In Search of the Eternal Buzz

My older brother, who is way cooler than I’ll ever be, used to drive a ‘76 Monte Carlo hot rod. On the back bumper was a sticker that read, “In Search of the Eternal Buzz.” As his younger sister, I gathered that search involved fast cars, beer, and babes. Much older and a little wiser, I’ve discovered that the buzz is as unique as the buzzed. As Cole Porter points out, ‘I get no kick from champagne, cocaine, or a plane, but I get a kick out of you.’ To each his own, right?

I’ve had quite the range of experiences in search of my own eternal buzz. Some healthy, some not. Some legal, some not. Some safe, some not. Fast, slow, expensive, free, large groups, alone, far away, right at home. I’ve come to find my brother’s life motto is another way of describing the concept of flow. It’s not about the end result, but the journey. It’s about living in the moment so deeply that nothing else exists. Leaning in with open arms, heart, soul, and mind.

I’ve also learned there are a lot of buzzkills out there. Avoid them. They are speed bumps that need to be swerved around. Some people just don’t like that others are happier than them. Misery loves company, and all that. Buzzkills are narrow-minded enough to think their way is the right way, the only way. But I’m rubber and they’re glue…

Some people are lucky and find their buzz early in life. Some are old and gray before their search comes to a blissful end. Either way, it’s important to keep looking. And once you find that buzz, just keep buzzin’.

So in my search, I’ve found that I love adventure. I love writing. I love traveling. I love food. I love wine. I love learning and knowing things. I love good stories. I love when things are clean and organized. I love puzzles. I love being able to fix things. I love music. I love my dogs. I love nature walks. I love cool air. I love to be entertained. I love to play. I love Christmas. I love the fall. I love to laugh. I love when the ocean or a mountain comes into view. I love the moon and the stars. I love my home. I love my family and friends. I love God. I love my daughter. And I love me. Every day I make time for something or someone I love, and so every day I catch a buzz. The more I focus on what and who I love, the longer my buzz lasts. Voila! It’s as easy that.

So what gets you buzzed?

The True Meaning of Adulting

Adulting. Supposedly a term created for Gen Y to describe the mundane stuff adults do, like paying bills, working, buying groceries. I think of Rachel from Friends cutting up her dad’s credit cards and learning to do her own laundry. But real adulting is encountering harsh realities and rude awakenings in our everyday lives (you know, those surprising and unpleasant discoveries that yes, you were mistaken, your ideal world is not in fact real), and then dealing with them in (hopefully!) positive and productive ways. Biology aside, why do we become adults? Why can’t we stay children forever?

It’s been interesting, to say the least, to be a parent and witness my child growing up. There’s the obvious, expected, and somehow always surprising physical changes, like how she’s close to fitting into my shoes at age 9. And there’s the not-so-obvious, but still expected, yet somehow surprising emotional changes. The other day she was playing with a young boy, a close friend of ours, who has always been very sweet toward her. They were spraying water at each other, but blocking the water with umbrellas, so no one was actually getting wet. All very sweet and innocent, until the little boy crept up on my daughter and dumped a bottle of water down her back. It took her a moment to register what had just happened, not because she couldn’t tell it was water running down her body, but because she couldn’t understand why it happened. She looked at me and, slowly but surely, started to cry. It was very painful to watch because in that moment I knew why she was so sad. She wasn’t just experiencing getting water dumped on her, she was experiencing a loss of innocence.

Loss of innocence happens through experience. We either play a role in an event (good guy, bad guy, bystander), or simply learn more information about the world through the many sources we have. But the events and information that cause this loss are usually shocking or hurtful. I think of the process like this: When we are born, we are gifted with a jar of innocence marbles. As we experience loss, disappointment, shock or hurt, we lose a marble. Some experiences only cost us one marble, some cost a few a more, and some are so horrific that the jar shatters and we lose all of our innocence marbles in one fell swoop. Looking at my daughter’s face that day, I could see in my mind’s eye a beautiful, shiny marble roll down the driveway, clink through the sewer grate, and fall into the runoff below, never to be seen again. Her jar is still very full, so her shoulder remains relatively chip-free. But I wonder, when will her marbles run out?

Hurt and shock can come from big things and small things, but it’s the accumulation of them that grows us into adults. I remember something as simple as walking into a room when Friday the 13th was on, and seeing Jason’s burnt, scarred face, and being so shocked that the image was permanently seared into my brain. I remember witnessing my friends doing illegal things and the new feelings that stirred up in my chest as a result. I remember being the victim of other people’s actions and wondering why I had to be involved. And yes, I’ve done things I’m not proud of, and those cost me a few marbles, too. Sometimes it’s just happenstance or bad luck that leads to these eye openers. Sometimes it’s calculated because someone wants to hurt you. And the worst is when it’s someone who is supposed to love you, who is supposed to be loyal, who you are supposed to be able to trust. My daughter lost a marble that day because the little boy was someone who she thought would never do anything that wasn’t nice to her on purpose.

