This morning on my walk around the lake, I came across an elderly couple gearing up for a photo session. It was a beautiful, crisp Autumn morning – the bright blue sky was reflected on the water and the foliage around the lake sported bold patches of crimson and gold. As I approached, the lady (who must have been close to 80) turned to face her partner. With the magnificent lake behind her, she flung down her walking stick and, beaming widely, threw up her arms in a victory pose. The elderly gentleman fumbled with his camera to capture what must have been a prize photo. I exchanged smiles with passersby on the path – what a treat to witness such joie de vivre!
I don’t have a photo of the elderly couple at the lake, but I will carry the mental image of this moment with me. I have learned how important role models are – even if they take the form of brief, random encounters. As I move through life, I often feel like a ballet dancer pirouetting through her days, popping on a different hat after each spin. There’s the mommy hat, the partner hat, the daughter hat, the friend hat, the worker hat, the housekeeper hat, the cook hat, the student hat, and countless others. Life is rich, but dizzying!
I find great strength and joy in observing people who live life well. I love noticing good attitudes, good relationships, good parenting skills, and good habits, and I love trying to weave these great traits into the tapestry of my own busy life. At 40, one of my greatest inspirations is seeing spirited, strong women who are decades older than me, shimmering with joy and exuding a sense of confidence, serenity, and cheeky playfulness. Without knowing it, women like the one I saw at the lake this morning brighten my days and ground me. They remind me to slow down and they show me that growing old can be a beautiful thing.
Monday, February 1, 2016
A few weeks ago, I found myself perched on a rock high above the desert city of Scottsdale, Arizona. Although I love hiking, I don't do well with heights and this rocky scramble of a hike was more than I was comfortable with. Hopping across the boulders was fun; climbing up a sheer rock wall above a narrow ledge, not so much! Before the hike, I was worried about running into scorpions or snakes or killer bees. During the hike, my only concern was staying on the trail. If a slide didn't kill one, it was bound to be completely agonizing, judging by the number of boulders and cactuses strewn across the slopes! There were stretches where I had to force myself to focus on the path ahead of me, because the slightest glimpse of the golf course way below immediately had me imagining what it would feel like to go barreling down the slope!
Saturday, November 14, 2015
|"..don't worry about the bits you can't understand. |
Sit back and let the words wash around you, like music."
- Mrs Phelps in Roald Dahl's Mathilda
The best advice the pediatrician gave us when our first child was born was to read to him every day. In addition to being a great way to spend time together, reading builds language and listening skills, teaches facts, and feeds the imagination. Being new parents with zero parenting experience, we latched onto this simple and doable piece of advice from the start. My husband would sit and read New Scientist articles to infant James while I cooked dinner. I would read James textbook accounts of Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration as I prepared for lectures. James would drift off to sleep each night to tales of Thomas the Train, Winnie the Pooh, or Curious George. Then, when James was old enough to sit up and paw through board books, we moved onto those. We read The Gruffalo and Go, Dog. Go! so many times that we eventually knew them by heart! We were thrilled when James was able to follow chapter books, as there were so many wonderful stories from our own childhoods that we wanted to share with him. We started with Enid Blyton, and before we knew it, James was hooked on just about any series we introduced him to -- from Harry Potter to Lemony Snicket. We also used this opportunity to read classics that we'd missed as children, like The Secret Garden and The Indian in the Cupboard.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
I just attended my first ballet class in TWENTY-THREE YEARS! We pliéd; we tendued; we waved our arms in wide graceful arcs; and I chasséd right into one of the other dancers. I loved every minute of it! Afterwards, my mom-friend and I had a drink at Lucia’s and agreed that ballet was very slow, but that slow was good and that we’d have beautiful postures by the end of the eight-week course. And now as I sit here with my peppermint tea, toes aching, I feel so happy and alive. Thanks, Anna, for dragging me off to the dance studio tonight and for showing me that moms need to make time for themselves too. I was completely overwhelmed – summers are such a tricky kid/work juggling act. But now I feel energized and calm, and ready to pirouette through the next challenging week of sweaty madness!
Friday, June 26, 2015
Walking has always been my exercise of choice; in addition to being good for the body, it’s great for the mind. When I was a teenager, my mom and I spent many memorable hours walking briskly along the beach in my seaside hometown of Strand, enjoying the view of Table Mountain across the bay and peroxide-blond surfers close to shore.
By the time I was pregnant with my second child, I was living half-way around the globe, in Seattle, a short distance from a beautiful glacial lake looped by a 3-mile path. As soon as my energy returned after a washed-out first trimester, I grabbed every opportunity to loop the lake. When my due date came and went, I started walking around the lake multiple times. One drizzly Saturday afternoon I galloped around the lake three times, kicking up fall leaves and willing labor to finally start! It didn’t do the trick, but it did feel wonderful to move my pregnant body.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
When I was pregnant with my first child, I decided that I wanted to have a drug-free delivery. As a biologist, I wanted to know what giving birth felt like, and I wanted to experience each moment of it fully. I believed that the female body was capable of wonderful things, and I drew strength from the fact that women have successfully given birth without epidurals for many thousands of years.
As my due date approached, I started feeling a little nervous. Although I’d set my mind on a drug-free delivery, I worried that the pain would be unbearable. I knew that a contraction lasted for about a minute. Could I really endure any level of pain for a full minute? What would I do if labor hurt too much and I started to panic?