A surprise picnic. The weather wasn’t great. We didn’t even really know the area. The option to hike it in would have been too much to carry.
A friend scouted a park with a pavilion. We wandered in tandem with the vague directions we had, then finally stumbled on the spot.
The coolers, tucked in the back of the jeep for hours, and boxes and bags were ported out. Then the spoiling began.
A white tablecloth was the foundation. Topped by a fall-themed tablecloth with muted hues. Draped with care over the metal picnic table. Then, fancy bamboo plates and utensils. Yellow napkins folded at each place. Then, the finishing touches…jewel-colored velvet pumpkins that later doubled as party favors / remembrances for each of the women there. A fall candle bought brand new for the occasion, glowing and sharing a hint of apple scent. A table worthy of special guests. Even out in the middle of the soccer fields and playgrounds. Then, a build-your-own lunch spread courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Nothing too fussy. Just nibbles to try.
In recent years, I have grown to love surprising people…not in the sense of surprise parties, but more about delighting people with over-the-top unique details. Whether it be decorations, unexpected custom cookies that match their party theme, party favors that make people giggle, artist-created invitations, or a meal fit for a queen, it feeds my soul to make people feel special and make occasions memorable. People are worth celebrating.
This also extends to presents I may drop on porches on a random Tuesday. Life is a challenge for many. Why not make people smile?
I hope when they pull out that pumpkin each fall they smile and remember a great day, and someone who cared about them enough to plan something special. Spoil people a little sometimes. They are worth it.
Parenting and life lessons. My youngest is a senior in high school. With two twenty-somethings, I have had some practice letting go of the reins with my kids. I might be a little more chill about their decisions these days, but that hasn’t come without a lot of years of frustration.
I remember when one of my kids was talking to someone on social media that they shouldn’t be. Waking up at all hours, endlessly glued to the screen. This was many years ago, when it wasn’t quite so usual for everyone to be attached to their screens all the time. After trying so many things, taking away the phone, taking away other privileges, and talking until I was out of talk, I still caught that child up at 3 am, on an old “lost” device, talking to this person they shouldn’t be. Again.
I remember my rage and frustration so clearly, in the middle of that night, and the wide eyes of my kid, completely unmoved by my temper. The look said “you can’t make me.”
There may be few things as frustrating to a parent than the realization that no, you really can’t make them do anything. Not without mental / physical injury or breaking the law. Oh, I wanted to wring that child’s neck that day, but I didn’t. And I remember that “you can’t make me” moment so well.
I remember the time I gave it to my own parents, too. I was running around with a much older crowd, lying about where I was. They went to the place where I said I was one night, I wasn’t there, and then confronted me when I arrived home. I got the lecture, and the “promise you won’t do that again” ultimatum. But I looked straight at my father and told him I couldn’t promise him that. And I am sure, in that moment, when I was supposed to promise, whether or not I meant it, he must have wanted to wring my sassy teenage neck as well. (Sorry, Mom and Dad! Wish you were here so I could apologize to your faces.)
In my adult life, this lesson has smacked me in the face many times. No matter what, you really can’t make people do anything. When you’re left out of a social gathering. When people make decisions that you disagree with or take you further from each other. So many little daily things that happen that may seem puzzling or even hurtful. Here’s what I’ve come to realize:
You can’t make people spend time with you. You can’t even make them want to. People are fickle and messy and unpredictable. You can’t make people thoughtful or considerate. They are or they aren’t, and this changes from one day to the next. Most people aren’t sitting around thinking about how they can make me feel left out or unwanted. Most people are too self-centered to even have that thought. (Or maybe they do, but I’ve realized it’s not productive for me to obsess over other people’s hurtful actions.)
If you have someone who cares about you and thinks of you, cherish that in the moment it happens. Thoughtful moments are rare and to be treasured. If someone thinks of you repeatedly, that is truly special. Enjoy it. Relish it.
In the end it is all just data. I just know what I’ve learned from what I observe.
