I took time off over the last several days to spend time with my brother, (who is visiting from Boston where he is attending law school), and a friend of mine from high school, (who has been working for the USAID office in Budapest and hasn't been back to visit the States in 7 years). I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with each of them, not only because I enjoy their company, but also because they helped me see my surroundings through new eyes. Certainly, Boston and Budapest are entirely different places--culturally, geographically, etc--but the perspective of these two Nor Cal ex-patriots remained pretty consistent. I've put together the following list of things big and small that Ray and Suzi particularly missed about our state.
Diversity: California is a diverse place. I brought Suzi to the annual Jazz Festival in Old Sacramento, and we came across the Syncopating Sea Monkeys, a great high school jazz band who apparently hail from the high school a mile from my house. The set we heard was performed by a white female vocalist, an African American male drummer, and a brass section consisting of an Asian female, a Russian male, and a white male. Where we were standing a middle-aged hippie invited a senior woman to swing dance and a Latino couple with a baby was swaying to the beat. California has been a "minority majority" for years, but recent studies have also shown that we have more age diversity than the rest of the country, resulting from aging baby boomers and fewer immigrants and young families.
Food: I have never seen a place that had as many Farmers Markets as we do here in the Central Valley. We have a huge ag sector that ranges from small family-run operations to small organic teaching farms to extensive commercial farms. The Pacific Coast and our rivers have excellent fishing opportunities (well, when we aren't having water wars, but that's another story), and in my personal opinion Ghiradelli chocolate, Its It Ice Cream Sandwiches and San Francisco sourdough can't be beat. Blend all that with a plethora of ethnic foods and spices represented by our many immigrant populations and ad a dash of world-class chefs from places like Napa and you have a recipe for amazing! I'm getting hungry just thinking about it all!
Santa Cruz: Lake Tahoe. Crissy Field. Mount Tamalpais. Half Moon Bay. The American River Parkway. Thanks to the movement of tectonic plates and the efforts of generations of conservationists, we have breathtakingly beautiful place to get our nature fix.
Sunshine: 'Nuff said.
Smiles: Blame it on the weather--Californians are nice. When Ray and I went for a jog passersby smiled and nodded to acknowledge our presence. The waiter gave recommendations on margaritas to Suzi with a friendly grin. The deli staff at the grocery store and I swapped stores about our toddlers. At McKinley Park I stumbled across a drum circle and participated in an impromptu game of Capoeira interspersed with playing frisbee with a 4-year-old boy.
So what if our state budget is a travesty and our former-action-star-turned-governor has a trail of illegitimate children? So what if I have to pay a whopping 10% in sales taxes in SF? I am so fortunate to be able to take day trips to the multitude of festivals, national parks, and world-class cities within 100 miles. In 50 years politics and the economy will be a small footnote to the memories of people I've met and places I've seen right here in my own backyard.
As an unapologetic Type-A working mother, I frequently get overwhelmed by how much I have to do and how much I want to do but can't--and these ostensibly opposite thoughts often cross my mind at the same time. Just last night I was complaining to my husband about how I wish I spent more time with my increasingly curious daughter, but at the same time I am frustrated by how much I have given up for her, especially in the way of fitness and community work.
But then I remembered the 80/20 rule. It goes something like this: if you are doing your best 80% of the time, forgive yourself for the remaining 20% of the time that you are not up to par. Let's say you're on a diet--that would average out to a "cheat" day one afternoon a week if you were sticking to your veggies and healthy proteins the rest of the week. If you've been working 60 hours this week, it's okay for you to space out during your third evening meeting in a row. You get the picture.
This rule especially hits home when it comes to motherhood. My daughter was screeching in the car seat a few days ago because her singing puppy had fallen on the floor for the seventeenth time as I was trying to navigate the Highway 80/5 junction. I took a moment to breathe and remind myself that I was in the 20% zone. I've spent countless hours making homemade baby food from locally-grown organic produce, even despite the fact that I hate to cook. I bring her hiking and to the zoo and to the beach and to the river. If I spend 80% (and maybe even 95%) of my time being a good mother, I can let her cry over spilled puppy for 5 minutes. I'll still be a good mother.
