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The Great 2014 Diner Tour.

Back when Michael was about a year old and Matthew was about 5, one day every weekend, Dave would join Michael for his afternoon nap, and Matthew and I would head out for lunch at the diner in town.  I think because he was 5, Matthew liked to sit at the counter, so we always did.  As a mom adjusting to having two kids after more than 3 1/2 years of just one, I remember these times alone with Matthew fondly.

As the boys got bigger, they got busier, and activities and the precious little family time we had took over the weekends.  Michael stopped napping (Dave didn’t, by the way, so sometimes it’s just the boys and me out and about). The weekly lunches, just Matthew and me, became a fond memory.

Earlier this school year, Matthew was working on a project for health class, where we each had to write down some memories and talk to each other about them.  Not only did he mention those times out just the two of us, but wrote that he wished we could do it again.  So we talked about it and decided we would find a way to make it happen.

This year, on Sunday mornings, Dave plays basketball with a bunch of other middle-aged guys.  And Michael goes to religious school on Sunday mornings (this year, Matthew goes on Tuesday evenings).  That just leaves Matthew and me.  He liked the idea of us trying to go out for breakfast, just the two of us, on Sunday mornings.  For nostalgia’s sake, we went back to the diner in town the first time, and sat at the counter.

coffee

It was good, but neither of us seemed too excited about trying to do that every week.  So we decided we’d try some new diners (which, thankfully, are plentiful, given that we live in suburban New Jersey).  I personally added some criteria – the diner needs to have at least 3.5 stars on Yelp, and be within a 10-15 minute drive.  We’ve tried some new places, eaten some pretty delicious food, talked to some interesting people, seen some fascinating characters, and had some good conversation.  Aside from a diner check-in on Facebook (and Googling something that comes up in conversation if necessary), electronics are away.

Things have gotten in the way and we haven’t done it every week. That’s okay.  It has to be.  But it’s been a great way for me and my soon-to-be teenager to spend a few hours most Sunday mornings, just the two of us.

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Greetings from Parachute Guy.

We brought in the mail yesterday, and there was a mysterious envelope from England, addressed to me, in the mailbox.  The customs declaration read “postcards and plastic toy,” and since I only know a couple of people who would mail me something from England, I was pretty curious to see what was inside.

Parachute guy.

parachute guy

As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s a back story to parachute guy.

Every summer, I work in the office at the day camp where my kids go.  I’m lucky to work with fun, smart people who make my job easier and my summers something to  look forward to.

I’m not really sure where Parachute Guy came from, but two summers ago I saw him on the desk of the office manager (and my good friend). He’s a smiling little red plastic figurine, not even an inch tall, attached by fishing line to a white parachute, If I am correctly remembering how things started, I took him off her desk and hung him by the parachute from the ceiling in her office.  And so it began.

Every few days, my friend and I would trade Parachute Guy.  I’d find him in my purse, in a desk drawer, hanging on my computer, under a pile of papers. And I’d return the favor, stashing him in places in her office.

After two summers, things started to get a little stale with Parachute Guy, so we upped the game a little.  If there was mail coming home to me from camp during the year when I’m not working there, I might find him in the envelope.  Once, my friend’s kids came over to spend time with my kids, and her daughter snuck up to my room and hid Parachute Guy under my pillow.

So, neither of us spent much time wondering where Parachute Guy might be, but for me, finding him always makes me smile.  And this past summer, at the end of camp, my friend sent Parachute Guy off to England with one of the international camp staff, for her to mail to me at a later date.

And here’s where the story is now.  Parachute Guy arrived here safely yesterday, and is spending time in my kitchen.  I’m not at all sure when and how Parachute Guy will be returned to my friend, but now I feel the need to do something pretty creative.

Here’s the moral of the story: life is full of work, laundry, homework, cleaning – the “have-tos.”  And if in the midst of these have-tos, if we can make someone smile by doing something silly like hiding a little toy in a jacket pocket, we’ve done our “real” job.

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Whatever.

I’ve been married for a little over 16 years.  I’ve learned a lot in that time.  About men, mine in particular.  About myself.  And about learning to let certain things go for the sake of everyone’s sanity.

The most recent example: I had a week between the time I broke my ankle last Monday and when I had surgery on it this Monday.  It was actually nice to have the time to get things organized, prepare, and make arrangements to get the kids where they had to be this week, since I shouldn’t be driving yet.

Know what Dave did on Sunday?  He took Michael up to his room and spent about 2 hours with him, moving his clothes between his dressers and closets, getting rid of a few shirts that he’d outgrown, and putting some new things up on the walls.

Really??!

But here’s the thing.  Michael likes things organized, so he was happy to do it (and delighted to show off the end result to me later).  I realized that Dave felt the need to do SOMETHING.  He couldn’t really help me, he’d already gone food shopping and on a Costco run, and the laundry was caught up.  So, you know what I did?  I stayed downstairs, kept my mouth shut, and let him do something that made him feel better.  Did I think it was something that would make a difference for any of us after my surgery?  Nope.  Is it something that I would have done if I were in the same situation?  I really doubt it.

laundry

But what I’ve learned over 16 years is that sometimes, Dave is going to make a decision that is different than what I’d do.  And what’s more important is that I’ve learned to be okay with that.

So, when Dave folds laundry in the living room, leaving piles of clean underwear on our beautiful piano (!), I realize that it’s going to be put away by the end of the day.  I just hope that nobody stops by unexpectedly before it does.

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Hindsight is 20/20. But not really.

I think many of us are prone to looking in the metaphoric rearview mirror, wondering if what we’ve done is right.  And I’ve realized recently that unless what we see in that mirror reflects an unquestionably good decision, looking back doesn’t really do us a whole heck of a lot of good.

I broke my ankle last year.  Decided about a year after the break and initial surgery that the hardware in my ankle was causing me enough pain that I wanted to go through another surgery to take it out.  And two months after that surgery, here I am, ankle broken again.  This time, I’m working with an ankle specialist who is going to operate yet again on Monday, basically to implant the same hardware I just had taken out, along with some fancy additions.  Should I have seen the ankle specialist before I decided to take that hardware out a few months ago?  Maybe.  Would my ankle have stayed in one piece if I’d left it in?  Maybe.

hindight

But asking that question is a pretty stupid exercise for one reason.  Whatever thoughts I may be having, my freakin’ ankle is STILL broken, so I might as well move forward and deal with that reality.

And I think that goes for most decisions in life that we regret.  Because here’s the bottom line: as far as I know, nobody has really managed to create a time machine that actually works, so we can’t go back and make that change we may be fantasizing about.  We spend so much time looking back and thinking about the decisions we’ve made that may have taken us in a less than ideal direction, when we should spend our time concentrating on the present and the future, because until someone perfects that time machine, this is the only place where our efforts can really make any difference.

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