Sunday, October 28, 2012

Expectations Moment

What has exceeded your expectations lately? What do you do to exceed expectations? I have been contemplating this for nearly a week and have discovered that expectations are changeable and relative. Expectations are completely contingent upon standards and past experiences. I believe that disappointment is a natural part of life, and can help to shape expectations, as well as form standards. Expecting the worst can ensure that expectations are exceeded, but it's pessimistic and unrealistic and not my style.  It's also very hard to live always expecting the worst. The best experiences have been the ones entered into with no true concept of what's to come.

Earlier this week, we went to a performance by Evelyn's school at the Civic Center in Greeley. Every year they put together a themed exhibition for friends, family and the open public. This year it was the 3rd, 4th & 5th graders along with the staff, singing, dancing and doing a 10 year review called "Chappelow Goes to Pieces". We went to support the school as well as to get an idea of what it would be like for her in the near future. We had very little idea of what it was like and no interest in setting expectations. The Civic Center was so full when we got there that we had to sit in the balcony section and situated ourselves toward the stage, hoping to see anything.  As the lights went down and the curtain went up, we could see enough, but it was what we heard. It was so quality. It started with Rock 'n Roll, showcased Motown, and even did a tribute to the Godfather. Not only was the music well orchestrated, but Chappelow has a phenomenal Deaf and Hard of Hearing program that blew us away. The interpreters were as spirited as the child performers. The staff, including the principal, did a Broadway medley, with choreography. They call themselves the Off-Keys, but they were far from it. We were floored. It felt great when we left the show, validated that we had made the right choice by switching Evelyn's school. We began with no expectations.

Entering into any situation expecting perfection guarantees disappointment, as expectations will never be met. Nothing will ever meet the standards set by perfection. I have begun taking in every situation with no other intention than to get the most out of it, good or bad.  When you put pressure on life experiences to live up to inflated expectations, resentment and discontent breeds. We choose the perception of the situation and can change the outcome based on what we need it to be. We don't have a choice in what others do or how they present, but we choose how to view it and how to feel about it.

When I try a new recipe, I look at the ingredients individually and assess how they might work together, but I have no idea what to truly expect. I find that expecting each recipe, just by sizing up the ingredients, to be incredible, I am often let down. My favorite recipes are the simplest, that are attempted under no duress. Each ingredient works together to create the experience by reacting to the others in its way. Some ingredients are unpredictable and can alter the experience. Once it becomes a past experience, the expectations will be more realistic.

When we visit a place for the first time, it's difficult not to have preconceived notions. Often we are attending because of a recommendation, or a review that struck an interest. It is difficult to remove the emotional response based on expectations and standards. It's a tough practice to walk in and just see without needing the environment to answer some unspoken question. We went to a trail head last weekend and it was difficult for me to remove the disappointment I felt about what we encountered. The place itself was pleasant, quiet and interesting, but I needed it to be something more, which I couldn't describe. It took my daughter's enthusiasm about how much her expectations were being exceeded to snap me out of my disenchantment. It ended up being lovely once I lowered my expectations.

I will never achieve perfection, a fact that I am very comfortable with. You are what you make yourself, and I realized that I have no interest in being perfect. I cannot live up to that expectation and I don't want to be experienced as disappointing. On the other side of that coin, I do not strive to set myself at a low standard either.  I am comfortable with who I am inherently, and in being so, it is easier to try to exceed others' expectations. I know what the expectations of me are, so I can be better than that often. It's easy to give a little extra when you know where you stand. I will never be less kind, diligent or ambitious. I will never give my family less than all, and I am always trying to better myself.

My children are consistently exceeding my expectations because I don't need them to be much. I definitely have high standards for their behavior, but they surprise and inspire me with their constant over achieving. I have never sat and poured over letters, but they both read before preschool. I have never drilled numbers, but they play their games involving math. I expect them to be interested, but I never expect them to be as in tuned with the universe as they are. 

As we create who we are, we have the choice to set the standard of living. Other people will undeniably have their expectations of who we are, but we have the option of proving them right or wrong. I'm not advocating for low standards, but I am a proponent of just "being" and letting life exceed expectations.  I wouldn't encourage being a stunted personality, but leave room for surprising people. Experiences are shaped by standards and expectations, meaning that we have control over how we perceive what happens in our lives. It is none of our business how others view us, but we can create how we want to be viewed. I choose to exceed expectations.

