Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fun Times

"Research shows that challenging fun and accommodating fun, over the long term, bring more happiness, because they're sources of the elements that make people happiest; strong personal bonds, mastery, an atmosphere of growth. Relaxing fun tends to be passive - by design. So if relaxing fun is the least fun kind of fun, why is watching TV so popular? Because although we get more out of challenging fun and accommodating fun, we must also put more into it." - Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

I really like this book. I know you know that, because I have quoted from Gretchen Rubin twice this week. She simply states truths that I've been fumbling with for years. Her clarification of fun as having three categories, for instance; it's just genius. Rubin identifies challenging fun as "the most rewarding but also the most demanding."  My work at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science was like this; stressful to arrange childcare for the kids, trying to learn the science-related Spanish needed for the curriculum, and taxing to drive the half-hour in morning traffic. But in the end, that class so FUN to teach! And fulfilling and rewarding. (On a side note, I am sad that I had to leave that job when I was so ill last year, but hopeful another type of challenging fun opens up).

Rubin's second category of accommodating fun is slightly less difficult to arrange and accomplish, but still throws up a few hurdles because, by definition, you have to accommodate other people in order to all have fun together. Day trips with the family, birthday brunches with a large friend group, bike rides with your spouse all fall into this category. This type of fun strengthens valuable connections and creates joint memories, things that require a bit of giving. Relaxing fun is watching TV or reading Entertainment Weekly magazine. Super easy and relaxing but not really rewarding or memorable. A bit of a trade-off there, but I feel like I am occasionally willing to give up the memorable and rewarding for veg time. Just not always, or even too frequently.

So now we embark on the long weekend, which will hopefully contain all three types of fun. I know that our Sunday hike up Mt. Bierstadt (a 14,000 foot peak) will be both challenging and accommodating. Rob's cousin, Michelle, and her friend Tim are also hiking with us so it will be a great bonding experience! Sunday night will be a chill evening with friends at Capture the Flag (if we are still walking) and Monday might include some TV - watching. Wishing the same kind of tripe-threat for you.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seeds to Sew

We had a great morning at our house; we hosted 13 lovely people who came to hear the story of Seeds to Sew, a non-profit co-founded by one of Aden's former Jan Ito and her daughter, Ellyn, came over with photos of the village in Kenya where they work, the students that they work with, and wonderful stories of challenges overcome by the girls and accomplished achieved. The school started by Kakenya Ntaiya in a rural village in Maasai country now educates girls through grade 8, when they must test to determine which high school they qualify for. The families of all girls who enter the school agree that the girls will not go through cutting - or FGM - until their education is complete. The school - and its students and leaders-  breaks a lot of new ground in Kenya, where girls usually have to leave school after they are cut (around age 12), are often married by the age of 14 and mothers a year later.

Ellyn brought some wonderful gift bags made by the women in the village as well as great beaded jewelry made by the girls to put themselves through school. Though tuition for a year is only $360, the women in the village make 15 cents per day doing laundry or through other manual labor, so tuition is out of reach unless they can sell their beadwork and gift bags and baskets to a larger market. The stories are inspiring and change is being made - check out the website at for more information! We are having another presentation tonight at the Willow Way clubhouse for folks in the area - 6:30 - 8:30 pm.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


" 'You know,' she said, 'you've always had this desire for legitimacy, and you'll have it forever. It's probably why you went to law school. But should you let it determine your next job?"
'You've already done highly legitimate things, like clerking on the Supreme Court, but do you feel legitimate?'
'Not really.'
'So you probably never will. Okay. Just don't let that drive your decisions.' "
- From Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project

My doctor, being holistically minded and caring about my happiness, recommended that I read The Happiness Project. I really enjoy reading the author's steps to happiness, but the above passage stuck out by far the most.  I have a problem feeling legitimate, which is probably why I went to Harvard and then went into consulting when my first love has always been reading, writing, and teaching. Staying home with the kids has never really felt legitimate, and I search the future for some position that occurs between the hours of 9 am and 3:30 pm and which will magically legitimize me.

The words of the author's sister have set me free in a way, by recognizing that some of us never truly feel legitimate - that it's a piece of who we are. Recognizing that there is no magic cure leaves me free to contemplate doing whatever I want to do, and not seek legitimacy from something outside of myself.One thing that I want to do is write more, so as part of that goal I will be entering blog entries on a daily basis (or as near as I can get). It's a venue for me and hopefully a topic of interest for more than one or two of you out there.

