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A Little of Everything

2017 March 16
by WWGD

I watched this YouTube diatribe this week on generalists and how they (we) simply can’t make a mark on society like a specialist can. Meaning if you have a feed or a blog or a business based on a little of everything and not a lot of one thing, you’re screwed. How one guy launched an entire Instagram of things sitting in the palm of his hand and he’s a genius because he’s covering products and brands in such a specific manner and it’s Insta-gold (here is the account, if you’re curious). How it’s simply too late in the game for generalists. Every channel and concept and business idea is already so over-saturated that if you’re not hyper-focused on your vision, angle and story…it’s simply going to get lost.

Beyond Instagram fame (which I don’t really think about…obviously, given my following there), the point made me think. I’ve struggled from time to time with the focus of this blog and my writing and the things I am putting out into the universe and expecting people to spend their time consuming. I’ve often wondered if my work would have more impact if it was focused on one particular aspect of life, of motherhood, of work/life balance instead of…all of them. But I always end up coming back to the things that consume my time each and every day and the reality is, they are general. One day it’s health and wellness, the next it’s parenting. One day it’s career, the next it’s my hair. It’s a little of everything and not a lot of one thing…but it’s life.

I met Devon more than five years ago when she was one of my daughter’s preschool teachers. We quickly became friendly and she ended up helping us as my son’s nanny for a few years after that, becoming a much loved and every day fixture in our lives. She is an accomplished surfer, a new mom, a really great writer and…a generalist. She fills her blog with stories of her days and her nights and the moments in between. Some of them meaningful, some of them seemingly mundane, but all captured in this easy, effortless voice that I just love. It’s simply her day-to-day life, but somehow it resonates with me every single time. Maybe it’s her words, maybe it’s her pictures, maybe it’s just knowing her and her heart the way I do. It’s a little of everything Devon and it’s great.

And when I clicked through to her latest post shortly after watching the guy on YouTube…it suddenly all made sense to me.

He might be right, don’t get me wrong. In terms of growth and “success” and making your mark, being a specialist may be key. But in life, I prefer a little bit of everything instead of a whole lot of one thing. I prefer bits and pieces of this mixed with healthy servings of that, particularly when it comes from the heart. And I think society needs more of that beyond everything else. In the end, that’s where everything should really start…

With your heart.

In the palm of your hand.

Out there for the world to see.

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It Gets Harder

2017 March 13
by WWGD

I have had this conversation with so many girlfriends lately and it only feels natural to have it with you, too.

I started my consulting business eight and a half years ago. My daughter was one and a half at the time. We lived in a three-bedroom apartment and one room was already dedicated to my husband’s home office but I was steadfast in my determination to work from home…regardless of how it was going to squeeze us, financially, physically, emotionally.

I couldn’t possibly imagine missing my daughter’s baby years. Her every milestone. Her first words. Her first bite of homemade baby food (which, incidentally…I never actually made).

So I busted my butt to create a business and a life where I could be there every step of the way. And it was glorious.

Three years later when my son arrived, I already felt ten steps ahead of the game. I now had a thriving consultancy business and I was able to be there (though admittedly most of the time on a conference call) to see those first words all over again. To appreciate the milestones. To still skip the whole homemade food thing…

It was very apparent to me at the time that the risks I was taking for my career were critical to my family’s well-being. I simply HAD to be there for those pivotal baby years. I could always go back to a full-time job or pursue that passion project or make that move up the “traditional” corporate ladder later…when they were in school, when they wouldn’t need me as much, later.

Well, now it’s later. My daughter is almost 10 and my son is almost 6. And the big news, friends, is that I want, need, HAVE to be there now…more than ever.

Just this week alone, I chatted with one girlfriend whose daughter is about to enter (very) early puberty and (rightfully) wants her mom there by her side with every passing hormone. Another one’s son accidentally ended up in this Google search rabbit hole thanks to a tip from a friend in his class that had him in tears. A friend of a friend just announced her and her husband’s divorce to her daughter. All of those kids grew up with mine. Almost 10. It’s later. And we need to be there.

