Being Four

ImageThis week a friend asked me to be a “cool auntie” to his daughter. A mighty role, I must say, which I most humbly accepted with a drunken, “Hell ya!” As I have no plans to bear children of my own, being a cool aunt is a perfect combination of moderate kid hang-out time and low everyday responsibility. I like kids – actually, I think it’s more that I like kids’ activities and it’s becoming more and more difficult to find big kids who will colour and make snow angels with me.

I plan on taking my Cool Aunt title very seriously so I’ve started thinking about what kind of wisdom and activities, besides colouring and winter culture I can provide. What kinds of things do four-year-olds need to know? She’s starting school soon so I think I’ll start there.

How to make friends:
I’ve always hated the advice, “Just be yourself”. It’s so much harder than it sounds. Really, when making friends, you should “Be a listener.” People like people who are interested in them. Ask questions. Share some food or some gossip. I always go for gossip first (yes, a terrible habit) but if you must resort to food, don’t be the girl who brings cookies for everyone on the first day. This will make you the people-pleaser and nobody cool likes that.

 

Don’t worry about being cool.                                                                                                

This way, even the “cool people” will secretly admire you.

 

Read.

Being smart is the new cool. Read everything you can. Not only will you be smart but you’ll have knowledge you can share with potential friends. Curious George did what?! No!

 

Everyone is just as scared as you.

This is something I still remind myself of sometimes. Starting something new can be scary but remember that everyone is in the same boat. Don’t ever think you’re not as good as anyone else.

 

Don’t hit.

Unless you get hit first. I know Mom and Dad will say don’t hit at all, but Cool Aunt says it’s okay…sometimes.

 

These may not be the torn from the books of Confucius but I think they’re a good starting off point. I’m sure my Cool Aunt job will be more like tip number one and I’ll just have to listen to her rant about her parents being unfair and school be boring. I hope I can do that. I hope I can remember what I would have wanted to hear. I remember being a teenager and saying, “I’ll never forget what it’s like. I’ll be the best mom ever.” Well, guess what?…

What else would you tell a four-year-old? What would you tell your four-year-old self? I’d love to hear your ideas to help me be the coolest aunt ever.

Big Box of Toys – The Magic of Home Depot

ImageGoing to the toy store is the biggest thrill for a child. From the moment the smell of hard plastic hits your face you’re off and running to your favorite section, hoping to see all the latest and coolest stuff. I remember that I was on a lifelong search for a doll that looked exactly like me; even in the early eighties it was hard to find dolls that weren’t blonde. In every store I’d run to the doll section searching for brown hair. Unfortunately, brown hair only came with brown skin and my search continued. Then, one day, my grandparents discovered the doll I wanted was at a Toys R Us in Buffalo, New York. We went all the way there to pick her up. I barely sat still the entire time. And finally, I saw her. Straight brown hair, pink leggings, blue leg warmers and a yellow sweatshirt. She was perfect. She was mine, and once I freed her of the millions of metal twist ties holding her in the box, I never let her go. I never did anything special with her except have her sit on my bed. It was just comforting to know she was there, being just like me. For some reason, this was very important.

Today I experienced the same feeling. My husband and I have been searching for ceramic tiles for our kitchen for over a year. We just couldn’t find something to go with our kitchen and bathroom colors, and nothing felt like “us”…until today. We found the perfect ones at Home Depot. I was so excited I ran home to measure again and worked out the price. We’ll probably pick them up tomorrow. How will I sleep?

I realized that Home Depot and Rona have become my grown-up Toys R Us. As soon as I walk in and smell the rubber and glue I get a little anxious. I stop myself from running to my favorite aisle (lighting) to see all the new stock. If anyone could see me they would see my eyes glaze over, looking up into the energy-saving bulbs, imagining how each light would accent my home, just as my doll accented my bed.

