I love it when different threads from different parts of my life come together. It makes me feel like I know what I’m doing, like maybe I had a plan all along. It’s like that Steve Jobs quote: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Over-water bungalows in French Polynesia

When I was in college I would often fantasize about working for Club Med in Bora Bora after graduation. This fantasy derived from a combination of factors, including:

a) my fascination with tropical islands,

b) my love of travel, and

c) the fact that I was a French major and as such, had limited job prospects.

I can’t recall exactly why this didn’t pan out. Maybe because Club Med was inundated with applications from unemployed French majors? Maybe because of the vaccinations it would have required? (I hate shots.) Who knows.

Anyhow, my French Polynesian dreams were put on hold, though the fascination continued. In graduate school, I did a multimedia project on the island nation of Tonga, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean. (Made famous recently by their shirtless, coconut-oiled flagbearer in the 2016 Rio Olympics.)

And years later, I found myself vacationing in the British Virgin Islands with my future husband. Those dramatic, peaked islands were just as lush and magical as I’d imagined Bora Bora would be. And the secluded, palm tree-lined beaches were straight out of the “Tropical Dreams” calendar that hung in my cubicle. The trip only fueled my island fever more.

Fast-forward many more years, to when I took my kids to see Disney’s Moana a few months ago. Have you seen this movie yet? I adored it. The colorful animations, the girl-power storyline, the catchy music. (Fun fact: the soundtrack features songs written by “Hamilton” superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda.) Back home, I did some research: “Moana” takes place in Oceania, the region encompassing those familiar Polynesian islands. No wonder I was drawn to the movie!

Disney's Moana Movie

Next, my random wanderings of the library aisles – which is how I almost always choose books, BTW – led me to Sarah Turnbull’s All Good Things, a memoir of her time spent living on Tahiti. I quickly realized I had previously read Turnbull’s first book about adapting to life in Paris, Almost French. More of those threads coming together…

Her second book gives an intriguing glimpse into what it’s really like to live on an island many consider “paradise.” Mostly it is, however, Tahiti has its share of crime and social problems (drugs, petty theft), just like anywhere else.

One part I found particularly fascinating was when she describes how their cleaning lady stops showing up for a few weeks, then reappears casually with a simple explanation: “J’etais fiu.” The Tahitian term can be translated as fed up, tired, or “over it.” (Or: my normal state in winter.)

Even more interesting is that Turnbull does some research into this condition, which is similar to depression, and finds that instead of denying or repressing it, “Polynesians allow themselves to succumb to it. Just like the wet-season rains, feeling fiu is considered a normal part of the life cycle and it is understood it will pass eventually.”

Turnbull discovers that “this ability to switch off and withdraw may go way back. For the first Polynesians, long ocean voyages were as much a mental challenge as a physical one.” Like parenting in winter. I’m not a bad mom, I’m just fiu!

There was a moment last night, on the third day of a loooong holiday weekend, when I hit a wall. I had nothing left to give. The thing I never realized about parenting is that your patience, energy, and positive attitude can run out long before your children’s bedtime. And if you’re the only parent there, you have no choice but to slog through. Oh, you can try using excessive amounts of screen time (for them) or wine (for you) as a crutch. But it’s only going to come back to bite you in the butt.

Somehow, we’ve all got to learn how to survive those mental challenges, those long, drifting sea voyages when there’s no land in sight. We have to figure out how to accept it, stick with it, and know that it will pass eventually. Someday we will see that bright, welcoming shore again.

The kids and I passed that interminable final hour before bedtime by doing every puzzle in the house. Including one of surfing dogs on a tropical beach. I am nothing if not consistent.

boys doing jigsaw puzzles

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Making Time, Holding Space

by Abby on December 21, 2016

Monday, 2 p.m. T-minus 4 days till Christmas break starts and my free time ends. I don’t have much time. I should be running to Michael’s, Target, maybe Kohl’s (do I have that coupon?). I need to get picture frames for the kids’ school photos I was guilted into buying. (What kind of parent doesn’t purchase school photos?! A cheap one with a drawer full of unflattering wallet-sized mug shots with bedhead, that’s what kind.) But I got ’em this year, and now I’ve gotta give ’em away to the grandparents.

But instead of shopping, I’m at the gym. Squeezing in a quick cardio workout and then a long-overdue shower. I don’t have time for personal hygiene. Luckily, I work from home. I know from experience, however, that exercise is crucial for my physical, mental, and emotional health. So I make time, squeezing my workouts into cracks, stretching out yoga, strength training, and cardio over several days if I have to, which I usually do. Because I don’t have much time.

Squeezing in a workout before the school bus comes

I spot another mom I know and I smile. Because we’re doing the same thing. “I’ve gotta pick up the kids in an hour, I should be at the grocery store…” she calls out, as she punches buttons on the treadmill. From my spot on the mat, I laugh as do my calf stretches. “I know! Me too.” We don’t have much time.

Time is such a funny thing. As fluid as a stream, as elastic as a rubber band. When I was a kid, there was too much of it. Long, dull, interminable afternoons spent lying on my bedroom carpet, wishing I was somewhere, anywhere else. I couldn’t wait to grow up, start living my life. Really living.