Honestly, I don't feel like a good mother all the time, but I am fortunately blessed with wonderful friends, whether they are mothers or not, who remind me in ways big and small that I am indeed doing a good job. At her little boyfriend's birthday party I spent a solid 2 hours running around after Zen. She had only just turned 1 year old herself and yet there she was doing the craziest things, namely stepping on paper plates of food an unsuspecting guest left on the lawn and climbing the giant inflatable slide--yes, I said CLIMB, as in she was scaling the nearly vertical slide while school-aged kids tried to slide down. I went home pretty exhausted that evening. The next day a pregnant friend told me that she watched me play with Zen at the party, and that she hopes to be a mother just like me when the time comes. A teacher friend who was at the party commented that she loved the freedom I gave her; I'm pretty sure that she was the one whose plate Zen stepped on. Yet another guest saw me nearly a month later and told me that her husband said that he wanted to have a little girl as beautiful as mine--the same one scaling the slide, believe it or not.
Back to the 80/20 rule. I don't remember 100% of the things my parents did. In fact, in the grand scheme of things I probably only remember a few snippets of my childhood. But what I do remember really sticks with me. I remember the big breakfasts my Dad would make on weekend mornings. He would play acoustic music on the radio and fling giant pancakes across the kitchen like frisbees. He called them "Uncle Buck" pancakes because he got the idea from the pancakes John Candy flipped with a snow shovel in the movie. I remember my Mom, who was arguably the most popular parent at my elementary school. She was the Girl Scout troop leader for probably 50 girls, and for our world heritage celebration she taught my schoolmates how to dance the tinikling, a Filipino cultural dance with giant bamboo poles.
I figure that if I am an excellent parent (or project manager or runner or friend, for that matter) at least 80% of the time, chances are that one of Zen's few early memories will be of being awestruck by the flamingos at the zoo or fascinated by the Chinese lion dancers at the Pacific Rim Festival--or maybe simply snuggling into my arms as I read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" to her yet again. I know those will be some of my favorite memories in 20 years.
Almost two weeks ago I ran the American River Parkway Half Marathon. Like the overly-ambitious gal I am, I had hardly trained since I ran my last half marathon 6 weeks prior but decided to do it anyway. But did I take it easy? Absolutely not! I pushed myself and ran it in 1 hour and 45 minutes, just seconds shy of my PR (personal record). I thought I was pretty cool. I thought I was so cool, in fact, that I decided to take a little 3-mile jog with Zen and B.O.B. the jog stroller the very next day. Not a smart move. My foot started aching a mile into the run, which meant that I ended up limping almost a mile home. That was neither fun nor sexy. I hobbled around the office in flip flops for three days--again, not sexy. Then I discovered that walking around in my 3-inch pumps was actually easier than in flats. I swear it was better. (Besides, who's telling this story, you or me?) Anyway, being able to dress up again made life better--I didn't look like a total dork, but I still couldn't run. 'It's fine, I'll go to the gym!' It sounded like a good plan, and I headed to the gym with hubby and baby in tow at 8:30 am on Saturday. No thanks to the Separation Anxiety Fairy, Zen would have none of my leaving her at the gym day care. In fact, she even screamed while Daddy held her so I could work out. I got in a solid 15 minutes of kickboxing, all the while watching my toddler screaming in the window before we just decided it was time to throw in the towel. Sunday I got to take my new baby bike trailer for a spin. It was really cool, but not quite as endorphin-pumping as running. So
I tried to run again on Monday. I figured over a week had elapsed since my last run.
By this point I'm getting pretty ticked off. I'm generally a nice girl, but I go from zero to bitch in 2.5 seconds when I haven't been "getting my ya-yas" out." That's what my Dad used to say when I was a kid and I was bouncing off of the walls--sometimes literally. He'd encourage me to run around our 3-acre yard or jump on the trampoline in the garage when I got too hyper and ornery. This should come as a surprise to know one who knows me.
But I digress. Back to the foot.
So I rest. And rest. And rest. And this may sound like a freakin fabulous time to you, but to a person like me it is the equivalent of solitary confinement. Finally, I attempt a jog again.
Mile 1: so far, so good
Mile 2: still good
Mile 3: wahoo!!! I'm back!!!
It felt so fantastic to move again that I went out the next day and nearly sprinted on the return trip home. I'm now looking forward to defending my title as fastest jog stroller at the Women's Fitness Festival 5K in June. Wish me luck!
I have had this website for several years, but it occurred to me that it does not take into account the many things I do day in and day out. I am definitely a Jack (or Jill, perhaps) of all trades, and trying to juggle everything I care about is downright exhausting--and yet somehow invigorating! I don't promise to keep up this blog in any consistent way, but I can guarantee that the following topics will be hit upon frequently:
I welcome your comments and messages, and I appreciate you taking the time to read about the things I care about.