Moment of Design Captured...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Simple Moment

It was easy for me to see today how simple we really are.  Every time we have an occasion or an event, we try to make some grandiose and unnecessary happening out of it because we think that's what we're supposed to do. Today I really realized how little it actually takes to make us happy.  I don't think it was a moment of, "it took me this long to realize it" or a moment of, "NOW, I decide we don't need much" but instead a moment of affirmation of what I already really knew. I get so irritated by stuff...things...junk. I hate the spending pain of commercialism and the culmination of things that never have a home in my home. Shopping has never been an enjoyable activity and I truly never analyzed just why that is. It's easy to identify things that you like to look at, or that would make your life more convenient, but it's hard to identify why they don't actually make you happy. There are immaterial simplicities that we cannot live without.  When you have a day full of those simple things, it's apparent that it's what you need.

We need music. For so long, we have always just taken music for granted. It's just a natural and assumed part of our every day. We talk about it regularly, look for new artists and celebrate old, but every once in a while we have a moment where we realize how fundamentally important it is to our life. I was always so proud that my parents listened to modern music and also shared the music from their childhoods, including what their parents listened to. We had the most diverse and interesting music library.  Today at lunch, Evelyn started singing a Foo Fighters song. I beamed. She is also incredibly excited that her school will be performing a reenactment (elementary school style) of "Thriller" on Halloween. She has been thirsting for Michael Jackson songs for days.  Ronan, throughout the day, alternately sang Muse and the White Stripes. They also very much favor the Beatles.  They know all of the words to Cat Steven's "Moonshadow." Music is the only thing that can take my wound up children and bring them to some semblance of normalcy.  Every time I catch one of them humming a tune, I am certain that we're doing something right.  Music, for us (and probably a lot of people), can take a normal moment and make it extraordinary, and often does.

We need good food.  NOT complicated food, just good food. Quality barbecue, pasta sauce that has simple flavors, but takes tending and time, foods that shows that someone cares.  We always prefer dishes with simple ingredients, and hate fussy. We also love craft beer and simple wine. We don't need much, but to indulge once in a while to remind us that we prefer simpler things.  Our children eat candy when we let them, but they prefer fruit.  We choose farmers' markets over shopping centers.  It's enlightening to try things that people have made and it makes us feel more alive to support their work as we enjoy it. It's essential to our happiness and reminds us that we are given the gift of discretion.

We need outside.  The simple act of walking outside can completely reset my whole state of mind.  When we are looking for something to do to bring us closer together, my little unit will find a new trail and go for a walk.  Our daughter gets so excited in nature that it's contagious. Our son identifies outside as adventure. Both have a budding love for geology and botany. The air and the sun and just being in the presence of trees elevates us.  Today we found a trail in the town that we're moving to, that despite it not being the most scenic we've ever been to, left us hand-in-hand proclaiming that we are the coolest and happiest family ever. That happened. We actually announced it.  David rolled his eyes a little, but we know he thinks it's true.

We need us. For the last 3 years I have worked every Friday and Saturday. I did it for the greater good, and at the time I defended it as the best option, but it wasn't until I regained my weekends that I realized how much I had missed. Our Saturdays are so important. We wake up together, have coffee (not the kids), talk about the week and choose our own adventure for the day.  When we have our activity planned, we all motivate together and find the joy in each moment. Even the days that we stay in are an adventure. We play, cook, sing, and remember why we work so well.  When you don't have the time to be together, you realize how much you really need it.  For the first time in a very long time, we have a schedule that is conducive to being together.

There was a very literal moment today when I stopped in my tracks and realized that we were happy.  It was a moment when I realized how little it took to make that happen.  There is hope for us yet. It was so simple. Today.

Moment of Design Captured...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Eleven year moment

I have been trying to write for days. Under no circumstance do I believe that I am "blocked" because I refuse to see my self as a "writer" but I feel like there was some stifled creativity, certainly. I had a whole concept laid out, beginning with "I hate Chick flicks" but it went no where, short of a rant that I wasn't proud of. I do hate chick flicks, but it didn't feel organic or authentic.  In fact, I felt like I was forcing an irrelevant issue.  There is so much to feel. Lately my empathy has been on overdrive and my brain is impossible to quiet.

I was quieted this morning, and finally inspired.