It gets harder, not easier, as they grow up.

It’s also more fulfilling, more beautiful, more amazing…all those things. But the truth is, it’s harder. Harder to balance. Harder to sign off when you really want to. Harder to find those moments for yourself (remember when kids napped?? Sigh. Me neither.). Harder…but more important than ever.

Now I know that starting my business all those years ago and building this flexible structure that I appreciate so very much wasn’t nearly as pivotal then as it is now. It’s now that I want to pick them up and listen to the tales from their day. It’s now that I want to meet the friends they are having play dates with and their moms and their dads. It’s now that I want to be there when Google turns up something alarmingly inappropriate and someone needs to explain.

It’s now that it’s harder. And more beautiful. And more fulfilling.

I know not everyone can work from home or be there every afternoon or supervise every play date. I know it’s not realistic for most. And that’s ok. In fact, that can be great. We all do what we can. As long as you are thinking about how you want to spend the time you do have with them as they grow into this next phase of life. How you can make your life as flexible as possible to allow room for parenting. Before work, after work, during work.

Think about that.

Start conversations. Hang out with them. Put down your phone. Or use it to call them to check in rather than sending a quick text. Listen to their voices for signs of fear, sadness, insecurity, excitement. Meet their friends. Meet the parents. Ask questions. Answer questions. Choose free time as a family over an overwhelming schedule of activities. Volunteer at school when you can. Volunteer in life when you can’t do it at school. Scroll through screens. Check in. Check out…together.

It’s more important than the homemade baby food, I promise. Even more important than those early milestones. These next few years are filled with the steps that will actually take them somewhere. And you’re going to want to be alongside them all the way.

Bath & Body Favorites

2017 March 3
by WWGD

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of self-care and my daily shower ritual is no exception to the rule. Standard bar soaps and drugstore body washes that are filled with overpowering synthetic scents and grains of plastic have quickly been replaced by more indulgent favorites that make my shower time (let’s face it, one of the only times a kid is not chatting away in my ear…) a relaxing, much-needed retreat. If even only for five minutes. Here are a few of my holy grail favorites in case you’re looking to step up your shower game a little, too…

Kiehl’s Soy Milk and Honey Body Polish (above). This has to go first because it has been a favorite of mine for many, many years. The Soy Milk and Honey scent is an offshoot of their classic Creme de Corps fragrance and it’s the perfect warm, creamy combination. The scrub particles are gentle (and natural-ish!) and leave your skin feeling buffed, polished and super soft. There is an accompanying lotion if you’re into that extra step but you don’t really need it for normal skin because this is just rich enough.

Mario Badescu Botanical Body Soap. I love Mario Badescu and it’s not just because of my Romanian roots. The line is affordable and effective which is a rare combination in skincare these days. A small bottle of this is $8 and the larger one is $14 and I find a little goes a long way so it will last longer than you might expect, even with daily use. It has a subtle, clinical scent that I kind of like. Not flowery, not perfume-y, just simple and clean. A really nice every day favorite.

MoroccanOil Shower Milk. This is a brand new favorite for me. The beloved haircare brand has made a strong foray into bath and skincare over the past few years and their new Shower Milk line is just as good as the rest of their collection. The salesperson described it as “bathing in a robe of MoroccanOil scented cashmere” and I promptly handed over my credit card. It’s a rich, creamy wash that leaves a light, hydrating finish and that signature scent of theirs is always one of my favorites…but if it’s not yours, it comes in rose and orange blossom scents as well. A true little luxury.

Laura Mercier Almond Coconut Creme Wash. You might love Laura Mercier for her famous tinted moisturizer but it’s the bath and body collection that really wows, in my humble opinion. I love coconut-scented anything but only when it’s done right and Mercier does it perfectly. Not too sweet, just warm enough, and paired with almond, it’s simply amazing. The entire collection is super luxurious but the body wash is an extra easy way to spoil yourself a little, just because…

Aveda Stress-Fix Composition Oil. Finally, one of my favorite ways to truly unwind in the shower (or bath) is by adding essential oils to the mix and the Aveda blends are some of my favorites. I promise that a few drops in your bath water or shower stream will instantly transform your day. You can also use it to give yourself a little scalp massage or shoulder rub while you’re in there and let the steam amplify the oil’s effects as you breathe deep and truly relax. If even for five minutes. Because every minute counts.

