day--despite the tantrums and the difficulties and the juggling of little girl emotions and bad habits and struggles-- "this is the good life." That can be my word for 2018! Or phrase, I guess. Because it's so true! This IS the Good Life.