I have made so many life altering choices, as have most people in their early 30s, but none have changed my life so much as the one I made eleven years ago today. It was the only one I've made that has impacted every facet of my life, every moment of every day. What's even more impacting is the fact that I have never second guessed the decision or looked for opportunities, but instead I feel better and more certain about it as time goes by.

Eleven years ago me was very young, very independent and very impulsive. I'm still two out of three.
I was stubborn, strong, and clueless... debatable today.
I was free to do anything, but felt encumbered by the freedom.
I was a dreamer with plans of grandeur.
I was selfish and drfiting.
I wanted to build a foundation, but wasn't sure how. So I did what I knew.
I explored every weekend, spending most evenings in martini clubs, irish pubs or jazz bars, and most mornings with bloody marys.
I didn't want children or a house.
I wanted what I still want today for our future.
I was not alone. I had chosen a partner who walked the wreckless and youthful path with me step by step. We created something untouchable.

Eleven years ago him was dark and charming. He is still two out of two.
He was stubborn, strong and clueless...
He was creative and recreating himself. No, he was finding himself.
He found a side of himself that had yet to be tapped into. So he did what he knew.
He made friends, adventured beside me and located the next situation for our latest endeavor.
He brought me bloody marys.
He didn't want children or a house.
He wanted a future for us, but did not know what.
He was a partner who appreciated our life and complemented my every move. We were in unison.

Today me is a lot like me of eleven years ago, but nothing like her as well.
Parenting is a craft and a priority.
Foundation is foremost.
Now I am finding myself.
I find joy in the smallest things and don't drink martinis quite as often.
I still want what I wanted then.
I don't subscribe to feminism because bras are expensive to burn and I think women should put the toilet seat down.
I feel less independent, but yearn for it everyday.
I would never throw a big wedding.
I need adventure but also security.
I am fighting to become the person I want to be.
I am, because of my partner more stubborn, strong, young, free and defined. I don't ever feel alone.

Today him is nothing like he was and also very similar.
He is more compassionate, but can be less tolerant.
He works to use the empathy within him.
He wants a foundation.
He is loving and strong and free.
He thinks chicks who like hot wings and beer make the best wives.
He is a phenomenal father who strives to perfect his methods and craft.
He likes adventure, but prefers stability.
He is comfortable being the person he wants to be.
He bakes the most incredible signature banana bread.
He is open to my schemes, and a willing participant, but keeps me grounded.
He is love. He is driven by it, and it makes him eloquent.

For thirteen years, married for eleven, we have been falling in love with each other every day. He reminds me of that often. We realize that it takes effort to be married, but we have never felt the effort. He is my biggest moment of design, beginning with the day he proved to me how important accountability is.  It was just a moment ago that we were in our new twenties, sitting on the edge of the dock at my grandmother's cabin and he said for God and the world what I knew from the first moment. Those were the words of eleven years ago.

This morning I was awoken with these words, "I know we are fated to be together, loving you is a choice, but falling in love with you again is out of my control."

Moment of Design Captured...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Scheming Moment

Often as a child, we used to drive to Joliet, IL, the town next to us, regularly to visit my Grandfather's warehouse and construction business.  On the road we drove along the I&M Canal where we had always seen a myriad of water vehicles and other vessels docked along the way.  Each one was part of the ordinary, and none of that scene had ever resonated as noteworthy. However, when I was 10, there was a houseboat. It was large, white..ish, and abandoned. We had seen it many times, and I had noticed it, but it wasn't until I saw the "For Sale" sign that it had firmly implanted itself in my heart.  It was right then and there that I started scheming.  I did what I usually do when I'm scheming, I got a notebook.  I had a large collection of notebooks... and I still do.  This particular notebook contained my 10 year old perception of what it would cost to buy and renovate a houseboat.  I would give anything to have that notebook right now.  I still remember that I believed it would cost $10,000 to purchase the boat.  It WAS very run down, after all, and surely they wouldn't want much more than that.  My actual rationale for this pricing structure was that $10,000 would be a reasonable offer for anything and then it wouldn't just sit there abandoned as an eye sore.  I was going to save it, so how could they resist my offer?

