Thursday, February 12, 2009


As you know, I've spent the last two weeks in Dallas with my sister, who just had hip-replacement surgery, and my elderly mother. Throughout the visit, I have experienced an eerie sense of deja vu. I knew it wasn't because I was just here a few months ago when my sister had her knee replaced, but couldn't quite put my finger on the cause.

I've spent most of the time trying to stay somewhere central, so I can hear both of them calling me from opposite sides of the house, usually at the same moment. I have played short-order cook to a finicky eater and one with no appetite. I have mediated disagreements and struggled not to show favoritism, for Mom does not respond well when she thinks anyone is getting more attention than her. There have been medical emergencies, where I needed to be two places at once, and there have been errands I needed to run but couldn't, because I'd rather die than load them and all the necessary paraphanalia into the car. There have been diaper pails to empty, barf buckets to rinse, and tears of frustration on all of our parts.

If you are a stay-at-home mother of an infant and a toddler, this is probably beginning to sound somewhat familiar. At last I realized that I have landed right back where I started, 26 years ago. I made the mistake recently of saying that I was envious of some of the mommy-bloggers I follow, because I miss the days when my kids were small, and all of the fun projects I used to come up with to keep them entertained. I should have known those words would come back to haunt me!

Thinking about those fun projects gave me an idea though. A couple of days ago, when my sister was finally feeling well enough to focus on something, I pulled out the knitting needles and yarn. I am just learning myself, so not a very good teacher, but I did manage to work her through casting on and the basic knitting stitch. Once she got in the groove, I started a new project for myself, and a short while later, Mom wandered in to see what we were up to. Before I knew it, we were all laughing and having fun, for the first time since I arrived. I guess some things never change.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Ya know what really bugs me? People who go through life feeling a sense of entitlement. I'd say I'm more spiritual than religious, and I'm certainly no bible scholar, but here's what I believe with all my heart: we are all equal in God's eyes. So when people go through life saying "I deserve a better house than this," or "I have to put up with a boring job, so I deserve to splurge on a nice vacation," or "My childhood sucked, so I deserve nice clothes, new furniture, and to always drive a brand new car," it kinda pisses me off. I just can't help thinking, well what about those homeless people under the bridges with their mental illnesses, or those orphans on the streets of Mombai, or that precious two-year-old with the brain tumor? Do they deserve their lot? What did you do to become so special?

I just can't believe that is how life works. In fact, I refuse to believe it! Bad stuff happens to good people all the time, and vice versa. We live in a random world, and as the saying goes, it matters not which cards life deals you. It's how you play the hand you are dealt. So, in my humble opinion, one major step towards good-lifeitude is to drop that sense of entitlement. It isn't about luck, it's about choices. Being an adult means you are finally free to make your own choices, which is a very good thing. But these choices all have consequences, both short term, and sometimes very far-reaching.

So, go ahead and buy that new car, or take those expensive vacations, or build the new house or whatever. That is nobody's business but yours. But don't belittle the friend who says "Sorry, I wish I could join you, but that's just not in our budget right now." Don't whine when your friend gets to retire early. Don't expect your friend to bail you out of a financial jam. Most importantly, don't go around saying "Poor me, I deserve better!" Be an adult and say "I did this because I wanted to. It was my choice, and I'm willing to accept the consequences, whatever they may be, and for as long as they shall rain down upon me... and my children... and my children's children, so help me God.

Because folks, making our own choices is the one and only thing we are entitled to in this life.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Woohoo! I've passed the half-way mark here in Dallas. If nothing else goes wrong with my Mom or sister, I'll be heading back to Wimberley on Saturday. One of my biggest concerns about leaving home for two weeks was the state of drought that Central Texas is in right now. Much like California and Australia, we have been bumped up out of the "severe drought" category, and have been slapped with a new label: "exceptional drought." The danger of wildfires is very real, and my heart goes out to everyone in Australia who has recently lost homes and/or loved ones.

One often plays the game of wondering "What would I try to save, if I only had a few minutes to grab what I could, before fleeing?" One thing I have noticed, since embarking on this path to The Good Life, is that the list of things that would distress me to lose has grown smaller and smaller. Now it contains only one thing really: each other.

Sure, there are a few things I am sentimental about: the shawl my daughter knitted for me, a heart shaped paperweight my husband gave me, etc. Photos used to be a real biggie, but thanks to the digital revolution, it would be fairly easy to rebuild our collection. Family members all have photos of the kids growing up, and friends who lived overseas with us would surely share their archives. The truth is, there are a lot of past mistakes that I would be relieved to be rid of. In fact, I have read articles by more than one person who said that after the first shock of losing everything to a fire wore off, what surprised them most was the sense of feeling somehow "liberated." When I think of the task that lies ahead of us, when it comes to shutting down the townhouse in Houston and trying to decide what to do with all that "stuff", knowing that our little house in Wimberley is already full to the brim, and when I remember what we went through, trying to clear out 70 or 80 years worth of accumulated stuff from our parents' homes, I can understand why they might feel that way. The truth is, living the good life has absolutely nothing to do with what we own, and everything to do with attitude.

Now class, let us review. Pull out pen and paper, and describe five attributes of "The Good Life." Our lists won't necessarily be the same, but I think it's important to just take the time to clarify one's values periodically. Here are my top five priorities, at this stage in my life:

  1. Living Authentically: I have finally figured out what makes me happy - what is important to me and what is not, what I am passionate about - and I am trying to live my life accordingly, even if it bucks the status quo.
  2. Community: Most in my generation were raised to believe that being strong, independent, and ambitious was a very good thing. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and you need to claw your way to the top. That mentality can leave us feeling very isolated and vulnerable, and probably contributed to the greed and excess that has destroyed many industries of late. There is a lot to be said for the sense of connectedness, belonging and support that one feels when one nourishes a sense of community. It matters not whether it is a small town, a large family, a knitting circle, a church, or a community of gardeners. What matters is feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself, and that others care about your well-being, just as you care about theirs.
  3. Seasonality: I now embrace seasonality, in all its permutations, whether it is in cooking, eating, gardening, decorating, entertaining, celebrating, or appreciating life's stages. Seasonality is the spice of life. It gives us variety, inspires creativity, and keeps us waking up in anticipation, rather than drowning in a sea of never-ending sameness.
  4. Connection: I believe in the connectedness of all mankind, and that the actions of each can send out ripples that affect every other - not just now, but for generations to come. One must be cognizant of how foolish it is to believe that any one person can actually "own" a piece of this planet, for as a great wise man once said ('though I have no idea who it was), when you look at the big picture of time, we are each a mere speck on the ass of a gnat, as seen through the window of a car as it hurtles past at 200 mph. We are not owners, we are but caretakers, and our only legacy will be whether we chose to be good or bad stewards.
  5. Balance: Life is not good, unless it is balanced. Time for hard work must be balanced by time for play. There should be time devoted to family and community, but there must also be time for oneself. One needs time for exercise and activity, as well as time for rest and reflection. The Good Life provides adequate income for life's necessities, basic comforts, and a modicum of security. Period. It does not allow earning and spending to become the be-all and end-all of one's existence.

But remember - these are just my thoughts on the subject. What are yours?