As a young adult, I still had too much time. Time spent waiting, worrying, wondering. When would I find my passion? When would I meet The One? What if I never did? What if these things didn’t exist? What if I’m wasting my time? My life?

Then I got married, had kids. Suddenly, I had no time. Especially no time to myself. Where did it go? What was I doing? My days were an endless blurry loop of nursing, diapers, laundry, not-sleeping. I wanted to write again, to eat/sleep/leave the house again, but I couldn’t find the time. There just wasn’t enough time.

Now my kids are older. They’re in school most of the day. But still, the time doesn’t stretch the way I thought it would. My calendar fills up too quickly with household chores and school events and adult obligations that take up so much freaking time. (Jury duty! Car maintenance! Bill paying! Scheduling and waiting for deliveries and repairmen! Adulting is so overrated.) I blink and it’s time to go meet the school bus.

So I steal time: for reading, watching TV, phone calls with faraway friends. I make time: to exercise, cook dinner, sleep 8 hours a night. I stretch time: by multitasking (folding laundry while listening to podcasts), batching errands (I won’t drive more than 3 miles unless I can knock at least 2 things off my list in the process), by meditating (I don’t understand how it works, but 10 minutes each morning adds white space to my day).

I am good at making time for what’s important to me. I am working on making space for those things that haven’t arrived yet. It’s all too easy to fill up all my time and space with all those to-do’s.

Today I read something by author Danielle Laporte, titled “Holding out. The most underrated spiritual act there is.” She writes,

Good things come to those who … hold out. You ask the universe for someone awesome to fill the role of lover, team player, or power broker. You ask for a change of scenery. And then something close enough happens. And you do the cosmic shrug and think, “Well, close enough.” It’s new. It’s different. But … new and different are not the same as resonant and deeper. You have to hold out for that kind of magic.

…It’s so damn easy to settle, to just take the first good offer, to roll with it sooner rather than later. Particularly when you’re hungry. Especially when you’re in pain. And definitely after you have been very, very patient.

…Hold out, love. Be alone. Keep doing the work. Go without. Let the space you want to be filled stay open and clear. It requires more strength but as it turns out, holding out is seriously efficient. You won’t have to untangle as much, or backtrack, or extricate yourself from all the things that you could have compromised on.

You’re worth the wait.

{This post is part of the #Reverb16 writing challenge I am participating in this month, in response to the Day 21 prompt: How do you prioritize your time? What would you like to make more time for? You can find out more about Reverb and how to participate here.}

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One of My Favorite Things About the Holidays

December 13, 2016

I love them so much. The cheesier, the sappier, the more implausible, the better. I’m talking about holiday movies – the made-for-TV kind, of the Hallmark and Lifetime variety. Every year I try to watch at least one or two. The conditions have to be right, though. My kids can’t be around to interrupt me, […]

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My Picks for Uncommonly Good Christmas Gifts

December 10, 2016

{This is a sponsored post, however, all opinions and gift picks are my own. You’ll see…} I hate to admit it, but the Christmas gift-giving season fills me with dread. It’s not that I don’t like giving or receiving gifts. I do. In fact, nothing makes me happier than coming across the perfect gift for […]

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How The Nutcracker Makes Me Feel Better About Holidays with Kids

December 5, 2016

Fritz could be my kid! I was thrilled to have this realization during one of my many, many viewings of The Nutcracker. I love The Nutcracker—the music, the dancing, the costumes. I am lucky enough to have seen it performed professionally several times. My dad took me to see it as a kid and even […]

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Life Goes On

October 19, 2016

People still have to eat. Even in the midst of grief and loss and unthinkable events, people still need food multiple times a day. This was the thought that occurred to me two days after my father-in-law passed away. On some level, it seemed astounding to me that the world kept turning. I couldn’t believe […]

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You’re Killing Me, September

September 22, 2016

The September tsunami has hit. I had high hopes that this year would be different, and the back-to-school stress would be minimal. I tried. Oh, how I tried. I went school-supply shopping — blessedly without the kids (their idea) — painstakingly digging through the picked-over bins at Target, Michael’s, Rite Aid, and Big Lots (yep, […]

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I’ve Been Doing Self-Care Wrong

September 7, 2016

Turns out I’ve been doing it all wrong. The whole time I’ve been an adult, and especially a mom, I have been approaching self-care the wrong way. But first let me just say that it took me a while to get comfortable with that term, “self-care.” It sounded so… cheesy? Touchy-feely? Indulgent? Far less appealing, […]

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Dreaming of Water

August 1, 2016

“Mama, sometimes I dream something that happens in real life.” “Really?” I don’t tell him then, but this has happened to me, too. A room, a rug, a place—snippets of subconscious that come to life at a later date. A flicker of recognition, a feeling of déjà vu. Where have I seen this before? Oh, […]

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Reflections on a Decade of Motherhood

June 8, 2016

My oldest son turns 10 today. I started blogging when I was pregnant with him. I’m glad I did, because I have a record of my thoughts and feelings as I made the transition to motherhood, memories that otherwise would have been blurred, misremembered, and even lost entirely to sleep-deprivation and aging brain cells. You […]

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