Slow Living: Part one of…

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my message here and what I should do with this website now that I have to sink it officially or swim with it. I’m not even trying to say that I have anything worth writing about. I hate even wasting time being so metta, but I do have the luxury of this space and willing readers who put up with my navel-gazing and cheer me on from time to time so it would be a shame not to have a message. So maybe I do have a message. I just have to find it. Right now it might be a whisper or maybe even silence.

The other day when I was in Washington DC visiting Bethany, she gave me a personality test to figure out what kind of INTPJ-whatsit-or-other LMNOP thingy. I’ve taken these tests a few times and I can’t for the life of me remember what personality type I am. And it’s not the first time I’ve forgotten. I think I’m blocking it out.

If she reads this I’m sure she will chime-in in the comments and remind me because she has the mind of a vault. I think we established that I’m not an extrovert, which is kind of surprising. I always thought I was but maybe I’m changing as I get older.

But who cares about that. The part of the test that stuck with me was a question revolving around my goals in life. It asked something like, Are you rigid in your pursuits or aimless? Aimless?!! What?! I’m not rigid but I’m not an aimless loser either.  The more Bethany and I discussed it the more aimless seemed to fit and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I’m not aimless but I am pretty good at living in the moment. Maybe living in the present is a good thing. I am pretty good at seeing the positive in life and being okay with things that aren’t quite meeting some standard that I previously set.  I’ve learned that there is a positive spin to everything and believe me, I have friends who call me quite often for pep talks and to be reminded of what is good when everything is falling down all around them. I’m good at that.

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I think that’s my message. No matter where we are, no matter what we are caught up in, no matter how many bad things are happening, we can slow life down and appreciate the beauty in the every day.  There is always something to appreciate. There is always something pretty to take a picture of…The way the sun falls across the coffee table in long golden rectangles, the soft whir of a fan, the sound of children practicing violin together, the sound of one bossy child actually being patient and teaching the other how to play a whole note. It might not be music to my ears but it warms my heart nonetheless.

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I’m teaching myself to be okay with little things not being perfect. Paper plates are okay. I hate paper plates but I love the commercial they are running right now about being in the moment and enjoying each other’s company instead of worrying about who’s doing the dishes or how much of a footprint you are making on the planet. Don’t worry, I’m not consuming and throwing things away willy nilly but I am trying to appreciate the way things work out. There is beauty in a family coming together at dinner time and not arguing. The television might be on in the background, I’m still working on being okay with that. Discussions are lively and that’s really all that matters.

I threw out the meal plan this week and it’s been a little unnerving for me but the family seems to like it. I’ve noticed that everyone is helping out more. Is that because they are worried about my state of mind and trying to appreciate me more or is it just a coincidence and they really like being in the kitchen at dinner-prepping time or is it just because they are hungry and the suspense is killing them? I don’t know but I’m liking it.

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And that’s all I got today! I have to get my butt in the kitchen and make a pizzette!

Picnic in the Park

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Ever since I moved in with Payam I’ve been a stickler about making a meal plan. Every Sunday I faithfully write it on white board in the kitchen for everyone in the family to see. I’m kind of obsessive about and it has been becomes a source of stress for me. Mostly this is because I have kids who like wildly different foods and I’m pretty much guaranteed to have at least one person unhappy with me every day of the week. It’s like planned failure every damn day.

Why do I care so much? I don’t know. My parents served me fish sticks and I survived. But I guess I’ve got some lofty ideal in my mind and I’m having trouble letting that go.

If I ask the family for help with the weekly plan that doesn’t work either. Everyone in my house is a visual eater (including Payam) which means they can’t imagine what they want to eat unless they can see it.  They swing open the pantry door and hem and haw but nothing ever comes to them.  They stand in front of the refrigerator: same story with cold air wafting out.

A fully photographed menu would work awesome for them but I’m not up to creating that. I’m a graphic designer and photographer by trade but it would be epic amounts of work.  Can you imagine the weekly versions? TV commercials also work amazingly on them but I’m not up for eating pizza or fast food every night of the week either. Did I mention that one of the kids loves Olive Garden and the other does NOT. One of the kids loves In-N-Out and the other does NOT. You can guess which one is which.  Bottom line: I’m never going to make everyone happy.

Payam says to make what I want and call it a day. I’m trying to work on that. Some days I win at trying and I even get compliments on my cooking (which is like heaven opening and harp music playing). Most days I don’t win.
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One of my weekly plans was a picnic dinner. It was actually kind of brilliant.  I’m often out walking the dogs around dinner time and I noticed that the weather is absolutely lovely around six. The heat of the day has finally dissipated and the light is really pretty and golden, shining through the trees and making long shadows. It’s really a great time of the day to be outside and not inside cooking.

And the dogs love it too!

I decided to cut my losses, get drive-thru fast-food that everyone likes and meet up at the park. We took the dogs, leashed them to a nearby barbecue and had a perfectly nice dinner with no one complaining. It was golden.

picnic-3Then we played soccer…picnic-4and took a walk around the lake…picnic-5

The kids were happy and didn’t spend the whole time arguing with each other…

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Dogs were walked. People got exercise…picnic-7

Pokemon were hunted… it was just really, really nice. picnic-9

I’m not proud of the fast-food part.  It was delicious like only McDonald’s french fries and a two cheeseburger meal can be, but of course I wish I had packed gourmet sandwiches that were a bit more healthy or even picked up some take-out that was a little less cholesterol-filled but it was quick and easy and most importantly, family-pleasing.

I’ve since organized a healthy homemade sandwich picnic for the beach and that went a little less smoothly (sand, dogs, chaos…) but it was still was really nice. I’m working out the kinks. But if I can write anything about this experience it is my old mantra that I write about over and over here. I must make the effort. Getting outside for dinner before winter sets in is totally worth the pain in the neck of planning it.

Is there a support group for meal-planning? I’m thinking I should start one.