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Friday, July 8, 2016

I Was Taught To Sing

As a child, I was taught to sing. "The Wheels on the Bus" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider" eventually gave way to choir concerts where I earnestly sang "Show Me the Way" by Styx.

That I wake up each morning and turn on the news, to find we have so far to go. 

Or Michael Jackson's "Heal the World."

Make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race. 

Or Bette Midler's "From a Distance."

It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace, it's the voice of every man. 

And I believed. I believed that singing those songs would make the world better. We were on to something. Things were going to change because our generation would make it so.

I didn't understand how many generations had sung for peace and change before mine. 

I don't sing as much now. I wear my headphones on the train, and try to forget that I'm even in a public space. Pretty much everyone around me does the exact same thing. We're all looking inward now. No one is singing outward. 

But on my headphones, I've been listening to "Show Me the Way." I'm trying to remember to face outward more. I'm making eye contact, sharing a smile and saying good morning. 

I was taught to sing. And maybe the time for singing will eventually come. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Random: June 2016

I've had a hard time writing lately. I actually wrote a long post that I never published, which turned into me declaring an end (or at least a break) here. I told Hannah about it, and she convinced me not to post it, not to stop writing, to find it in me to keep going. But nothing has really jelled for me lately, so there's been a very long silence here.

And then after a difficult afternoon, I got an email from a friend saying something I wrote in January has still been on her mind, a post of random things that weren't quite developed, but still worth sharing. So here I am, nudged into it again. Here are some additional, probably not ready for prime-time, but I'm going with it anyway, random thoughts. 


The building where I work requires that you swipe your security badge every time you enter the building. Assuming it's not your first day and you're not a visitor (and there are lots of friendly security guards to help you if you are), swiping your badge should not come as a surprise. Yet everyday, I witness someone confounded by this, completely unprepared, digging around and trying to find their badge. This is frustrating for my hyper-organized self, who generally has her badge in hand, ready to go. But, I am much more irritated by people (and I will generalize, but you can guess which gender does this more often) who don't remove the pass from their pockets and instead graze their various body parts across the scanners. Ew. It's just not that hard to take something out of your pocket, is it? And they really must not realize how truly awkward they look to those of us forced to witness it. Ah, the glamorous life in a highrise. 


Both of my kids leave for overnight camp in two weeks. I said on Facebook that I'm most looking forward to watching the clock a little less. It's going to be lovely to just walk out the door when I'm ready to go to work, and not have to wait until the school bus has arrived. And on the flip side, I'll be able to leave earlier and avoid some of the Red Sox-related shenanigans on the train ride home. Plus I expect the house will stay cleaner and I'll have a lot less laundry to do. Though I fully expect to use up any time I might save by obsessively checking the camp website for photos of both kids, which will take twice as long now. I'm going to miss them terribly, but I know they'll love every minute. 


Do I go to my 20th high school reunion? Or do I already know everything there is to know about you? I'm anticipating a message from Sarah E. after she sees this part. :)


I've spent a lot of time thinking about family and friends and the difference between them over the past few months, specifically with regards to proximity. There are certain things in life where friends can approximate family very well, like rides to the airport or sharing a meal once and a while. But then there are moments when family really would be best, like when your kid is sick and you need childcare, or that big milestone that doesn't mean as much to someone who hasn't known your kid since the beginning. As I've said here before, it all comes down to expectations, and I think I expected that if friendships developed a certain way, they would be like family. I think that was a naive assumption, though, especially when those friends already have strong extended families as well. 


Lots of bloggers I admire have started email newsletters. This is a way to drive traffic to their sites more directly, which is probably useful as Facebook seems to share my blog posts with a very select audience. I've thought about starting one myself, but then I realized I don't really write enough to warrant one. But I do really like the idea of it. 


I'm still totally obsessed with Hamilton. And this meme, from Joy of Dad is kind of perfect. 

That's all I've got. How're you?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The $500 Trajectory

It's a story I've often found myself telling, and I'm sure you have a version in your history like it as well. A moment, when you might not have known it at the time, when the trajectory of your life took shape, all over some almost meaningless distinction. For me, it's the $500 moment, and the next 16 plus years have been shaped by that relatively small amount of money.

In early January of the year 2000, just after we miraculously survived Y2K, I pounded the pavement as a new college graduate (a semester early), trying to find my first full-time job. I had two not-so-great business suits, paper resumes laser-printed one at a time on expensive stock, and $23 left in my bank account. I worked with two different staffing agencies, playing one against the other, conserving quarters to call them in between interviews from various payphones around the city. Within two weeks, I had two job offers. Not a lot of direction or idea about what I wanted to do with my life, but two offers nonetheless.

Both offers were from solid companies, but very different opportunities. The one I got first was with a prominent Boston family office, where they owned a lot of property then used as parking lots. I would help manage those parking lots - carry a lot of cash, work with the employees of the lots. I was told that they knew someone like me wouldn't expect to stay in a job like that for very long, but that the family was so well-connected, they'd help me find something else within six months to a year. They would open doors, invite me to fancy parties. I had no idea how I'd afford the kind of lifestyle they suggested on the salary they offered, and I was worried about my odds of succeeding in a position like that, but I still felt it was a solid job offer.

