Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pondering Beets

Everyone has heard, and probably spoken, the phrase "I have too much on my plate right now".  I know I've probably said it hundreds of times in my life, but for some reason it's really resonated with me lately.  I was talking with a friend...(okay, by "friend" I mean "my therapist" but I'm starting to get worried that I'm becoming "that girl".  The one who talks too much about her therapist, annoying everyone she speaks to. So from now on, I'll be referring to "my therapist" as "my friend" so you won't know for sure either way and thus will hopefully not want to kill me every time we have a conversation)... about the concept a few weeks ago and that conversation helped me finally and completely understand what it means.  Not only that, but I now see how you can use the visualization in a helpful way.  Ever since this conversation with my friend...(ahem), I've been trying to evaluate what exactly is on my plate right now because I know for sure that it's completely full...I'm talking no room for even one scrawny string bean.

So, I started thinking about all of these things on my plate, hoping that I could find some wiggle room:  kids, husband, job, Raising Little Heroes, marathon training (did I tell you about that?  October 13th, baby!), friends, household chores...Grey's Anatomy (sort of kidding) and before I could finish the inventory, I started feeling overwhelmed because I realized that not one of these things is something I want to or can pass on or even get a smaller helping of.  They are all vital to my life and happiness in this moment.  I felt frustrated because while I  know all of these things are important to me, I couldn't help thinking about the beets growing in my garden....

...our little community garden is doing really well this year.  I feel proud of it because over the last 3 years of experimenting I finally feel like I have a handle on it enough to keep it looking nice and to actually harvest and eat the stuff I'm growing.  I found a good time to go out and water/weed and I'm enjoying salads and green smoothies made from the stuff I've grown and picked myself.  Very gratifying.  One of the things that's thriving in that little plot are my beets.  I hadn't  planned on planting them, but a friend (no, a different one...but that's the last hint I'll give) gave me some seeds and I found some room for them.  They were one of the first things to start sprouting and I've been watering them, weeding around them and watching them grow and grow.  The greens are lush and they are fun to pick, but they also kind of stress me out.  I know you can eat the greens but I haven't had time to experiment with different ways to prepare them.  I throw some in salads and smoothies but really want to try cooking them too.  I want time to think on lovingly soak and wash them 3 times like one website I came across suggested...but I can't find the head space to do it.  I finally got around to boiling the actual beets and feel like I have a handle on that part, but I've had to accept the fact that it works best for me right now to just cut off the greens and throw them away.  While partly liberating it's also kind of a bummer because I don't want to waste them.  I want to figure out what to do with all of them...the whole beet.

The beets have become a symbol of why I am stressed out about how full my plate is.  I started thinking to myself:  "I just want to find room on the plate for the beets!!".  At first I was telling myself it's because I'm too busy and I don't have the time, but then one day I found myself sitting on the lawn behind our apartment with my feet in the kiddie pool, sangria in my hand, good friend by my side sharing a lovely conversation.  It looks like I have the time after all, so what is the problem here?

Then I started thinking all I want to do is take my plate, walk over to the garbage, scrape it, wash it and start putting things back on one by one.  Thinking about each one, contemplating...before adding the next thing.  Not surprisingly I quickly got frustrated with this approach as well because I couldn't choose the first thing--they all wanted to jump right back on at the same time.

Life is hard.  I get that.  It's hard for everyone and thinking about this stuff isn't going to magically give me a bigger plate (aka: more hours in the day) but I'm hoping being aware of it and thinking on it will help me prioritize a little better and create more head space.  Mostly, I'm realizing that what I want most of all is to start with one beet.  One beet on an empty, clean plate......I want to see how that feels before figuring out what to add next.

What would you put on your plate first?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What you do for a friend.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom called to tell me that my very first friend ever has breast cancer.  Kaitlin and I have stayed close ever since we were kids but we have that kind of a friendship where you don't talk for a really long time and then when you finally do, it's like no time has passed.  We both feel strongly that ours is one of the best kinds of friendships because we can accept that we are busy in our own separate lives and don't always have time to keep up to date with each other.  Neither one of us feels any ounce of guilt or resentment towards the other...only love, support and forever sisterhood.  I know this to be true because we frequently check in with each other on the matter to be sure the other person still feels the same way. 

