Have Hobbies

I strongly believe everyone should have a passion they can completely pour themselves into that’s separate from work and parenting and everyday life. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Could be running or playing clarinet or nude crazy quilting. Just something that’s all your own. Something that brings you joy and keeps you sane, when everything else seems crazy-nutso. And, this is important; you shouldn’t feel one tiny bit guilty about it.
I think it’s hard for most of us to justify doing something simply for ourselves. Work and kids and spouses and friends and gutter cleaning always seem to come first. But being selfish, in small doses, is vital. Because it helps you get your “you” back.  It allows you to win tiny victories. It gives the big, heavy things in life less power, because while still important, they aren’t your everything.
My passion is horses. It began with an unrequited love at age 4, but then kicked into hyper drive when I got a pony for my 10th birthday. Now, so you don’t hate me, you should also know I had open-heart surgery shortly after my 9th birthday to correct a heart murmur I was born with. So it kinda makes sense on the karmic pendulum.
I also fell off a lot at first. In the mud.  If that helps.

Yep, he's sticking his tongue out at me.

Yep, he's sticking his tongue out at me.

For me, my horse hobby is not just a passing fancy, but a definitive part of my life. It taught me responsibility and dedication and empathy and teamwork from a very young age. Because you cannot convince a 1000 plus pound animal to do what you want if he’s not on your side. So while other teenagers were learning how to French kiss and fake their IDs, I was spending hours in the saddle, conditioning my horse’s tail with Infusium 23 and learning how to clean a sheath. (Google that if you want. I once cleared a room of male co-workers explaining it. Super proud moment.)
But while I love horses in general, (Morgan horses and dressage, specifically) as an inherently competitive person I love showing horses even more. I love it so much that the actual event of a horse show is like air and food and water to me. In fact, I need very little else to exist the entire day/weekend/week I am doing it. 
I can easily get up at the crack of the crack, have a donut and coffee on the way to the show, and then go all day on just the anticipation of competing and a room-temperature Fresca.
This single-minded focus makes me passionate! And driven! And a really horrible horse show parent. The worst. Because children, being small and motivated by annoying things like low blood sugar and the need for love and attention, can really cramp my style.
Son:     “Mama, I’m hungry!”
Me:       (To Dave, sighing like I’m an impatient teenager.)  “Why are they being so needy?”
Dave:    “I dunno. Maybe ‘cause it’s 3:15 and we haven’t had lunch yet?”
Me:        “Oh. Well, there’s yogurt pretzels and a Costco bag of horse carrots in the cooler...”
Dave:     “If I don’t eat real food soon I will chew my own hand off.”
Me:         (More pubescent eye-rolling.) “Fine.  But I need to be back in 25 minutes so I can (insert time-sensitive horse related activity      here) before I show tonight.”
Now, the realization that I was doing neither showing or parenting well when both kids were small forced me to take a break for a couple years. Instead of bringing me joy, my passion was causing me stress. And that’s just dumb. Cause showing horses is expensive and I can get stress for free from work or by hearing the words “Mama, my leg is stuck.”
So during my hiatus from showing, I have had a chance to reflect on how important my horse hobby is to me. How my accomplishments on horseback, both in the competitive arena and out, have led to successes in the rest of my life. I have a deep well of incredibly proud moments to draw from when I’m feeling less than kick-ass. I have an amazing network of “horsey” friends from around the country. And my kids have grown up surrounded by this village of people who watched me win, lose, fall off, get back on, mature, succeed and have a family of my own. It’s pretty special.

I’m thrilled to say that my daughter now loves riding and competing as much as I do. My husband is as patient and supportive as ever. And both kids are old enough to carry their own snacks.
So this year I plan to be back out there, pouring myself into my hobby with selfish gusto. Getting up before dawn, feeling the butterflies, giddy with potential.
It’s a feeling everyone deserves. So if you don’t have a hobby, get selfish and find one. If you’ve got a passion that’s been on hold, reignite it. Give yourself permission to do something just for the joy of it. (And give yourself permission to take a break if joy is not what you’re finding.) You’ll have more to offer the world when you do.
Here’s to hobbies. I’m raising a room-temperature Fresca to them right now.

A Good Job

It was about 3:30 in the morning. I’m lying in my 5-year-old’s bed, awkwardly wrapped around stuffies and just-in-case towels and something pokey that was probably Mr. Potato Head's eyeballs that we had ransacked the house earlier trying to find. My poor son had been throwing up every 20 minutes since 10:30 pm. So there I was, feeling exhausted and helpless and impatient, since he had stopped even trying to dry heave into the bowl. Instead, he just lay there all limp and clammy and stinky, like a tiny, drunk frat boy. Only way cuter.

To add insult to injury, the day/night before had been Valentine’s Day, which used to be a big, romantic deal to my husband and I. Seriously nauseating schmoopieness. Handmade gifts. Flowers. Love notes. But that was many years ago, before marriage and kids and impending Noro Virus. Now V-Day had now turned into a tired family dinner and mandatory exchange of uninspired gifts.

Here’s how I’m pretty sure Dave’s and my passive-aggressive thought conversation transpired when we swapped presents:

Dave: “Oh, a trite, motivational book about pursuing my dreams! How thoughtful of you to pick this up near the register when you bought something for the kids.”

Me: “You’re welcome, honey. Maybe someone else’s words might inspire you more than my own.  Oh, neat.  A short, sheer, black robe. Does middleagedsuburbanhousewifelingerie.com take returns? “

So, I lay there, jammed against the wall in my son's bed, thinking about this and all the other stuff you think about in the middle of the night. Work and parenting and aging parents and marriage and the everythings that need to be repaired or cleaned or upgraded in our house. And how I could be doing them all better. How that TV commercial I wrote could have been funnier, or how I should have said something smarter in that meeting, or how I should have planned ahead and handmade a Valentine’s gift like I used to, or how I should be more patient with my parents and the kids because I expect the same of them and childhood is short and I will miss these days. And as usual, in the middle of the night, it all seems insurmountable.

I guarantee the very first molehill turned into the very first mountain sometime around 3am.

Shaking me out of my guilt reverie, my son gave the little chokey cry that meant he was going to be sick again, and I helped him. And we both settled back into our uncomfortable positions, mine more mental than physical.

Then, in his raspy, exhausted, sweet, five-year old voice, he said the words that he must have intuitively known I needed to hear. (Kids are amazing like that. I also believe they can communicate with animals, but that’s a topic for another day.)

He said:  “Mama. I’m so glad you’re staying here with me. You’re doing a really good job.”

Wait. I was doing a good job?


I wanted to cry. Because I think that’s all most of us really want to hear. In every aspect of our lives. As wives and husbands and employees and bosses and parents and friends and siblings and kids and grown-ups.  We all just want to know that we’re doing “a good job.”

And I realized that I am.  

Because at any given time, I’m doing the best I can.

Oh, sure, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Especially in the timely and thoughtful gift department. But overall, as my delirious 5-year-old had pointed out, I’m not sucking pretty successfully.

So I kissed him on the forehead and said “Thank you, buddy. I love you.” And fell into the most restful sleep I’d had all night.

For about 23 minutes until he had to hurl again.

But when he did, I held that bowl and gently propped up his sweaty little head like the best middle-of-the-night-vomit-helper the greater Seattle area has ever known.

Cause that’s just what you do when you’re doing a good job.