Day 355: Refrain

Hoo boy–we can go all the way back to Day 13 on this one….

As I’ve said many a times on this blog: I’m hardly a Luddite. A good portion of what I do professionally involves writing and thinking about how people use technology. And I think there are plenty of good uses for computers and cell phones and tablets in daily life. But I’m realizing–OK, maybe admitting and accepting are better words–that I’ve developed a somewhat dependent relationship with my phone.

OK, I’m not on my phone all the time, that’s for sure. But when that little red counter pops up and tells me I have an unread email or text, I have a compulsion to read it. So as a result, I am constantly allowing all sorts of other worlds–emails from work, from my kids’ teachers, from various community groups, commercial interests, and random others–to slip into whatever I am doing at that moment.

So why would I want to do that? How can I possibly be present when I am trying to be so many other places all at once?

It’s a Sunday. I’m on vacation. Just for today, I have no need to be in touch with anyone or anything else except the people I am with today–not at this moment, at least.

So I’m attempting to refrain from picking up my phone. I’ve left it in the other room. Oh sure, I will have a look at it, sometime. Maybe just the texts. Or maybe a peak at the email….

Or maybe all of it could wait until morning?

Again: it’s not as though I can suddenly claim to be a technophobe (after all: here I am tapping away at a computer keyboard as we speak, happily connected to the Internet). But it seems that it has taken me an awfully long time–from Day 13 to the Winter Solstice–to reach the point of realizing maybe, just maybe, I have much to gain in the moment, if only I could untether–just a bit, at least.

Even just for one day.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 354: Drive

Oh, I did a lot more driving yesterday, but tonight was different.

Tonight after dinner, my mother-in-law mentioned that she used to like to drive through a section of her town where neighbor after neighbor would deck out their houses in Christmas lights. My wife thought it would be fun for everyone to head out for a drive. My daughter was on board right away, but the boys (OK, and maybe me as well) were a little reluctant. In the end, we all agreed to go for a drive.

It turned into a bit of a snipe hunt. We drove. And we drove and drove. And we drove. We never did get to anything that fit my mother-in-law’s description. But we ended up having a very fun evening–mostly laughing at ourselves on our foolish quest–pointing to the occasional lit-up shrub or house and shouting “Christmas lights!” At some point, my youngest suggested we sing Christmas carols, and so we did–off tune, stumbling over forgotten words, in both earnest and self-parodying renditions.

It was an evening to remember. But then again, aren’t they all?


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Day 353: Reconcile

OK, it’ an early morning entry–another case of preponing to make the rest of my day a little easier.

I have a different kind of “reconcile” in mind here–the kind that accountants and budget officers do at the end of the year. At least I think that’s what accountants and budget officers do with their books….

Anyway: after today, we have just twelve more days in this year–and that means I have just twelve more blog entries.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve been up to this year: what I’ve gained out of this attempt at daily reflection on a more simple, deliberate way of living. But also: what I’ve gained by a commitment to a daily practice of writing down those reflections, and in a semi-public format as well.

So today, as I make that long drive down to my mother-in-law’s house, I think I’m going to do a little mental bookkeeping of credits and deficits, profits and losses. Blah–I can’t keep up that finance metaphor much longer (you know me and finances!)

I don’t think I will be able to calculate a bottom line, but I think it’s safe to say: while I got rid of lots of stuff this year, I have gained far more than I gave away.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 352: Nurse

I just finished spoon feeding my eight-year-old daughter some pastina in chicken broth. I’m sure she could have fed herself just fine, but I think it made us both feel a little better for me to feed her one spoonful at a time.

It turns out the little one has the flu. Her fever was just under 103 this morning. Kinda scary, to say the least.

She had a good day of rest. Lots of sleep and lots of liquids. And a little bit of food too. Her fever is down to a modest 100 and change, but tomorrow should make for an interesting five hour car ride….

Yesterday I was writing about how much I could get done today, since I was staying home from work. Sure, I got a lot done, but housecleaning definitely took a back seat to nurse duties.

Now she’s asleep again, and hopefully down for the night. And you know what? I’m exhausted. Time for a little self-care, I think.

So off to bed I go.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Day 351: Procrastinate

Yup, I’m putting off for tomorrow what I could be doing today. But let me explain.

I’m single parenting again. My wife went down to her mother’s house a few days ago, and I will be following shortly with the kids. There’s a lot I want to get taken care of before we leave–my sister will be meeting us back up here in the mountains right after Christmas, and the house is a little, well, entropic right now. So the plan was to take the next couple of nights to put things back in order, clear out the fridge, catch up on laundry–heck, maybe even mop a floor or two.

But then I got a call from my daughter’s school this afternoon. She was running a fever, and they wanted me to come and pick her up.

The school policy is: if your child has a fever over 100 degree, he or she stays home until fever-free for 24 hours.

Which means I will be staying home from work too tomorrow as well.

Which means I have a lot more time to straighten up the place.

Which means tonight, instead of running around taking care of chores, maybe I can spend some time relaxing with my three kids.

Seems like a wise use of time to me!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 350: Cheer

Call me overly sentimental, but I have always been a fan of the film It’s a Wonderful Life. A few years back, it seemed you could find it playing at just about any hour of the day throughout the month of December. It’s in lower rotation these days, so when it came on the other night, I made sure to record it. Tonight, I sat down to watch it for the nth time.