After my mom's call, I had a few days of wrestling with some guilt about being out of touch enough to not have heard the news directly from my friend and uncertainty about how exactly to show my support.  I got it in my head suddenly that I wanted to go and see her before she started her chemo...which was coming up the next Vermont....I looked up the price of plane tickets and laughed out loud when I saw the cheapest flight.  I immediately started brainstorming about how to show my support from afar, but I couldn't get the thought out of my head that I wanted to show up on her doorstep, give her a huge hug and chat the day away like the old days.  One day, I was reading to Zoe while Owen napped and was fighting sleep as I read aloud (as happens every single day in the afternoon while reading books to Zoe).  At one point, I realized I was still talking/reading out loud even though I had dozed off for a second but instead of saying the words from the book, I heard myself saying "....because that's what you do for a friend".

I decided to put myself out there and email my cousin Kelly, a pilot for jetBlue.  Kelly and I keep up with each other on Facebook and shared a rich childhood but I was afraid that he would be put off by my randomly writing for a favor.  When we first moved out here to Colorado, Kelly had told me that if I ever found myself in a pinch, needing to get back to the East Coast, he might be able to help me by sharing one of the limited amount of very affordable passes he gets as an employee.  He'd warned me that I'd have to be willing to be a flexible traveler, something I'm far from being, especially since having kids. At that time I felt grateful for the offer but sure I'd never take him up on  it, so had put it out of my head....until now.  So, I sent a somewhat rambling, apologetic message to Kelly explaining the situation and my "pipe dream" and said that I knew it probably wasn't possible but that I would have kicked myself if I didn't at least ask.  Kelly almost immediately wrote back saying he would be happy to help and we spent the next week or so calling, messaging and texting each other to work out the details.  All this while, Kelly was first on vacation with his family and then traveling for work so he went out of his way big time and I'm so touched, I can't even put how grateful I am into words. 

To make a long story short, the formation of this crazy plan went from "there's no way I can pull this off, I don't even know why I'm entertaining the thought" to "wow this is really happening" within a week or so.  I was on standby for a red eye flight (11:30pm MT-5:30am EST) Sunday night/Monday morning (which I barely made it onto...if the "Cook Family" hadn't been a no show, I would have had to turn around and go home) and had a car rental reservation waiting for me (thanks to my brother Ike) so I could drive the 3 hours up to Vermont immediately after landing.  The plan was to surprise Kaitlin by showing up at her house, hang out with her for the day until my mom got off work at 5pm, go to my mom's to have dinner with her and my sisters, brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews then drive to Ike's house in the Boston area to sleep a bit before heading back to the airport to try and get on a Tuesday morning (8:50am departure) flight.  The Tuesday morning flight had me nervous because the next flight out wasn't until that evening.  This would mean that I'd have to call on a team of friends/neighbors who were all willing and ready to help with the kids if need be.  I knew they were all happy to help but it felt like such a huge favor...luckily I ended up making that flight, after having a near heart attack when the customer service rep there said "Hmmmm...I don't think I have much for you.......I'm sorry......all I have are middle seats."  Woohoo!!

Somehow though, this crazy plan actually unfolded exactly as planned.  The only thing that didn't play out the way I'd pictured was that Kaitlin ended up finding out I was on my way before I got there.  Her mom Dianne had been forced to let the cat out of the bag only when she was left with no other choice.  She kept the secret as long as humanly possible and let it out when it was perfectly clear that if she didn't, Kaitlin would not be home when I got there.  It didn't matter though--she was still surprised and we were able to spend a really great day together yesterday.
So, thanks again to Kelly for making this possible and for the team (literally) of friends and family who supported the idea and helped make it happen:  Nathan, Ike, Wally, Jill, Mom, Rach, Ess, Dianne, Kristi, Clancy, Emily, Gretchen, Rosemary, Charrie and Patty.  Kaitlin and I had a really wonderful visit and although I'm still worried about her and wishing I could shower her with casseroles and hand holding during these next weeks of chemo, I feel like I was able to give her some love to carry with her for a bit.  Kaitlin blows my mind.  She is brave, she is strong, she is honest, she is funny, she is supportive, she is don't want to mess with her honestly because she'll kick your ass if she decides to.  So, honestly I'm feeling a little bad for the cancer--it made it's way into the wrong body and she's about to show it who's boss.  Go Kaitlin.  XOXOXO

To top this awesome trip off, while in Vermont, we found out that our pregnant sister-in-law Katie (coincidence!) was being induced that day and that the baby would be coming soon (they also live in the Boston area).  As I drove back to Boston late Monday night I secretly hoped that the baby would magically enter the world as I was on my way so that I could go straight to the hospital to hold him or her for at least a few minutes before heading back to Colorado.  I pictured this kooky crazy ending to this kooky crazy trip and admitted that I was now officially pushing my luck.  I told Ike about it the next morning and he and I laughed as we talked about how it would have been a perfect "season finale"....all of us ending up in a hospital room together, passing the baby around, being too loud, crowding Katie and Wally, etc.  Sure enough though, there was no word about any magical births during my drive.  While at the airport in the morning, I looked at my phone at exactly 8:15am and thought "okay, this is it--we'll be boarding in 5 minutes" and knew I'd have to wait until I was home in Colorado to hear the announcement.  As soon as we landed, I turned on my cell phone and was greeted with a perfect picture of my picture perfect new little nephew Nicholas Anthony Grabowski, born at 8:16am.  Welcome to the world, little guy!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Raising Little Heroes: Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

When I woke up this morning I was really, really excited because I'd been looking forward to our Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (Longmont, CO) event for about 6 months and today was the day we were able to finally get together and enjoy it.  When I initially contacted the center back in December, the volunteer and outreach coordinator was immediately very helpful and excited about our group so she made it easy to set a date and envision what we would be doing on the day of the event (translation if you are me: "no stress").  On top of that, I knew that our RLH kids would be into it since it seems like every kid I meet is head over heels about animals.

The rehab center has many options for ways in which people can help, including a handful of great options for kids.  Any of these things can be done at any time by anyone so you don't have to have a group like ours to do it, and you don't have to make it an official event.  You or you and your kids can do these things on your own and deliver them to the center at any time, so if you are interested take a look at this link for ideas.

Our group took on the building of a few squirrel nest boxes and grass picking for the rabbits at the center.  I thought it would be a good pairing so that if the boxes were too involved for the younger kids, it would be easy enough to hand the little kiddos some buckets and let them go to town picking grass.  This combination proved successful as almost everyone there found a job to do and seemed to have fun doing it.

Leading up to the event, I worked along with fellow RLH moms Michele Novosad and Deanna Petersen to procure the materials for the boxes and hatch a game plan for the actual building of the boxes.  Thankfully, Michele is talented and knowledgeable in the carpentry department and was able to tell Deanna and I what we would need to actually ask for at the hardware stores and Deanna was brave enough to start getting our feet in doors around town.  After Deanna made initial contact with a few stores, I followed up and was lucky enough to walk into Home Depot here in Boulder (on Arapahoe).  The staff there could not have been more kind, friendly, helpful and generous with their time and made sure we got enough donated materials from their store to make 3 squirrel nest boxes.  I want to officially and publicly thank Derrick and Garrisen (store managers), Chuck (lumber department--Chuck spent so much time with us and never once gave me the impression that he was anything less than happy to help out), Pat (checkout--we hit a few snags but she too stuck with us happily until we got it figured out) and Aaron (helped us load the car.  With two small kids in tow, I can't tell you how grateful I was for that).

I then got the materials to Michele who prepped them by doing some of the things that were either impossible to do without an electrical outlet (we held the event at our adopted park) and/or too dangerous for the kids to do themselves.  Michele also built a prototype so participants would have an example to look to while working.  So thankful for your hard work, Michele thank you!

Today went as smoothly as I was expecting it to and the volunteers from the center who came to give a presentation were very kind and knowledgeable.  Thank you Mary, Amy and Jeff!  The kids all asked a lot of really sweet and thoughtful questions and then worked very hard on the projects.  The weather was perfect to boot so, all in all, an exceptional morning.  We built and decorated 3 boxes (4 counting Michele's prototype) and picked enough grass to feed about 5 rabbits for a whole day!

Thank you to all of the families who came this morning--it was so nice to see you all!

Birds nest

Showing us a Great Blue Heron wing

Passing the heron wing (and leg!) around

Owl wing

Raccoon skull

The kids decorated the boxes too!

Me and my peeps