Not the actual boat of my affection... but you get the idea.
I had outlined how I was going to save it, beginning with my plan for doing chores and odd jobs until I had saved $10,000.  Proving how clueless I was, I pitched the idea to my parents, who tried desperately not to laugh, then gently told me it would be years and years before I saved that much doing chores.  I told them it wouldn't matter, because a 10 year old can't drive a houseboat anyway. The only catch was that I was so worried that someone was going to snatch up my great find and sputter it down the I&M before I had saved enough. My brainstorming about this predicament led me to one conclusion: I was going to have to borrow the money from someone, and soon.  But in order to do that, I'd have to be persuasive and have a detailed plan of attack.  I started with aesthetics. I had color schemes, materials, layouts(even though I had never seen the inside of the area) and furniture choices. Of course, I never really took into account the fact that the thing might not run at all. I just knew I wanted to make it beautiful again. Long story short, I did not save $10,000, did not find an investor, and I am not sailing the I&M Canal (which is so gross, by the way) in a fancy remodeled houseboat. But for a whole year, that boat was the object of my affection, and it didn't even know I intended to save it from it's destiny as a ruined relic of the canal.

I come from a long line of emotionally driven "savers". My maternal Grandfather, who owned the afore mentioned warehouse, was legendary in Joliet for his kindness and his saving.  He used to employ the homeless folks that resided around the warehouse property, giving them odd jobs, some that he would create on the spot, just to get them out of the cold. He would handout Government issued cheese to the local people in the neighborhood around the warehouse. The warehouse itself was a save. He took a decrepit, old, and very large building and turned it into a flourishing family business. We walked around the place like royalty. I can still remember every corner.  When they tore it down, we each got a brick. It was a palace...

My mother used to take in every friend of ours, friend of theirs, or friend of a friend of a friend who needed help. It didn't matter the background or circumstance, she just wanted to help in any small way, to help themselves make a better life.  We spent years with an aunt, uncle or other relation in or around the house who needed refuge.  Saving didn't just extend to people, either. Every house we ever looked or lived in at had a better house inside of it just waiting for my parents to chisel away at the issues to set it free.

I caught the gene... OK, inherited the gene. Sometimes it is not a blessing, but only because it pains me to let things not be saved. When we look at a gorgeous old Italianate style house with a crumbling exterior, some see dollar signs a exorbitant amounts of work, I see the house it its glory days, then try to find a way to relive them. When David and I decided to house hunt for the first time, the first house we looked at was 150 years old, gutted and incredible. I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen, and to this day I see the enormous arched pocket doors, marble floors that were preserved and the bathroom that was the size of my whole house marching randomly through my daydreams.  It had been purchased by a man who couldn't finish the challenge and it truly only needed aesthetic finishes. It was still too much for David. No love lost, we kept it simple. However, I was stunned at how the notebooks came out, the scheming started and nothing had changed in 20 years. I was 10 years old, trying to find a way to save $10,000 for a houseboat.

We really don't change deep down from what we are inherently as children. I still get nervous when I face the thought of sitting in the cafeteria by myself, I get anxious about asking people to be my "friends" on Facebook or otherwise for fear of rejection, and I scheme constantly. I can vividly remember all of these associations as a child. All that has changed are my motives.

Recently, I had an idea that I feel so strongly about, I started a notebook. It is a raw and vague idea about arts and underprivileged teens, but it lit something, nonetheless. I realize that there are a million reasons why it is not a good idea to scheme about anything new right now... we have enough new... but I feel so compelled to this idea that I had to take a step back and examine my motives. Which I would NOT have done as a child, of course. My motives aren't selfishly motivated, such as the glory of driving a beautiful houseboat down the canal. I felt a very organic pull toward bettering a community, or at the very least, offering something of myself to help. My best friend, Mindy, always says that she believes her calling in life is "See a need, fill a need" (yes, that is a Robots reference- if you caught that). I guess it wasn't until I had the moment of realization that I was scheming to fill a need that I truly understood what she felt. My passion for the arts and a growing need to leave my mark in a community that needs growth and development spurred a scheme, rather than just a need to save beautiful landmark.  I had never really thought of my schemes as filling a need, but I suppose they always have been in one way or another. The brainstorming has begun, but the biggest difference is that I'm not in a hurry like I was as a child. The schemes are bigger, more involved and incredibly complicated, requiring more patience, and even if they never come to fruition, the scheme itself was good for the soul.

As soon as the notebook came out, I realized what I was doing, and vowed that I would never stop.