It’s not just the resounding optimism of the end of the movie that gets me–it’s the entire arc. George Bailey sets aside one ambition after another and finds himself in a life not at all what he expected. Sure, he does all the right things for all the right reasons, but at each juncture, you can see the disappointment on his face as one opportunity after another escapes his grasp.

Then there’s that moment in his house when he just loses it. He’s shouting, he’s irritable, he’s lost all hope. He’s in the worst kind of trouble, the heavenly voice-overĀ  tells us:

He’s discouraged.

Then, of course, along comes Clarence the guardian angel, and George Bailey wishes that he had never been born. And we know how the movie goes from there, and the lesson that he learns–how one life touches many.

But tonight, here’s what I really noticed.

After George returns to the bridge and prays “I want to live again,” Bert the Cop is the first person to catch up with him. Bert recognizes George–George asks “Do you know me?” Bert says of course, and then asks George if he is ok, pointing out that his lip is bleeding. When George realizes that his lip is indeed bleeding, he lets out the most joyful cheer in the movie. In fact, the script reads: “his rapture knows no bounds.”

George cheers three times, actually. The first when he finds that his lip is bleeding. The second when he discovers Zuzu’s petals. And the third when he finds his car smashed into the tree.

Now who wouldn’t cheer for Zuzu’s petals, right? But it’s that first cheer (and the third too, to a lesser degree) that really caught me tonight.

There is indeed a wonder and a rapture in that moment of realizing I really am alive, even amidst the pain, the suffering, the damage and the uncertainty. George literally tastes the blood in his mouth–and is thrilled to be alive.

That, for me, is really the gift of this movie. Not that somehow all of George’s good deeds are rewarded in the end, or that he discovers “no man is a failure who has friends;” no, I think what always touched me is George’s willingness to embrace, joyfully, the wonder of his lifeĀ without knowing how his hardship would end.

So three cheers for George Bailey. And may we all take heart in the wonder of being alive.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Day 349: Crush

OK, it’s a “back to basics” post.

It’s probably not a surprise that we still have some cardboard boxes lurking about the house. And equally unsurprising: the basement has started to pile up with empty boxes that “someday” will make their way to recycling.

So today’s the day!

I managed to fill up the back of my car with crushed cardboard boxes, and now I’m about to haul them off before 6pm when the recycling center closes. It’s a minor victory, I know, but it helps.

Maybe it’s the symbolic value that I appreciate. It’s so easy to forget what a-mouldering in the basement. And it’s always a surprise how, once I make the effort to clear house at the lowest level, I really do feel a difference.

I dunno, maybe I’m stretching the analogy to the breaking point. Maybe it’s best to keep it simple and note how pleasant it is to be able to walk around down in the basement without stumbling over empty boxes!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Day 348: Trust

It took me 348 days to get to trust?

I have written before about why I try to avoid projecting–mostly it’s because for me, I tend to see storm clouds on the horizon, no matter how sunny the day. And as I’ve noted in the past, often I have to remind myself that half of the time that I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, in reality the first shoe was all in my head.

So today, I am trying to remember to trust–to trust that things really are okay right now, and chances are, will be okay in the future.

No, not perfection. Not a life without hardship, or struggle, or suffering. But what if I could live a life confident that things really are okay right now, and chances are, will be okay in the future?

That should be so easy, really. So why is it a struggle?

But here’s the thing (and it’s so simple that I feel almost silly having to point it out to myself). Every time I find myself worrying about what might come down the pike, all I need to do is pay attention to what’s right in front of me right here, right now and that worry disappears.

And unless I’m mistaken, that thing I feel when worry disappears is called gratitude.

So today: a little less worry, and a little more trust.

And a whole lot more gratitude too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Day 347: Divvy

Today is a day of multiple interests.

I have my first graduation ceremony to attend this morning, so off I go that that in just a few minutes.

But we also need to find time today to (finally) get a Christmas tree. Yes, I know what day it is….

And I also promised my oldest boy that we would spend time outdoors today climbing, since we’ve had a week off too-cold-for-climbing weather.

And we also have a Christmas party to attend with my wife’s aunt and uncle.

And then we should probably get the tree off of the car roof and into the house today too, even if we don’t start decorating until tomorrow….

That’s a lot to tackle in about 12 hours.

So I’m going to have to watch myself today–to make sure that the clock doesn’t dominate my mind, and to enjoy and appreciate each part of the day as I am experiencing it. My tendency would be to look forward to the next activity and miss the one I’m actually involved with at the moment.

So let’s try something a little different today and see how it feels!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Day 346: Forget

Oh I am sure I could make up all sorts of fancy sounding excuses, but here’s the bottom line:

On Day 346, I forgot to write an entry.

If some of my “pass” entries have left me feeling guilty, you can imagine how I felt this morning when I woke up and realized that I had ended the day without taking any time for reflection, in writing at least.

It makes me question if I’m still engaged in anything of value by keeping up this daily writing, or if I’ve gotten to the point of just ticking off days and waiting for Day 365.

But then I remind myself to “be gentle with the person that you are.”

And so, I’ll carry on… to Day 347.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments