Life Lessons from Snoop and Papi

Last week we somehow found ourselves watching an interview-style documentary with Snoop Dogg** that highlighted different stages of his life and career. As we watched the colorful depiction of Snoop’s life and success, I couldn’t help but think, “Man this guy is never stressed out.” I mean if you were Snoop, what on earth would be stressful for you? The guy’s a millionaire with an entertaining career and I’m pretty sure he’s been high for the past three decades. Even though his life is far from what I’d ever desire for myself, I still found myself with a nonsensical pinch of envy.

It went something like this: Snoop never has to worry about anything. I want to never have to worry. Snoop has millions of dollars and an entourage. I want millions of dollars and an entourage. This whole thing is embarrassing and ridiculous, especially because as I recant the moment in my head, my own voice sounds like Veruca Salt’s British whine. The point is, I was having a bit of a blah day and fell into the vulnerable place of comparison.

A few minutes later, the musical score became darker as the topic changed to Snoop’s convictions of felony drug possession and subsequent murder charges in the 90s. And just like that I no longer wanted to be like Snoop.

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The point here? There are a few. Comparison is a dangerous and pointless game. The grass that appears greener is often astro turf, and no one has a life without challenges. The highlight-reel glimpses we get into each other’s lives tend to convince us there are no bloopers or outtakes, but there are. There ALWAYS are. And personally I really like bloopers.

**Saw him in concert in Tucson in 2001. He showed up four hours late to HIS OWN SHOW.

Moving right along, I figure if you can extract life lessons from rappers, why not also find a few from pro athletes.

I’ve watched hundreds of baseball games in my life; seen some incredible plays and disastrous gaffes. The Red Sox hold a special place in my heart, and with that love comes an engrained affinity for tenured stars like David Ortiz, Big Papi.

During yesterday’s game, Papi struck out in the seventh inning with two runners on base, losing an opportunity to take the lead in a series the team was trailing. While unfortunate, there was nothing that significant about the moment; all batters strike out, it’s part of the game. Still, I was hit with a realization that this is one of baseball’s greatest, most-esteemed hitters, and when he struck out, everyone just moved on. It didn’t tarnish his history of success and no one held it against him.

I was suddenly astonished with the fact that someone who’s defied incredible odds to rise to the elite ranks of professional baseball, someone who earns gazillions of dollars and is a national icon, can still strike out/screw up/have an off day. And it’s just a blip on the radar…no one dies, life goes on.

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Later in the game Ortiz hit a homer, driving in three runs to win the game. He effortlessly did precisely what he failed to achieve just minutes earlier, and all was well in Red Sox Nation once again. You can watch below, it’s a thing of beauty:

Here’s what I walked away with though–people who are the best in the world at what they do still mess up sometimes. And they get through their flubs not by obsessing or over analyzing, but by staying confident and refocusing on the next opportunity.

There are days and weeks when I know I’m not on my game and I tend to get down on myself about it, but the best way through the downturns is staying forward focused. Yesterday’s game was a reminder than everyone hits bumps in the road and it’s no reason to chastise yourself. People remember your golden moments, and a strong reputation won’t be tarnished by a single strike out.

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birthday thoughts

This was the first year there was nothing I wanted. No gifts, no trinkets, no party. I just wanted to relax and spend the day with Jim. We ran errands and ate well and saw a movie and it was perfect. It’s an affirmation that you’re married to the right person when spending the morning of your birthday at tile and granite stores is still entertaining.

Our kitchen remodel is underway. Our cabinets are installed and look great, and counter tops and a new sink and lighting are next. We haven’t had a functional place to eat or prepare food for a week, and likely won’t for another few. We have a fridge and a stove but that’s it for now–indoor camping at its best. But the other night I really wanted to eat pasta. So I boiled water, made pasta and then had to wash my dishes in the front yard with a hose. We’re those neighbors I guess–the quasi-Amish trashy ones.