*One more thing: I recently signed on for Sephora’s new Flash service and it’s a no-brainer if you’re a product junkie like me. It’s $10 for a year and you enjoy unlimited 2-day shipping on anything and everything for free. Kind of like Amazon Prime but approximately $80 less. I will do the math for you…it’s a great deal. Not sponsored, just sharing because it’s pretty darn great. But apologies in advance to my Canadian friends…excluded yet again. Sigh. 

Planes, Trains and Donut Cats

2017 February 25
by WWGD

We just got back from a week away in British Columbia with our kids.

Just because.

It was a really nice break for our little family of four. We saw old friends, took in lots of fresh Canadian air, watched snow fall like it was never going to stop, stopped for must-have donuts, bought donut cats (the only kind of cat I can get behind, to be honest…) and spent time talking, laughing and just hanging out together, which we really needed (and wanted) to do.

We’re in this sweet little season of life where travel with our kids is easy and fun. They’re old enough to go anywhere, to handle their own bag in the airport, to make their way through security without incident and to make it through long travel days with little upset. But they’re still young enough to appreciate time with us, to take our lead, to see every little thing (like the donut cats) with amazing wonder in their eyes.

My husband makes fun of me because I am always planning a trip. Always looking for a quick getaway or a big journey or a must-see experience to add to our calendar. This trip reminded me why. The chair lift rides with my girl. The pizza topped with honey. The two-hour ferry trip that took us four. The walk through Beacon Hill park where we found the “Sleeping Giant” and didn’t want to leave her side (pictured above). The deer sprinting down the street and the one grazing with her babe. The falling snow and the weak Wifi.

The donut cats.

It all reminded me why this season is so special. So perfect. And why we should continue to make it so, every chance we get. Every long weekend, every school break. And sometimes in-between, too.

Just because.

 

Here’s where we stayed in Victoria and in Whistler. The former was surprisingly kid-friendly. Yes, ours were the only ones there but the owner and other guests were delighted by them. 

Here are a few favorite restaurants we went to along the way: Pizzeria Prima Strada, Café Medina, Pizza Antico, Sushi Village, Lee’s DonutsPure Bread, Woods Coffee. Yes, we like pizza. And yes, those were the best donuts I’ve ever had in my life. 

Here are a few shops I loved: Hatley, Munro’s Books. The book store was incredibly beautiful and I picked up this Canadian favorite that has been on my list forever. 

Here is where you NEED to go if you find yourself in Whistler with a few hours to sneak away on your own.

And here, of course, are the donut cats. You might just need one in your life, too. 

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Chasing Slow – A Review

2017 February 6
by WWGD

The thing about chasing slow is that you’re usually in a rush to find it.

You know the feeling: your days are too busy, your nights are too short. Your to-do list is filled with all the wrong things. Your must-have list is the same.

And just when you realize you’re rushing towards a never-ending finish line, and life is rushing right alongside you, you decide it’s time to slow down.

Or I did, at least.

And Erin Loechner’s book was there to catch me.

In its most basic synopsis, Chasing Slow is one writer/blogger/mother’s memoir/diatribe/advice book on how to live a slower, more meaningful, less material life.

But it’s how she shares that advice that makes it magical.

First, the book is really beautiful. Don’t buy it on your Kindle, buy the real thing. The publisher put a lot of thought and effort into the design and layout and it feels fresh and cool and inspired. It is just nice to read. But more importantly, Erin is a natural born story-teller and you weave your way through her pages and the different stages of her life with an easy flow. You laugh a little here, you tear up a little there, you feel every step of the stumbling path alongside her. And while you’re cruising alongside her personal tales of struggle and self-doubt and triumph and change, you get to the root of Chasing Slow: the concept that resonates with all of us, despite our own personal struggles, self-doubts, triumphs and changes. And it sticks.