The point is, I like strolling around Home Depot on the weekends. I know it’s a mocked pass time in movies and on television and big box stores are the enemy, but I truly enjoy it. It may be too simple to say it’s an adult toy store. I think it’s more interesting to think of it as a place where all there are countless possibilities for projects and I can let my imagination run free. A magical place where I will buy my perfect tiles and all my renovation dreams will have come true.  For now…

A Magic Recipe for Your Thirties?

I’m always looking to find the magic recipe for doing your thirties well (and definitely better than I did my twenties).Today I thought I’d share my compilation of some things I’ve discovered so far and I’ll work to add to this list in the coming year.Feel free to send me your ideas or tell me what you think!

Be prepared. Or better, don’t be shocked by surprises.

I write about this one a lot because it’s something I struggle with. I keep trying to find the balance between planning for life but also rolling with the punches when my plan is derailed.

What I’ve learned or what advice I can give is still in progress. At the moment I just try to plan clearly but also try to see more than one possible outcome.

 

Lower your expectations.

Throughout my twenties I had a pretty clear picture of what my life would look like. When I turned thirty I was almost shocked that this reality didn’t manifest overnight from 29 to 30. This is what caused a little bit of a tailspin. And by tailspin I mean ‘drinking binge’.

If I had known that my plan I had for myself in my thirties might only take about a year and a half more I would have avoided the hangover. However, it was a learning experience. First, I learned that there is such thing as a two-day hangover. Second, I learned that, in the future, I shouldn’t expect overnight miracles.

 

Love is more important than…

In my twenties I put love on the back-burner. I took it for granted because I always had it. I think your thirties show you that love and relationships are more complicated that f*** friends.

For me, I’ve realized that I don’t just have a husband, I have a GREAT husband. I have to remember to tell him that more often…

Also, family has becomes important because, finally, after I’ve now  moved out can I have this perspective. I’ve also learned that the holidays with my extended family is a welcome reprieve rather than an inconvenience while I finish my last term paper.

 

Laugh at and admit your mistakes.

It’s all about the learning process.

 

Forgive.

 

Say Sorry…and mean it.

 

Moisturize. The sooner, the better.

As I said, this list is a work in progress but it’s a start for lessons that I wish I could whisper in the ear of my younger self.

I’m sure there’ll be lots of stuff I’ll want to add to this list in the years to come but I think it’s a good start. I find it comforting to have discovered a few things already and I love that I can use this as words to live by in the meantime.

 

2016 Update: Since this post was written, I have indeed added to this list. I’d love to share this expanded list and more great tips for your thirties with YOU. Check out ashewoodward.com and sign up for the Being Thirties newsletter!

Controlling Outcomes

So these are the first days of 2014. So far my resolutions for career and health are on track – blogging once a week and no aspartame.

This year promises to be brighter than last already since I have begun the year doing something that I love – writing. Last year I was waiting on grad school applications and everything was a bit blurry. It feels really good to have a little more sense of control at the outset, though I cringe at the use of the word control.

People always say that control is an illusion, but then why do we refer to it as tangible or something we have or lose? Control is something that we all like, we all strive for it. But maybe what we’re yearning for is better forethought. As I said, last year I had no control over my future. It would be decided by a bunch of stuck-up dicks – I mean, intelligent council members. I had no control over the outcome. Or did I?

I had put myself at their mercy. If I hadn’t wanted to relinquish control, I wouldn’t have applied. This year, I decided that I don’t want that feeling. Again, I’ve come back to the importance of planning. Last year I had no back-up plan. This year I have three. This is where I get a sense of control. If some things don’t work out (for reasons beyond my control) I have a back up. And then a back up to my back up.

So really there is some merit to the thinking that control is an illusion because there are things that happen that are beyond our reach. However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to go after some semblance of it. It’s a good feeling. It’s calming, assuring. The point might be that the loss of control is what makes control damning. So hold on to what you have but know that situations can always change, and plan ahead. Way ahead.

Hope you’re having a great year so far!