a special moment.

When I lived in San Francisco, I worked full-time for an upscale department store. I showed up most days by 8:00am sporting fancy pants and perfectly undone hair and makeup. Sometimes on my way in, I’d pop into the coffee shop next door for a cup of tea and cinnamon scone to kickstart my day. My heels click-clacked through the lobby and up the elevator to the third floor where I worked with a department full of audacious sales girls.

Almost every afternoon, a few of us girls would head to the frou frou French bakery on the corner in search of our treat du jour to overcome our 3pm slump. We’d treat ourselves to tarte tatin, macarons, impossibly tiny pots de crème, Pralines, Café liégeois, or my favorite pain à la duchesse. The shop owner knew all of us by name, but I think he liked Lily the best (probably because she occasionally spoke French to him. Our route took us past boutiques, florists and specialty shops, as we welcomed the much-needed break from our customers, the sunshine on our faces and an excuse to stretch our legs. That walk to the bakery was a time-out from the daily grind, a special moment if you will.

All these years later there are days my 3pm alarm still goes off, I look around my messy life littered with chores, and I think about how nice it would be to walk to that corner bakery for a pastry and a special moment. That little luxury was one of a hundred freedoms I had back then... midweek cocktails with friends, date nights any night, more than enough sleep, movies in theaters (!), pedicures, Ti Chi by the water, running errands on my lunch break. I shopped in real dressing rooms; I could try on jeans for an hour if I wanted to. Time was on my side, and sometimes I had some to spare. I used to attend yoga regularly, always working my way out of shavasana at a snail’s pace because why wouldn’t I? Nobody needed me urgently.

Fast forward the years to today I am needed urgently almost every hour of the day—who else is going to dispense pills, do laundry, make and keep doctor's appointments, chauffeur, make snacks, yadda yadda?

To be perfectly blunt, my life is quite un-luxurious these days.

While I've certainly lost a lot of my freedom to the demands of caretaking an elderly parent, I still try to cling tightly to a few of my little luxuries. Because on the days when I am merely holding on by a string, those tiny moments for me, those flashes of delight, can often be the difference between losing my mind and recharging my batteries.

you know what I'm talking about.

For example….

On the rare occasion I spend the day at home, I sneak to the kitchen, open the refrigerator and exhale. I make a healthy lunch, before popping one frozen cookie dough ball in the oven. I happily eat lunch on the couch, while reading a book. Just as I finish the last bite, the oven timer beeps. My whole house smells like cookies, and I savor it. a special moment.

Every Saturday night I scrub my face harder than I’ve scrubbed it all week and apply a facemask. If I’m feeling really wild, I’ll even bust out my teeth whitening strips. Sometimes I trim my bangs, clip my fingernails, pluck a few stray chin hairs. For the first time all week, I'm doing a few things that make me feel better about myself. I’ve appropriately named the process "Saturday Night Me Time" so when the hubs finds me looking like a swamp creature at the end of the weekend, there is no confusion. He knows it's Saturday and that's my Me Time. a special moment.

Once or twice a month I go shopping. alone. Usually on a weeknight when I realize I’ve run out of shampoo, hand soap or laundry detergent or most frequently patience. I kiss the tops of my puppies heads and flee the house like an escaped convict. I sit in the parking lot and check Instagram, text three friends, breathe. And then I wander the aisles of Target. I touch the towels, examine lipstick shades, try on two pairs of shoes that I do not buy. I get the toilet paper and the laundry detergent and splurge on a fancy coffee. a special moment.

Once a week I try to go to power yoga, and it’s called power yoga because it’s stinkin' hard. For one hour I bend myself into shapes and positions that my over the hill  body often resists, and it feels so good I could cry. The room is warm and everyone is sweating; new age music is streaming through the speakers, and in that moment I am breathing with great intention. I work myself out of shavasana a little more quickly than I used to because, now, there are people at home who need me. a special moment.

These days, the emphasis is more on little and less on luxury. I steal these moments, fight for these moments, negotiate that hour of yoga and work that fancy facemask into my time line, because those minutes of subtle indulgence can and do make me a better person.

I often receive mixed messages about this. On the one hand I'm told that being a caregiver is the most sacrificial role in the world. We are affirmed and applauded in our sacrifice, our selflessness, our willingness to give all of ourselves to someone who needs us so much. At the same time, we are strongly encouraged to find “me time”, to not lose ourselves completely, to practice self-care on a regular basis.

How do you do that? How do you give selflessly and sacrificially while remaining a tiny bit selfish at the same time? Do you give and give and give until you have nothing left, and then run away to the spa for a weekend? Do you unabashedly pursue our own desires until you feel so guilty that you run back to your duties? Is this simply another area to seek “balance” in our lives? How do you maintain it?

I don’t have the answers, obviously, but here is where I’ve landed. I believe there is a time for sacrifice and a time for self-love, a time to chase your dreams and a time to put those dreams on hold. I believe in surrendering to the needs of others, and I also believe in reserving time for yourself. I believe in wearing yoga pants, and I believe in wearing red lipstick (yes, at the same time). I believe in allowing yourself to succumb to the messy nature of life, to sit in the park on a sunny day, to not wash your hair, to fully embrace the chaos of everyday. I also believe in allowing yourself to fight against that stereotype, to throw on the cute jeans and feel confident and pursue whatever dreams and goals you’re working towards.

I believe we can transition between the two from hour to hour, from day to day, from month to month, or year to year.

Life is fluid and always changing; some seasons we have lots of freedom and some seasons we have practically none. There was a time when I could leave for two whole weeks, and I did, and there are times when I can not leave for two whole hours, and I don’t. When you’re in the trenches, a five-minute facemask on a Saturay night might be the best luxury you can manage.

Right now my luxuries are much smaller, they’re found in warm cookies on the couch and facemasks. I’m not getting dressed up every day or planning ocean vacations or going to yoga 3x a week. Some of my friends are in a season with more freedom than me right now, and it’s hard not to be a tiny bit envious.

But, as the saying goes: The grass isn't greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.

Maybe the best part about being in a season with little luxuries is that you learn to be content with less, to be thankful for the smallest things, like five minutes alone in a Target parking lot texting your bestie. This season won’t last forever, that's the good news, and the bad.  I know I'll be out of the trenches one day. Until then, I’ll be sitting on the porch with my mom, enjoying the sun on our faces and a steaming cup of hot chocolate and stories about days gone by. 
 a special moment.

just sayin'. 

pumpkin cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, softened
For frosting (optional):
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1.5 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon high quality vanilla extract
2 – 4 tablespoons pumpkin puree. The pumpkin puree makes the frosting runnier than usual. Start with 2 tablespoons and add more only if it’s not too runny. I use 4 tablespoons.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 15 muffin cups with paper liners and spray with nonstick spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda) with a fork.
3. In another bowl, beat together the liquid ingredients (pumpkin puree, whole milk, eggs, and butter) using a hand whisk.
4. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well with a fork. Batter will be thick and a little spongy.
5. Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling each cup almost to top.
6. Bake about 20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes.
7. Five minutes before cupcakes are done cooling, prepare the frosting: beat the cream cheese until softened, using an electric mixer on medium. Slowly add the sugar and vanilla extract, then the pumpkin puree, and beat for a couple more minutes, until creamy.
8. Frost the cupcakes and decorate, if you wish. We like to decorate pumpkin cupcakes with candy corn.
The frosted cupcakes keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Take them out of the fridge an hour before serving them. The non-frosted pumpkin cupcakes freeze well, and are easily thawed in the microwave.


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