Preparing to have a baby means learning about all kinds of new things…breast pumps and diaper rash and daycare and more. But also things like life insurance, educational trusts and wills. It isn’t fun to think about and spend money on this type of grown-up preparation, but I’m thankful to have people helping me learn and guiding me through the process at the right time. And fortunately, once it’s done, it can be mostly out of mind for the foreseeable future.

There are these birds that have decided to make their home in the trees in front of our house and they are the LOUDEST species on the planet. These are some kind of crazy tropical squawker birds that could wake the dead. I can’t blame them for settling here, it’s a lovely neighborhood, but they are prohibiting sleep. Every morning it sounds like The Jungle Book meets the Hunger Games outside our windows.

Summer in Arizona is winter to most of the country. The weather is crippling and oppressive. It’s unpleasant to be outdoors and all activity shifts to places where there are pools or air conditioning. I always tend to think I’d rather deal with our summers than Chicago winters, but right now I’m teetering somewhere in the middle, while melting.

I am feeling very happy and fortunate to celebrate another birthday. Life is good, aging is a privilege and today was a poignant reminder of how much the small things are the really important ones.

 

 

 

 

 

High school makes me laugh and shudder.

Lately I’ve become convinced that one’s life can be separated into wholly distinct segments, much like a DVD is divided into chapters. There are tons of vivid, action-packed sections of life, each a pivotal part of your plot line until preempted by the next big event.

I feel this way when I drive past my college campus every so often. I’m aware that I spent a solid four years there, full of chaos, learning and relationships, but I can’t actually place myself there among the classrooms and dorms. Instead I feel like I’m passing through a movie set of memories where things simultaneously seem eerily familiar and slightly artificial. It’s the same feeling I get looking at pictures of myself as an infant; I don’t remember the clothes I’m wearing or whatever I’m doing in the photos, but I know these things happened.

Tonight my best friend and I spent the better part of two hours reading aloud notes we’d written each other spanning from middle school through college. I found a 15-page document she gave me after an apparent heartbreak, full of advice, song lyrics and inspiring quotes, but I can’t for the life of me remember who caused me such grief. I was in a place so emotional that it warranted a 15-page typed correspondence from my best friend, yet I can’t remember why. It’s maddeningly hysterical. She read emails (AOL, of course) from boys we haven’t heard from in 15 years. Things that once really mattered are nothing but confusing memories.

Lately we’ve been sorting through notes chronicling some serious stuff we experienced during high school for a project she’s working on, only to realize things about ourselves and these events that never dawned on us before.

“Yeah, he really was a huge asshole.”

“I idolized her. I had no idea she was jealous of me.”

There’s also the great aspect of high school notes and year book descriptions of the honorary-yet-emotionally-fueled commitments. What if we were to redeem these offers in present-day, knocking on the doors of former classmates, demanding the offer was still valid?

“Hey, it’s Jess. Yeah, I know it’s been more than a decade since we spoke, but see–right here in this note from 1999–you said you’d always be there for me, and right now I could really use you.”

I shudder. I mean, I enjoy the option of occasionally sorting back through past chapters, reminiscing about what the most important things were at different stages, but it’s also a relief to be able to return to the present. It’s refreshing to know that no matter how intense these epochs appear to have been, we got through them. We persevered. And we made more good decisions than we thought.

No one should have to relive high school, but a periodic visit is a trip.

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When the bright side isn’t so bright.

In a roundabout conversation with my doctor this morning, she shared she was widowed. Prior to hearing this, I had kind of written her off as one of those women--you know–the ones who just happen to have it all…great career, a few kids, doting husband, etc. I stupidly categorize people like this in my head, glamorizing their entire existence, only to learn my assumptions were completely off base.

I felt like crap for pre-judging her and couldn’t begin to wrap my head around what she’d been through. She summed it up in a matter-of-fact way, remarking: “You just can’t plan your life, you know?”