The true brilliance of this book lies not only in its core messages but in how Erin illustrates them. She writes with ease and candor and her mantras resonate in a way that feel real and true versus preach-y and perfect. And those are the kinds of messages that sit with you. That stay in the back of your mind after you put the book down. That pop up here and there in your mind’s eye, reminding you on a particularly busy work deadline that it’s all under control as long as you let it be. That calms your inner voice in the middle of the night when it’s worrying about next year and five years after that and ten years beyond. That whispers to you to put the phone aside and listen to your kids when they’re speaking to you. Really listen.

Those are all the moments where Erin’s book work their magic. Long after you put it down. Long after you stop rushing. Right when you decide it’s time to slow down.

Let this book catch you. You won’t regret it. I promise.

*disclosurethis post contains an Amazon.com affiliate link

In Her All Along

2017 January 24
by WWGD

My daughter started walking at 15 months old.

She is almost 10 now which means she has been mobile for approximately 8.5 years. 102 weeks. 714 days.

During that time, we have tried to introduce her to a variety of sports and active endeavors: soccer, karate, tennis, biking, hiking, swimming. Some she did with an ounce or two of pleasure, some she did with pure detest in her eyes, some she didn’t do much at all (soccer, I am talking to you…).

We talked about it a lot. I didn’t do much in the way of sports growing up, either. I am not particularly adept in that arena. My husband surfs and skateboards and snowboards but we never saw ourselves as a Friday Night Lights/varsity kind of crew. It was ok that she wasn’t showing physical prowess. She’s a reader! She’s an artist! She’s a writer! We pegged her a little lazy and a lot uncoordinated in the physical activity arena and promptly signed her up for pricey art studio classes. Which she loves. Which she owns. Which she goes to every week with pure enthusiasm, losing herself in 90 minutes of brush stroke techniques and new water colors and the paint-splattered apron that is two sizes too big but makes her feel like a real artist.

No detest to be found. A little lazy. A lot uncoordinated.

We had moments where we wondered if it made us a little lazy and uncoordinated in the parenting arena. Should we try something else? Something new? Push her to find her inner athlete? To care about competition and scoring points and teamwork? Would it work against her in the long-run? Make her an outcast in high school? Give her bad posture? Is raising a kid without a physical drive still an ok way to raise a kid in today’s highly competitive and well-rounded world?

And then…

My son got a Penny board for Christmas. It’s essentially a mini skateboard, inspired by the ones from the 70s that my husband first learned on. At just barely 6 years old, my son glanced at it and went back to his new Legos…a little bit lazy. A little uncoordinated. A little too young to be interested in it yet.

But my daughter didn’t look away. She jumped right on. Within 15 minutes, she was cruising down the street, a little wobbly but very determined. Within the half hour, she was steady, slowly starting to push herself along with her back foot, riding Goofy, just like her dad. Within the weekend, she was turning and soaring on and off sidewalk bumps and over sewer caps without hesitation. She would lose herself on that little board, a vision from the past in the bootcut jeans she favors over skinnies, the low-cut Converse and the faded tee. Her eyes always looking ahead, no sense of fear or insecurity or a care in the world. You could see her whispering to herself as she cruised by the house, back and forth. Making up stories, words of encouragement, developing a new little persona right before our eyes. If she fell, she popped back up yelling “I’m ok!” before I even had the chance to ask. And got right back on. And has been doing it every day since.

Anything but lazy. Amazingly coordinated.

She had it in her all along. This entire time. From her dad, no doubt. She just had to find the right time and place and way to bring it out. And she did. On her own. Without any influence or guidance or pressure from us or her peers or society.

And that’s the very best way to do it, if you ask me. All along.

Minute 33

2017 January 12
by WWGD

“Mommy, I’m stressed.”

And with that, I stopped dead in my tracks.