Everything and everyone is optional. Most people and things will eventually move on. When you change your circumstances, it’s inevitable that things and people change. That probably sounds callous. Maybe it’s the stoic reading I’ve done that makes it a little less personal.
Change doesn’t make the people you’ve moved on from less important. Life takes us all kinds of places and there are only so many hours in a day, a month, a year, a lifetime. It just makes every present moment more special. Time and attention are finite resources for each of us. If we can’t make anyone do anything, how are we spending those precious fleeting moments?
Valentine was sad. Mascara running down her face from her bloodshot eyes. Disheveled attire. Jittery all around. I could see her emotional pain from head to toe.
She spilled some of her story. Sad to hear. She was ready for a fresh start. Fate brought us together. A chance interaction.
I listened. I didn’t pass judgment. I passed a smile or two. I thought about my recent journal entry I wrote challenging myself to meet new people this summer. I did just that. A chance encounter. As random as it gets. I made conversation. I listened. I learned.
Today I thought about my chance encounter when I sweated a heart at the gym. Made me reflect on Valentine. Hoping her days ahead were going to be on the upswing. May sound corny but I took the sweaty heart as a sign that our paths were meant to cross on a chance encounter. As random as the heart on my shirt made from sweat.
Before the final proof read on this post, I had another chance encounter. I was making a purchase off an online marketplace. I met a cool dude. His name was Eric. He had a husband. He collected interesting items. One of which I wanted! An old timey outhouse. I’ve been fascinated with having an outhouse for yard art. I’ve been waiting for the best looking yet vintage one I could find.
Can’t wait to put it to use. To think my chance encounter led me straight to the crapper. What are the odds?
I love meeting new people. Hearing their stories. Living my best life includes chance encounters. Loving my day today and the randomness it involved.
One of 2020 goals was to complete a triathlon. I registered and started training and then, you guessed it, COVID. Postponed until 2021.
A lot of life changed between mid-2020 and now. Still, I kept that race on my calendar and wondered at times if I should still give it a go. The swim was the weakest of my weak spots and I had not really done anything to train it. I happened to be at a lake the week before the race and swam for 20 minutes without touching bottom. It was slow, but I did it. I also completed a 10K successfully the week before the triathlon was scheduled. With those things in mind, I decided to give it a go.
A triathlon is a strange race. So much different than a show-up-and-lace-up-and-get-running 10K. There’s so much equipment, so many rules (a 24-page rule book!) There’s transitions to think about and plan for. There are referees, penalties, even disqualification. All this made me incredibly nervous. I read, made lists, planned, packed, and off I went. Brought my precious facebook marketplace bike in from my car and tucked it in. I was up half the night wondering if my decades-old helmet would meet the standards. Finally, 5:00 am came.
I double checked my list, had some hotel room coffee and off I went. Transition is such a madhouse. By the time I arrived there were already hundreds of bikes hung from racks. A lady saw me in my confusion, forcefully grabbed my bike and told me where to put my towel and transition setup. Everything was tight. You get about 12 x 18 inches to lay out your running shoes, socks, running belt, clothes, and anything else you need. If your space is too big or you block someone else it’s a penalty. Nerve wracking. Timing chip on my left ankle. Race number in permanent ink on both my biceps. My race age on the back of my leg. Now the long wait to start.
One of the reasons I chose this race was the waterslide start. Yes, you waterslide one at a time into a river then start the swim. This made for about a 30 minute wait after the first person started. But, it is better than the scary start-in-a-pack situations I have read about. There were maybe 50 people behind me. I met a couple of other first-time-tri-ers as we waited. We shared out nerves, our whys, and our training for the race. Finally, it was time for me to jump in and hit the course.
I confess, I can move in the water but I only kinda know how to swim in any systematic stroke. I can’t freestyle so I alternated between a sort of breaststroke and backstroke. People passed me many times as I made my way down the course, passing one buoy then another. Just keep going. I finally got out of the water and made my way to transition, being careful not to get hit by bikes on their way out.