I lost most of my marbles by the time I was 17. But what’s important to understand is that I still experience hurt, loss, shock and disappointment. I may have lost my marbles but I gained the tools I need to cope and bounce back in their place. As children begin to lose their innocence, they don’t always know how to manage that grief. This is where the real adulting comes in. We become adults, sadly, when we’ve lost all of our marbles. We become adults when we learn how to cope with grief and harsh realities and rude awakenings. But what we adults need to remember to do is share our knowledge and help children navigate their losses. Help them identify and acknowledge what happened, and to make sense out of something that makes no sense. Help them to know they will be stronger as a result. Help them to know that they do not have to repeat the negative behavior they may have witnessed or fallen victim to. Help them to fill their jar with healthy coping tools. And if you can, help prevent the loss of those innocence marbles in the first place, and prolong the naïveté of childhood for as long as possible! Let’s flip the script and change the meaning of adulting from ordinary to extraordinary!

Homage to My Dad

I knew it would be a good day when, early on a Saturday morning, my dad would wake me up by singing, “Good morning! Good morning! How are you today? Good morning! Good morning! It’s time to get up and play!” Then he would whisk me off to a secret father-daughter breakfast at the Dandy Lion diner. Some of my fondest memories are of time spent playing with and learning from, or just being with my dad.

Any time I have a question, he has an answer. He isn’t showing off, or making up answers to move me along, he’s just really stinkin’ smart! My education would have been a lot more difficult, and much less successful, if my dad hadn’t taken the time to help me.

Aside from helping me with schoolwork, he taught, and continues to teach, me many practical skills. He isn’t “MacGyver,” but he can fix just about anything. Just watching him work encourages me to be resourceful and thorough. First, I study what needs to be fixed, and then it seems as though a conveyor belt of potential, readily available tools runs through my mind until I settle on the perfect ones. Then, voila! Problem solved. Dad would take me along to the lumberyard and hardware store, and he’d let me sit at his workbench out in the garage. I see him break things, and instead of showing anger or embarrassment, he jokes, “One step forward, two steps back!” I laugh with him, but each time is truly a lesson in persistence and the importance of trial and error. At 81, his workbench is still in the garage, but now it’s known as “Papa’s Fix-It Shop.”

We built a dollhouse together.  First he taught me how to draw pictures using perspective, enabling me to create on paper the image of the house that I had in my mind.  Next we bought the supplies and built my dream house.  I didn’t even use it all that much.  It was the shared process that I enjoyed the most.

Dad taught me how to fish.  We would go out to Christensen’s pond, bait our own hooks, cast our lines, and sit and wait. We even tried ice fishing there! We didn’t last long, even with bottom heaters, but that’s an experience I won’t forget.

Dad isn’t a jock like some other fathers, but he encouraged physical activity. He would go to the gym to swim and workout. He took me to the biggest hill to go sledding, and he taught me how to successfully swing a golf club. He would cheer me on from the sidelines of the soccer field and applaud my dance recitals. Dad also signed up to coach my town basketball team when I was in elementary school.  I don’t remember ever actually handling the ball during those games; I just ran up and down the court.  He didn’t give me a hard time about ‘getting in the game.’  He saw that I was having fun, and knew that was enough.  From there, my love for the fun of the game grew.  I became more and more involved in sports as the years passed, ultimately leading to a career in teaching others how to live a healthy life through physical activity. And, having both graduated from Big 10 schools, we always have something sports-related to talk about and root for.

Dad also took me to the Gun Club to teach me how to shoot. We’d practice with his revolver at the range. I learned a lot about safety, control, and patience from those outings.  

Dad taught me how to create art using sunlight and a magnifying glass.  I learned about poetry, and gained an appreciation for jazz.  I was able to internalize the values of listening without interrupting, living one day at a time, and ‘letting go.’  One day he would teach me how to draw a body in proportion, and the next would be a lesson in operating a manual transmission.  A regular lesson is, “Say your prayers and take your C’s!”  He is a modern day Renaissance man, and I am forever grateful for the knowledge he is so willing to share and instill.

When mom worked nights, dad and I would cook together.  During my vegetarian phase, he used the opportunity to introduce me to okra, eggplant, and falafel.  Peanut butter and pickles is an unforgettable combination, as are the sundaes he could always conjure up for TV time.

I knew it would be a peaceful night’s rest when dad would tuck me in and, instead of reading me a storybook, he would create a tale on the spot.  Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear would always have a new, exciting adventure, in which Baby Bear would prove to be heroic and successful.  She would swim to the rescue of a distressed swimmer, or score the game-winning goal.  The sky was the limit for “Baby Bear,” and he never leads me to believe otherwise. Now my daughter tells me of his nighttime stories in which she is the heroine, and they seem to have the same enchanting effect.

Oftentimes, it seems as though fathers get nervous about how to relate to their daughters, asking, “What do I say to her?, What would we do together?, or How will we connect?” If my father ever lacked confidence in how to address these quandaries, I could never tell. The adventures and lessons didn’t happen everyday, but they were regular, and they still exist.  The fact that he came home from work every evening and asked me about my day could have been enough.  But he took the time to share his self with me, and that is how I know he loves me.  It’s as easy as that.

I am filled with awe as he, now as Papa, continues to share his time and talents by creating meaningful, invaluable experiences with my daughter.

What do you miss doing with your dad? What did you learn from him? What do you wish you had been able to do with your dad? What would you change and what would you keep the same? How will those experiences affect how you parent?