It had been a crazy morning. My husband flew in late last night from a business trip which woke me up and left me with a fitful night of rest. He was, understandably, wired after his trip and tossing and turning until morning. The kids slept in and we were scrambling to get everyone up, fed, dressed and out the door in only 24 minutes or so to have a hope of barely making it on time.

A crazy morning.

I was barking at them more than I typically do in the morning. We try really hard to keep that time calm on most days. We sip our coffee, we play Miles Davis, we work efficiently but quietly to get our tasks on track for the day. I pride myself in trying to start my kids out on a mellow foot each morning. Once they are out on that school yard, in that big, busy world, I can’t control their environment. At home, in the morning, I can. And I like to think it sets them up for a day of success.

But on this morning, this crazy morning, I wasn’t doing that. We were all tired and their lunch boxes were nowhere to be found, even though their only task after school is to put them away in the pantry. The jeans were in the laundry and of course, he couldn’t wear the other ones. The sock was missing. The dog was restless. The milk was spilled. And I found myself barking at them every minute of our 24 – hurry up! Go brush your teeth! What is taking so long?? You’re going to be late!

And at minute 29 (or so), she sat down on the stairs to put on her shoes. The car was running in the driveway, ready to whisk them away. The lunch box was finally packed and perched on its own step, ready to be grabbed. The shoes sat there, waiting. In double knots.

“My shoes are in double knots,” she said, her voice shaking from the pressure. “They’re in double knots and I can’t get them undone and I hate double knots…and mommy, I am stressed!” Her face crumpled up, ready for tears but holding them back, her fingers fidgeting frantically with those double knots.

“Mommy, I am stressed.”

And with that, I stopped dead in my tracks. I kneeled in front of her and looked her in the eyes and told her it was ok. I would undo her knots. And I would help her tie them back up. I took my time with it, ignoring minute 30 as it came and went. Ignoring the running car engine and the visions of a school bell ringing and an empty yard left behind for only the latecomers. I ignored it all and told her it was ok. All of it.

She relaxed before my eyes, letting the tension fall from her eyes, gathering her backpack and her lunch bag and heading for the door.

“Have a good day, babe,” I said. “Have a good day, ok?”

“I will mommy,” she promised. And off she went.

Minute 33. Only 687 left before bedtime. Need to make them all up to her.

Sunday With Tutu

2017 January 9
by WWGD

 

Note: No, I am not intentionally turning this into a blog about dog encounters. Though maybe I should. My goal this year is simply to write. And starting with the daily occurrences that stick with me seems like a very good place to start. I can’t promise there won’t be more of them about dogs, if they keep up at this pace. I hope you like dogs. If you don’t, you should meet mine. 

My kids and I went on a neighborhood walk with Luna yesterday afternoon.

My daughter was testing out the new skateboard her brother got for Christmas (looks like she is a natural like her dad) and my son and I were walking the dog alongside her, semi-conscious of the time because we had to go visit my parents and wanted to tire out the dog quickly before we left. We took our usual route, down to the end of our cul de sac, along the path that lines the playground, through the small tree-filled area where Luna likes to chase the bunnies. And we made our way to the coveted “green space,” a wide open grassy area where we occasionally break the HOA rules and let the dog run free to chase a ball back and forth a few times…until someone on the HOA sees us.

We made it up there and I saw an older man leaning up against a tree on the side of the green space, tossing a small, bright orange ball with his dachshund, back and forth, back and forth. He was doing it aimlessly, little movement in his arm or his body, no emotion in his face or his voice. The little dog scurried to and fro chasing his throws, on auto-pilot in the afternoon sun. Luna, of course, pulled us his way, curious to meet a new friend. And my rambunctious kids followed suit, full of weekend energy and friendly smiles. They asked if they could pet his dog. He said yes, his voice quiet, his eyes looking down at the ground.

Still leaning against that tree.

“This is Tutu,” he said quietly, referring to the dachshund. And his voice began to crack. “We lost his brother yesterday.”

And that man started to cry. He leaned against that tree in the Sunday afternoon sun with three complete strangers in front of him (two of them kids, no less) and he cried. He let the tears fall down his face behind his sunglasses and he let his voice give into the cracking and he cried. He was so uninhibited in his sorrow. So unabashedly real in that moment, regardless of me and my little family standing there and our dog frolicking at his feet, nudging him for attention.

