Note: Sorry this post is later than usual!  I started writing it last night, and then realized that I wanted to say more than I could get out just then, and closed my computer so I could have some quality time with Eric before bedtime.  I worked on it more this morning, hoping to get it published before coffee with a friend, but alas it was not meant to be; all of a sudden the post turned into two posts, and I would have to separate and edit to make it all make sense.  Coffee with my friend turned into a two-hour soul connection, and I’ve come home nourished by the time we spent together.  I opened up the computer again and smiled – how great to be working on this very blog post, about the everyday decisions I’m learning to make, to put people before work and connection before accomplishment.

Yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to change plans on the fly and babysit my niece for a couple of hours while my sister took my nephew to the batting cages.  I had come over just to drop off Sara’s portion of meat from our meatshare, and stayed since Gracie didn’t really want to bat; I got some quality time with her, while Sara got to have an impromptu mother-son date with Gehrig.

With my niece and nephew after the Corn-Shucking Contest (he came in first!), California State Fair, 2009.

Normally a master multi-tasker, I slowed down and made the choice moment by moment to be as present as I could, to my niece and our connection.  “What shall we do, Gracie?”  The girl thought hard for a moment, then exclaimed, “Tea party!!!”  We did have a tea party on the floor of her bedroom, using a chair as a table and her favorite tea set, raiding the kitchen to find suitable late afternoon “tea”, “sugar” and “cream”.  Fresh strawberries provided the accompaniment.  She taught me the rules: “Don’t drink without cheering first!”  “Cream has to go in before sugar.”  I did detour once into looking around her room and planning a massive re-organization, but she would have none of my questions about which books she uses most, so I let go of it and learned where to properly place the strawberry stems.

Noticing the time, she and I decided to make dinner for Sara and Gehrig, who would no doubt be tired when they returned from their playtime at the cages.  We had a dance party to the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge – I know my niece well enough by now to find the Lady-Gaga-est music on my iPod; my favorite moment was when “Roxanne” came on and she exclaimed, “That sounds like a tango!”  Smart monkey.

We got to work on the dish.

I loved cooking with my niece.  Gracie stood on a chair at the stove, taking very seriously the job of Chief Stirrer as I chopped and added ingredients, teaching her some rules:  “Pull the food from the edges to the center to keep things moving.”  “Just a pinch of salt.  It’s better to under-salt than over-salt.  You can always add more, but it’s hard to take it away!”

Our dance party continued for quite some time.

Our baseball queen and prince returned with good appetites, as expected.  Eric had dinner waiting for me at home, so I stayed just long enough for them to give three big thumbs-up to the food, and thank me in tandem for giving them a nourishing dinner; my sister wouldn’t have had the time to cook tonight because of an unusually harried schedule.  But in all honesty, I was the one who was most grateful, because this kind of afternoon has come as a recent luxury.

Why this is so, is the subject of another post altogether, but let’s just say that I am a recovering compulsive over-scheduler, and only recently have I started really seeing how being over-committed has kept me from having deep relationships with people in my life – and I want deep relationships.  I believe that Facebook and Twitter (I love them both, don’t get me wrong) have evolved as necessary means of trying to stay connected as we become busier and busier – but what if we decided to stop being so busy?  What if everyone said no to just one commitment?  What would open up?  For me, what’s opening up as I learn to say no, is TIME.  Precious time, to make afternoons like this one happen.  Because family is a verb – it’s about the actions we take to make time, to be present, to dance and have tea (not just to blood-line family, but everyone in our tribe).

I’m nowhere near perfect about making time, I promise you.  Maybe another time I’ll tell you about the recent afternoon I had scheduled to spend with a beloved aunt and uncle who were coming through town – and the acupuncture appointment I booked right in the middle of that visit which created a two and a half hour hole in our mini family reunion.  (Oh dear, I guess I just told you.)  But I’ll also tell you, every time I say yes to what’s truly important, and say no to what’s truly not, I am amazed by the rich rewards.  It reminds me that having the life I want to have comes down to moments.  Life happens in the moments.  This moment.  And this one.  And this one.

Are you living your moments in ways that support the life you want to have?