This struck me–hard–because I spend a lot of time doing just that. Planning…worrying…planning some more.

From weekly activities to finances and career goals, I tend to default to over planning things. I want everything to always be ok and my rationale is that worrying will ensure this. I mean, I might as well obsess over things that will probably never happen, because that seems like a logical way to prevent them. Sigh.

This incidental reminder came at a perfect time, when a lot of people in my life are going through particularly hard times. Different people in different situations, each rough and overwhelming in its own right. I’ve been thinking through it all and it’s troubling. Sometimes it’s really hard to find a bright side or spark of light in the storm, and sometimes there isn’t one. When the bright side isn’t so bright, we just have to stumble along in the darkness until the sun comes up again.

There’s nothing comforting about this realization, it’s just another lesson in growing up. That the tough times we go through will shape us and strengthen us, and ultimately serve to highlight the better, easy times.

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double e-g, double e…

I often claim that I don’t like surprises, because:

A. I’m a control freak.

B. I have poor in-the-moment reactions.

C. I’m an introvert.

D. I scare easily.

…Or maybe it’s all of the above?

At any rate, I realized last week that I secretly do love surprises, even if the act of being surprised throws me off a bit.

When my doorbell rang at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, my immediate reaction (as a result of living in our prior neighborhood for four years) was, “I know these people mean well, but they’re never going to convert me. They need to understand boundaries and check for mezuzahs.”

I was going to ignore it altogether, and then at the last minute I panicked that a neighbor may have lost a pet or child or something equally important, and I decided to press my luck. I opened the door to see my friend Angela from high school waving enthusiastically at me. Before I could ponder how she knew where I lived and what she was doing at my house, she darted back to her car and came back to present me with two extra large Eegee’s drinks. She told me they were a gift from my friend Amy, who lives in LA, because she knew I was having a rough week. Angela happened to be driving back from Tucson that week and Amy worked with her for the delivery.

Talk about stealth coordination.

I was floored that Amy would go to such lengths to bring a smile to my face and a sugar high to my head. Eegee’s is what we grew up on, and how we marked every important life event from birthdays to break ups. It’s the delivery-room cigar of Tucsonans. And it was exactly what I needed.

It’s funny because I was so excited that it almost didn’t matter what she had done; it was the simple fact that she worked so hard to show me she cared and deliver something I would truly appreciate.

I can thank her and thank her, but instead I’m going to try and return the goodness to the universe when the opportunity presents itself.

Grateful for best friends.

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A pregnancy interview with myself.

How are you feeling (23 weeks, 4 days)? Mentally, it’s a consistent blend of the following: good, terrified, excited, happy, emotional, astounded, anxious and hopeful. Physically…I’m feeling pretty good and comfortable most of the time, but definitely get winded more easily and have lots of dizziness. I can still knock out a lot of push-ups which makes me happy.

What makes you happiest these days? Jim, exercise and ice cream, which is fairly consistent with non-pregnancy. I also find great joy in wearing sweatpants and leggings. I’m appreciative of calm, positive and realistic moms as influences.

Anything you miss? Intense workouts and beer.

What’s been the most surprising? How much the baby moves…getting to feel her all the time is amazing, and how many strollers are available at Buy Buy Baby. Oh, and Sophie the Giraffe–people are really into her.

What are you most grateful for? Good health for me and baby and an incredibly supportive husband; having several pregnant friends to share this journey with. The enthusiasm and support of our families.

What’s been the most overwhelming? Knowing that there’s so much I don’t know.

Has anything been annoying? I haven’t been loving the What to Expect series. It kind of makes me feel like a science experiment. Also, has anyone else noticed you can see Heidi Murkoff’s bra in every single video the app posts? I mean, she has millions of dollars, she should hire an honest assistant already.

What’s been the most helpful advice so far? “If the girls on 16 and Pregnant can do it, so can you.”

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