Moment of Design Captured...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Detour Moment

I have a 45 minute commute home after I leave my fantastic job. I'm a wind-up/wind-down kind of girl, so the drive has never bothered me.  The quiet time in the car to prep my mind for the day, and then at the end of it, to calm my mind before changing gears to be mom and wife has been welcome and pleasant. I don't feel anxious when I drive and even when I take the same roads I find something new every day to take notice of. 

I was tired and slightly worn today. I wasn't in a hurry to get home, but I felt fatigued by the second half of my drive.  The road seemed eerily clear in a place where congestion is standard.  I take rural, two lane highways, and I'm not an aggressive passer, so usually I just accept that the speed limit is unattainable.  Today I was cruising along and felt that my time to travel home was coming to a close.  Out of nowhere, the traffic in front of me came to a screeching halt.  Though it was several miles before it was revealed, there was a horrendous accident ahead, with no casualties, as I was told by the civilian gentleman helping to direct traffic.  When I felt the relief of knowing that no one was seriously injured, I went about my way.  Unfortunately, I am new to the area and had no idea how to go about my way...

Yes, I was hungry and felt the weight of the day, but I don't usually feel inconvenienced by a detour.  At first my little inner voice said, "Damn, my family is waiting for me" but then I realized that it was not me in the accident ahead of me, and what was the big deal about a few extra miles anyway?  Well... it ended up being a bit more than a few miles.  I have a great sense of direction, not to mention that I live in the Front Range of Northern Colorado, so I know all I need to know is that the mountains are west, but I had no control over where the roads just... stopped.  I took a few more turns than I probably needed to, but just as I was beginning to feel a little agitation I turned down the most beautiful country road. I wound through green fields (in a drought that is a rare sighting) and pastures with horses literally galloping through it together. I felt like I was in a movie, or at least a car commercial. The sun was setting over the mountains, which I was facing, because I knew I needed to go west, and the silhouette of the range was breathtaking.  Every few hundred feet, another beautifully manicured, but rustic homestead would surface in my peripheral vision.  It was surreal.

I would never have seen that road if I hadn't had to turn around and veer off my course.  I know that this reference is cliche, but I really did need this moment to realize something very true about and very signature to my personality.  I turn detours into adventures.  I am happier when I can see a fork in the path as a quest, not a set back. Once I was captivated by the newness of the picturesque scenery, I didn't feel the pressure to get directly to my destination.  That calm allows for better judgment calls and a lesson in what it feels like to employ patience.

Evie's a pro, Grandma's discouraged
I was never the child who asked if we were "there yet" and as an adult, I feel that it's counter-intuitive to the course of life to try to get to the end without appreciating the drive.  Again, cliche, but it's truly amazing how often we do that.  My affection for detours and journeys translates into a multitude of other moments.  A couple of weeks ago, we had been asked to join a couple that we hadn't been out with before to go gold panning in the mountains.  We are always up for a new experience, so we went willingly, hauling gear and armed with food and cameras.  The site was gorgeous. We had a shallow embankment on the side of a river in Golden, Colorado.  It was not a remote area, but we had the shore to ourselves and set up a little home base for our gold panning excursion.  We rolled up our pant legs, collected our tools and waded into the icy water.  The temperature was warm that day, with a light breeze and the sun shining off of the water. I was captivated by the scene.  The couple we were with did a tutorial on the technique of gold panning and gave us tips for methodology.  It was awkward at first, but we got the hang of the the movement and eventually the anticipation of finding a flake of gold was all encompassing.  Even Evie was getting into it, and was a natural at finding the elusive black sand where the gold hung out.

We spent several hours in the water, sitting on the boulders and sifting through river sand. Our companions began to get discouraged and impatient with the lack of gold findings, but all I could think was,"This moment is so unique and memorable."  I loved the process. I had absolutely no expectations. I loved the excitement my children felt at doing something brand new and unusual. I just smiled every time a disparaging comment was made, reminded my family that it was about the experience and didn't allow myself to be influenced to get to the end.

It's hard not to feel happy here.

I find that when I go against my instinct to enjoy the ride I am not as happy, and I don't appreciate the destination as much. Our experiences help shape who we are and I believe that every detour is a moment of design.  I've read that people who spend their money on experiences rather than things are happier overall.  I believe that. I try to document as many new big moments, but the small moments of detour through the country are just as important.  I want to always be able to look out the window and see the journey, and not just ask if we're there yet.

Moment of design captured...