When I was in graduate school, there was a lovely professor with whom I used to have great conversations. Our labs were on the same hall, and we used to bump into each other in the bathroom, of all places. I loved talking to her—she’s smart, caring, thoughtful, and a terrific scientist, and one of my regrets about graduate school is that I didn’t have more conversations with her. One time, we were talking about academia and family life, and she told me about a friend of hers from her younger days who now has what one might call a “traditional” family life, meaning children. My professor friend, who is married but does not have children, said to me, “It’s like even though we went our separate ways for years, now we can all come back together and say, ‘Hey, what have you been up to?’ And I find that I’m fascinated by these stories from people whose life paths have been different from mine. It’s so much fun to see these friends again and to hear how their lives have unfolded.”
To me, she is describing Robert Frost’s poem about the path not taken (“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/And sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveler…”). Even at age twenty-nine, I can see this sentiment unfolding in my life, with my focus on career and selfish interests rather than family and children. But I taste no bitterness about this; I just observe the differences between my road and the roads not taken. One of the wonderful things about this day and age for women is that it is becoming more and more acceptable for women not to marry and not to have children, and I feel grateful that neither of those aspects of family life is a requirement. We get to choose, and that is an amazing thing.
However, I can be quite fascinated with other women’s lives and the happy chaos of life with small children. I love visiting my own family, and my young niece is very special to me. I’m sure her brother will be too, with some time, but I feel like he and I need to spend some more time together. I think we are still acquaintances at this point, though he did demonstrate to me on Christmas Day that sitting on a couch with a baby sleeping on your chest is just about the most wonderful thing ever. It’s probably the best cure around for any sadness or anxiety you may be feeling.
Recently I found a blog written by a person who is living a life that doesn’t look very much like mine at all. She’s a bit older than me, and I’m quite certain she is much wiser than me. She’s married and lives in a blended family with six kids—and all of them are girls! Her name is Tara Thayer, and she writes this fabulous diary of a blog called public::bookstore. I am completely smitten with it.
What I love about Tara and public::bookstore is that she writes in such a way that I feel like I understand her life, even though when it comes to the basics, we have little in common. She writes with such heart and an amazing ability to see the significance in small things. She weaves the tiny details into this grand quilt of a life full of love, hope, hard stuff, and above all, dedication. How could one be a parent to six kids without the utmost of dedication to them? And even in the midst of all that laundry and cooking and shepherding those kids through their days, Tara still finds love and romance in her marriage.
This woman has a good life. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy life. And it seems clear to me that her happiness is not just happenstance. Her blog is a diary of the ways in which she looks for happiness, joy, contentment, and quiet moments while living a very full life. I am in awe.
I wanted to share a few of my favorite tidbits from public::bookstore. I’ve been working my way through the archives—fortunately for me and you, there are more than two years of them!—and gathering little gems to share with you. What Tara and I have in common is a love for the everyday moments, a striving to make each day count. We both love home and cooking, good books and the delightful challenges of photography. I think she’d agree with me when I say that we don’t believe happiness can be bought, but money can help, sometimes. The trick is knowing how and when to spend it. I believe we share a feeling that good days can be hard, and hard days can be good. The important thing is to keep your heart open and to keep trying.
And now, a few gems:
* On living with intent, from November 2008:
“And the other thing I'm aiming for now is to live with intent. What I mean by this is that I've thought about and really want to do what I do, have what I buy, eat what I put in my body and my kids bodies. Say what I mean to say. Spend time like it counts.”
* On dealing with crappy stuff and finding comfort in the kitchen, from September 2010:
”now, i'm old enough to know that you can't blame anyone but yourself for how you deal with stuff. stuff will happen that you can't control, true. but it's up to you, and no one else, how you deal with stuff. “
* A quote about happiness from W. Somerset Maugham, from March 2009:
“It's a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”
(Ain’t that the truth!)
* Another quote about happiness, this time from Abraham Lincoln, also from March 2009:
”Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
(Also, please do click on the link for the beautiful photo paired with this quote!)
* About doing the best you can with what you have, from September 2010:
“and so it goes. we do as much as we can to adjust things here and there, to make our days go smoothly, to build some simple pleasures into the routine. but things will still break down now and then. we just need to patch it all together, keep moving forward. remember to say i love you as often as possible.”
(I really, really love this passage. I think that describes my life, too, in five sentences.)
* And finally, a wish for the new year, from December 2008:
“My wish to all of you is that you find some inspiration this year, too, in whatever it is that you love.”
(I think it’s safe to say this wish is a good one for 2011 too.)
Happy reading, friends! I’m trying to tear myself away from the computer to start making a lasagna tonight, but I’m so absorbed by public::bookstore’s November 2008 archives that I haven’t left my seat yet…just ten more minutes, please! And that’s the sign of really good reading material. I hope you take a few minutes to check it out.