pan, tray, pot

Revealed — The Squirrel’s Message that has been trying to reach me since the start of this whole thing

Here I am, 9:21am, Thursday. 

And I am cooking the most garlic filled peppers and onions I have ever made. And I think of him.

A squirrel friend came to the deck this morning, played around, then jumped towards the door, stared at us, I swear he smiled, then ran around some more playing. And I think of him.

I see the 3rd palindrome of the morning. And I think of him. (Palindromes always mean, “go back to the beginning.”)

Who is this man? This man who was the most playful person I have ever known?

It’s my grandpa, and never before have I felt his presence so strong and so consistent.

This was the first morning in years (years!!) that I have cried while cutting onions. And I remember him talking to me as we would sit together cutting and preparing feasts for the family.

As a young child, I wanted to help. (I was always that kid in the kitchen asking what I could do, even when clearly the adults were in a rush). And yet, he always found me a job.

One of my most favorite things I remember is the job he always saved for me. 

The most important job in the kitchen, he would explain. I was to remove every single seed from the pepper. Not even one could make it into our meal. 

So I would sit with him and pull each seed. 

Where did my determination and persistence come from? 

The same determination and persistence that I needed to finish my Ph.D.? 

The same of which I needed when my infant wouldn’t sleep all night, and yet I still had to meet with families who needed my professional advice and problem solving? 

The same determination and persistence I use today when my child is screaming through yet another zoom meeting?

It came from these playful moments of connection. 

As I carried in the 5 pound box of clementines yesterday, I recalled the hours we would sit together peeling. And peeling. And peeling. 

“Get off all those stringy bits, your grandma doesn’t like those.” And so we would sit and peel oranges together, for anyone who wanted a piece. We would try to pull the peel off in one huge bit, and every time it ripped, hooo hoooo the laughter that came!

These playful moments also allowed for some amazing conversation between grandaughter and grandpa, that might not have otherwise happened in a full Italian Sunday home. I knew I liked those moments then. I know I am forever grateful for them now.

And so the man who would sit with me and tell me about every bird that came to eat from his various feeders. The same man who would try to convince the squirrels that the bird seed was Meant. For. The. Birds! This man who let me have chocolate cake for breakfast and donuts … anytime I wanted them. He helped install this vastly important value of playfulness. 

Through playing, I learned so much. 

Through playing, I was afforded an amazing opportunity for rest, relaxation, calm. 

And determination, persistence, understanding, and connection. 

Plus I learned about birds, and types of peppers, and what happened when he was a cook during the war, and what my grandma liked, and how my mom doesn’t like oranges but she would try them anyways because I worked so hard to peel them. 

I learned so much. 

And you have so much you can teach.

Teach your kids. Teach your nieces and nephews. Teach your friends’ kids. Teach your students. Teach your neighbors.

And to teach, simply play with them. 

It can be pretty easy and pretty profound at the same time. 

You can do this. Add in the playfulness, and see what happens.

Cooking meals, doing chores, and having hard conversations call all be done when there is playfulness at the core. Everyone wins.

I’m pretty sure my grandpa has been reminding me for days now, and I finally heard the lesson. (And yes I believe he was sending that squirrel to slow me down)

Hoping you have a playful day too.  

If you need ideas on how to include more playfulness into your life and those around you, check out the 1-Minute Challenge videos I’ve created for you.

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