I offered my condolences. I asked about his dog, how old he was, how he passed. And he answered my questions, tears still falling in a quiet stream, voice still unsteady. He had had the dog for 16 years. It was also a dachshund. He had died of cancer. He lived with the disease for seven years, survived two surgeries and fought it until the day he couldn’t fight it anymore. The man said he was trying to keep Tutu busy so he wouldn’t be sad and lonely in the house. He kept leaning against the tree and I began to suspect it was holding him up, physically and emotionally. He tossed the bright orange ball until Luna claimed it as her own and my kids took over with Tutu, basking the little guy in attention and the love of strangers. We played with Tutu and let that man stand there quietly, leaning against his tree. Tears streaming down his cheeks. Voice now gone silent.

After several minutes, we had to make our way home. The kids gave Tutu lots of extra love and Luna finally gave him back his bright orange ball and we began to gather our things to head back down that path.

“I’m so sorry about your dog,” I said to the man. “I’m so sorry for your sadness.”

“It’s ok,” he said, finally stepping away from the tree, finding balance and strength in his own two feet.

“Come on, Tutu,” he motioned to the small dog. “Let’s go home.”

And they wandered down the path. Past the tree-filled area where the bunnies live and down one of the nondescript streets filled with nondescript houses, many of them filled with dogs and orange balls and tears of their own.

And my son came by my side. “He was so sad about his dog, wasn’t he mommy?” he said, the ever-observant six-year-old that he is.

I nodded. We both looked at Luna, safely back on her leash, puppy eyes furiously searching her surroundings for scrambling bunnies.

“I hope I never have to be sad like that,” he said.

“Me too,” I replied, taking his little hand and leading him down the path towards home.

But the truth is, I hope he is sad like that some day. I hope that one day he knows a love just like that. A love that is so important to him, he will cry about it in public. To strangers. In the afternoon sun.

And when he does, I hope there is a tree there to hold him up and a six-year-old there to put a smile on his face.

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5 Favorites of 2016

2016 December 30
by WWGD

I kind of feel like this is one of those years that needs to go out on a fun, frivolous note. There is too much challenge and change from the past 12 months to even try to reconcile with so instead I am sharing my five favorite beauty finds of the year to bring a little superficial distraction to the final days of 2016. Hope yours are just as frivolous.

Love + Salt hair and body mist. I have shared this one before and with good reason, it’s on my top 5 favorites list as well. It’s a wave spray made from all-natural products and it works beautifully, without the crunchy, icky residue that so many others leave behind. You’re also supporting a small, indie beauty brand when you buy it. A small, indie beauty brand that makes a really great product.

 

Bite Beauty. My girl Sarah at Whoorl (a must-follow if you have any interest in green beauty at all) first introduced me to Bite and I am hooked. Their all-natural lip collection is so clean you can actually eat it (my kids get a kick out of that little fact every time I put it on), the colors are gorgeous and hyper pigmented for long-lasting, comfortable wear and the packaging is sleek and cool in a simple matte black look I love. Win/win/win. The matte lip crayons are my personal favorite.

Aveda Smooth Infusion Styling Creme. My new hairdresser (at an Aveda salon) turned me onto this styling creme for my half wavy/half curly/half kind of straight and random hair. Just a small dollop on wet hair helps bring definition to my curls and waves as they air dry and leaves hair soft, shiny and just a little more refined.

Aveda Botanical Kinetics Exfoliant. Another new Aveda favorite is this exfoliant. I used the gel cleanser from the same line and I liked it, but I LOVED this exfoliant. It’s cool because it’s a liquid exfoliant – no micro-beads or grains of anything – so you just swipe it on with a cotton pad and it sloughs away dull surface cells. It’s a nice, simple alternative to a traditional exfoliant that leaves your skin feeling clear, clean and soft.