I was one of the last to pick up my bike, so it wasn’t very crazy. The first people were already returning from the 14 mile bike. Helmet on almost first thing (that’s a disqualification if you get on your bike with no helmet.) Shirt, shoes, race belt with energy chews, water bottle, etc. etc. Finally I cross the mount line and I am off.
Bike riding is a peace place for me. Just gliding along. Had some energy blocks and hydration. Tried to keep it around 12 miles an hour which is a good pace for me. Looked around. Thanked police and security. Glide glide glide. I missed having my phone but taking pics would have slowed me down. Playing music or having headphones in is cause for disqualification – this was one of the hardest parts!
Finally, the run. This transition was much simpler. Just hang the bike and helmet, grab a water and go. Seeing people who had already finished was sort of hard but also motivating. Just keep going and it will be me, too.
Well, this second transition was logistically simpler, but physically this transition is rough rough rough. Trading the speed and relative ease of biking for the slow plod of running is a shock to the system. I just had to pace it out and keep going. This was hillier than I had anticipated and I just walked up the hills and didn’t worry over it. I met several people who were just walking the whole 5K. It was an out-and-back so I cheered on every one who was still on the course. I passed my two friends from the start line on my way back to the finish. We were going to do it!
Finally, I came up the hill and saw the finish line, so I broke my rule and jogged in. I jumped and slid down the finish slide and got my medal. After a minute to regroup, I went and waited for my new friends at the finish. I cheered them in. What a great feeling, to be a triathlete!
Did I place? No. Do I care? No. I didn’t specifically train, although I am active…but I was still just thankful to have made it through. Completion was the goal. I cheered for the winners. I gathered my things and slowly made my way back to the car.
I have never smelled as bad after a race as I did after this triathlon. It was a long 4 hour drive to the farm. Everyone who saw me in town and on the road seemed to know what I had done. Was it the medal? The numbers on my arms? (The smell?) Who knows. But lots of congratulations. Lots of reasons to smile and feel accomplished.
I would definitely do another one. I’d even train for it. Maybe even take swimming lessons. I have some people I’d like to do one with so that gives me something to look forward to. It was amazing and strange and memorable all in one. And I’ll always be able to say I have done it.
50% Of the year is gone! Just like that. I feel like I blinked. Good thing I have a ton of pictures, journals and memories to recount my shenanigans from a-z.
I’m feeling pretty accomplished at the half way point. How about you?
I’m feeling thankful for my experiences this far. After living through a pandemic, I value each and every experience. How about you?
I am learning new things in 2021. I’m even joining a book club that isn’t really about books. How about you?
I’m taking risks this year. Some may yield results while others may be about the journey. How about you?
I’ve had my fair share of struggles. I’ve learned to dust myself off and get back on the saddle even when my pride is bruised. How about you?
I’ve had my learning moments. Owning them all. How about you?
I have enjoyed traveling a bit. This may be my favorite part of the year so far. Exploring new places while meeting new faces.
I look forward to many things each day but one fun part of my day is flipping my daily calendar. Not my work calendar. Not my carpool calendar. My special flip-the-unexpected calendar page. My gag gift from a dear friend. Who would have known this gem would make my year so fun. I even exchange daily posts with friend who has a unicorn calendar. While hers is all lollipops, gummy bears and happy motivational moments, mine is full of shits, giggles, swearing and many other not so polished or perfect sayings. That’s probably what I love the most about it. Maybe it’s the swearing will help note that gets me through the bad day. Maybe it’s the you are magical as fuck signage that gives me some extra pep in my step. It could be the PSA needed for people around stating this is an Asshole FREE zone! Or it could just be a reminder of where we are in the year.
Half way to somewhere hopefully. Half way past the bullshit of yesterday. Half way to 2022 and my next birthday. Whether half full or half empty at this point in time, I’m reflecting on what is. What was. What can be.
Who am I. Who was I. Who will I become.
Who’s with me. Who’s yesterday’s news. Who’s ready to meet me.
As I wrap up this post full of questions, I offer you a dare. Dare to be different. Dare to make the second half better than the first. Dare to dream. Dreams can become reality. Enjoy what’s on the horizon.