To close on a mundane note, I am having trouble 'exiting' phone conversations. It seems that every good-bye process takes over a minute, even when I am speaking with the scheduler at Sleep Number beds. How many ways do two people need to successfully terminate a call?  "Thanks so much", "have a great day," "take care," I'll let you go now," "appreciate it,"  etcetera, etcetera. I am horrified at the thought of cutting someone off by hanging up on them, but lingering on the phone just makes it necessary to say something more. Advice welcome....and good-bye!

Saturday, August 24, 2013



We don't live here anymore,
In fact we never did.
Yet this became the gathering place
For memories to multiply and rabbit
Through the spaces between who
We are now and the fairy-tale's beginning.

We snatch-grab at them, hands trailing
Through mist of small children laughing,
Tattling, tormenting, triumphing over
Vacation adventures gone awry.
Ghosts safely distilled of passion but fragile
To the touch, Humpty's eggshell teetering.

Best to shut the pages on that tale,
Follow breadcrumbs left by today's children,
Splice disparate pasts to one emergent
Moment where characters persevere,
Cohere, weave webs of email threads,
Survive gray hairs and wrinkles, escape the villain.

Did I ever really know you?
Better to ask: can I know you now.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Time to Wake Up

"So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn't know I was lost"
 - Avicci, Wake Me Up song lyrics

"They say, find a purpose in your life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind."  Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

William started fifth grade today - his last "first" day of elementary school. I dropped Daniel off at his second grade line with a hug and a sigh of relief (transitions were TOUGH this year) and meandered over to fifth grade where I stood a respectable distance away from my child so he would not be embarrassed. I was touched and gratified when one of the fifth grade teachers said it was time to blow a kiss and leave - and William actually blew me a kiss! So of course I returned it and was so glad I had wandered over.

Meanwhile, Aden is off to 7th grade. She was confident last night and a bit nervous this morning but had a good energy. She walked down to the bus with a good friend and I think for her this year will be so much easier than the last, when everything was a first.  Which leaves me - at home and childfree. I am more quietly pleased about this than I have been before. Our summer was lovely, and feels like a ripe peach not yet fallen to the ground but still swaying gently on the tree. I am not quite ready for it to be over, the parks and pools and playdates, the leisurely meals and snacks, and the more open schedule.

But I am glad to move on, wake myself up, and pursue some interests that may or may not turn out to be part of my 'purpose.' Right now I am wandering over to Stanford's online writing program to try to register for a course in poetry. Then off to the pool, an appointment, and the ever-necessary grocery store. I'm not as lost as I once was, though still in the process of finding myself. We'll see if I land in an unexpected place, though knowing a touch about life, I can almost guarantee it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Red Rocks and Rainbows

We've had a fantastic ten days around here, beginning with Aunt Karen's visit and ending with a successful camping trip to the floodwaters of Manitou Springs. Karen came out to accompany me, Aden, and Aden's friend Hannah to a Bruno Mars concert at Red Rocks. The concert was in celebration of Aden's 12th birthday and was the first concert for both girls. Aden's face lit up when Bruno and his band came onstage; "he's RIGHT THERE!" she said in wide-eyed disbelief. As the crowd belted out the lyrics to "Just the Way You Are" she rotated in awe at the unity of crazy-eyed, dancing, singing fans. Her new-found enjoyment easily doubled my own, and I had to laugh when she said the next day, "concerts seem almost normal now."  Welcome to the pleasure of live music, my dear, and the phenomenon of Red Rocks.

Karen had another day with us so we toured Celestial Seasonings tea in Boulder. My family of origin consumes massive amounts of their tea (especially SleepyTime Tea) and so it felt like a personal welcome. The Mint room was overpoweringly enjoyable, and the free samples of Honey Vanilla Chamomile warmed our hearts. I will have to take my mom (world's number 1 tea consumer) and dad on a tour when they come back to visit.

Lastly, we drove down towards Colorado Springs to camp, passing through a horrendous thunderstorm en route. Turns out we passed by Manitou Springs on highway 24 less than an hour before their massive flash flood. Two cars in our caravan attempted to join us later that night and were turned back by the closed road. For  those of us fortunate enough to make it to Spillway Campground near the 11 mile Reservoir, we were greeted by the most brilliant rainbow I have ever seen. We took it as a good sign, as the rain stopped and we put up tents and canopies, and busted out the evening meal as dark fell. It was chilly and cool but the rain stayed away for the rest of the weekend as we hiked and explored, ate and enjoyed the campfire. Now we are in the final week of the children's summer, and filling each day with shopping and pool time, short explorations or playdates. It's been a whirlwind of outside time, fun with friends and family, and good music. Thanks to all who came and participated with us!