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum. Finally, the Drunk Elephant serum that goop built. They mentioned it a few times this year and it quickly became a cult favorite so naturally I had to try it…and I love it. I am using it in conjunction with their B Hydra Gel and that is not worth sharing (in my humble opinion), but this Vitamin C fueled serum is. It promises to firm and brighten and it’s done just that. I use a pump in the morning with my moisturizer (it’s a little sticky for a few minutes so you need to let it settle) and I swear it has left me with brighter skin and lighter sun spots. And if that’s not a good way to ring in a New Year, I don’t know what is.

Would love to know what you loved this year, too! Share in the comments if you’re so inclined. I have become a certified skincare junkie.

*disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. 

Happy New Year, Maximus

2016 December 29
by WWGD

I went for a walk in the lagoon near our house yesterday with the kids and some friends and our dogs.

It was a gorgeous day. One of the few we have had this holiday season. It has been unseasonably rainy and chilly and very un-San Diego like over Christmas and the days that followed it and while I enjoyed the change of scenery (almost reminds me of living with the seasons…sort of), it was nice to feel the warm sun on our skin again. To see the blue water lapping away in the lagoon and the people in their short sleeves and bare legs, taking in the reason why we live here with each and every step.

We did our thing, letting the kids forge their own paths up and down embankments, always ten feet behind, lost in a world of childhood chit chat and make believe. The dogs behaved, walking confidently in stride, barely letting their puppy energy get the best of them. My girlfriend and I made small talk. About the holiday. About family matters. About the weather and the kids and the dogs….always talking about the dogs.

And then we met Maximus. Maximus was a little scruffy terrier. He was just intimidated enough by our duo of labs. Not shy enough to hide away, but not quite bold enough to say hello. Maximus was walking with a man and a woman, who was presumably his owner. And she is the reason for this post.

She was fairly nondescript at first glance. Slim, probably in her late 50s. Patagonia-style uniform from head to foot. Slightly unruly curly hair. Brown with flecks of auburn that shimmered in the sun. A pair of reading glasses that have obviously been well worn and loved through the years. A water bottle in one hand. I imagine she listens to NPR and has a “Feel the Bern” bumper sticker and a stack of Joan Didion books on her nightstand.

This woman lit up when she crossed our path. I mean, she lit up. It started with her smile. It was a mile-wide, big and open. Easy and natural. Her warm eyes crinkled with love. You could literally see the love in them come to life. She bent over to pet our dogs, giving them each a frisky rubdown, basking in their energy and their wagging tails. She spoke to them like she spoke to us. With so much enthusiasm and life. She commented on their coats, on their eyes. She commented on the weather and the trees. She told us that Max was named Maximus after the horse in “Tangled.” The kids had a laugh. She laughed along with them. A loud laugh, funny and free.

We spent maybe three minutes with this woman. This complete stranger who was just walking her little scruffy terrier Maximus down the same path by the same lagoon we walk by all the time.

Maybe three minutes.

She told our dogs it was time to go. Maximus needed his exercise. She smiled that smile at us. She smiled at our kids. She thanked us for stopping to talk in a way that felt sincere and heartfelt and true. And she and her companion and her little terrier went on their way.

And I stood there watching her go.

She was 20 feet away in a matter of seconds, but her smile remained right by my side. Her crinkled, warm eyes were still standing next to me. Her energy and her natural joy and her, for lack of a more underused term, aura…it wouldn’t leave.

My girlfriend noticed it, too. We both remarked on how we would love to have that kind of energy. Not in the physical sense. In another sense altogether. An energy that just emanated from her. One that felt pure and natural and real and truly…happy. To put it out into the world. To share it with others. How does one project that kind of ease, peace, absolute joy? Even with complete strangers? Has she always had it in her? Did it come with age? Was it Maximus? The sun shining? Her walking companion that day?

I didn’t catch that woman’s name. Only the dog’s. But moving into the new year, into a new season of change and transition and self-reflection…I will remember her. I will keep her smile and her eyes and energy in my memory. In my back pocket. In my mindset on sunny days.

Happy New Year, Maximus.

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