I'd only had my first round interview with the other company at that point, and my second interview was scheduled for the following day. I was tempted to blow it off, but also worried about being "nice" and didn't want to cause problems for the recruiters who had been helping me, so I went. I was young and dumb (or maybe smarter than I thought), but I told the woman interviewing me that I already had another offer. I couldn't find any information about this private company online (there were few websites for this sort of thing back then) and almost nothing in the press. But the offices were nice, and I'd only be working in one spot, not all over the city. They asked me how much I was offered. I answered honestly, mostly because I was so proud of the number. They came back with $500 more.

I figured that even if I hated the job and only last six months, I'd make $250 more there than at the parking lot job. That was a lot of money at the time. I took the second job offer.

I stayed for almost six years. I've stayed in this very niche industry for the entirety of my career.

I think back on that moment often. I'd never negotiated for anything before, much less a full-time job. I knew incredibly little about the decision that I was making, just that I really wanted to stay in Boston and I needed a job to make that happen. And, a really good, successful life and career has been the result. I never could have imagined then, having the type of job I have now. I couldn't have imagined it even when I started my MBA program a few years later, or when I applied to join the group I'm in now. But I do wonder what might have happened to me if I'd taken the other post. I would have feared for my physical safety, I'm sure, but I might have thrived. I might have met someone at a party like they promised me, and seen my life go in a completely different way. Sliding doors, as the movie goes.

As I said, $500 doesn't seem like that much money to me now, but it's still not the kind of money I spend on anything regularly. But over the course of a year, it's less than $10 a week. Even less after taxes. Less than $10 a week, a #Hamilton, influenced my destiny.

Pretty crazy to think about. Has anything like that happened to you?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How Do You Do Passover?

All the Passover foods
As I've said many times on this blog, I'm fascinated by the minutiae of life, how we make decisions big and small, and how there are so many ways to do the same things. And so now I'm going to pull back the curtain on how we celebrate Passover (or Pesach) in our home. Because as you know, a clean kitchen is very important to me.

While I'm showing you all of this, you should know that our practice is largely driven by how Marc would like to observe things for the week, as I didn't grow up doing anything like this. So I can't take much credit for how this has evolved (and evolved is definitely the right word), but I still think it's interesting to share.

For those that don't know, during the eight days (though some people do seven) of Passover, you can't eat any chametz, which is defined as any leavened food. There are many intricacies and ways to follow these rules, but basically, there's no bread, pasta, cereal, cookies, or anything like that for eight days. Instead, we eat matzah, a cracker-like substance that represents how quickly we needed to leave Egypt when we were slaves, as our bread dough did not have time to rise.

For our family, it's not just about what we eat, though there is a lot of attention paid to that subject alone. But we also take the extra step of putting away all of the dishes, pots and pans, utensils and small appliances we typically use, and do an extra deep cleaning to try to remove any chametz from the kitchen. Then we bring up plastic tubs filled with our Passover dishes, pots and pans, utensils and (very few) small appliances, separated for meat and dairy meals, and we use those, supplemented by paper goods as needed, for the length of the holiday. When we first started celebrating Passover together, Marc had a fairly bare bones collection of separate kitchen items, but the collection has grown every year, and we seem to find something new to add each year. This year also meant buying a new microwave. Ours died some time ago, but Marc waited to replace it until the holiday, so it will definitely be chametz-free.

A few photos to show you how we do it in our house. First, the photo at the top of the post shows the corner of the counter where all of the food is set out for the week, things we'd normally keep in a pantry. There is Kosher for Passover cereal, snacks, various desserts and candy, even new ketchup.

Here's our famous apple green countertops, with none of our typical appliances pushed up against the wall. No toaster, no Cusinart, no heavy wooden cutting board; they've been stored in another room for the holiday. Even the drying rack got a deep clean with the kitchen steamer before we're using it for the week. You'll also notice the blue electrical tape on some of the cabinets, there to remind us not to use the contents in those cabinets during the holiday. There are a couple of new baking sheets on the stove top as well; we'll use those for Passover this week, and then they'll transition to become regular everyday use afterward, since we really needed some new baking sheets too.

These are our Passover plastic tubs that hold all of the items we use specifically for the holiday. We've accumulated more over the years, or decommissioned some items from everyday to Passover-only (like a set of orange mixing bowls that I think my parents were given as a wedding gift; I used them in college, now they're Passover only).

So there's a peek inside our Passover process. I'd love to see yours, or to hear about some other traditional items you use at different points in the year!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

10 Years at Home

We closed on our house 10 years ago. Here's how it was then, with me, Marc and 2yo Hannah:

April 2006

 And here's how it is now, plus a shot of Max in the front yard, since he didn't even exist back then:

April 2016

I'm really lucky to call this place home.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


I'm a bit lost.

Not in a traditional sense. Or maybe the most traditional sense. I'm approaching 40, after all. But I haven't been feeling much like myself lately.

A story:

When Hannah was just a baby, maybe 10 months old, I went to a book reading at the Brookline Booksmith. At the time, we lived about 2.5 blocks from the Booksmith, but as I was working full-time, parenting an infant, and going to school for my MBA part-time, I didn't spend much time in bookstores. We were also in a relatively new home, involved in new communities, practically still newlyweds. Constants were hard to come by, but writer Catherine Newman had become one for me.

When I was pregnant with Hannah, Newman's columns on BabyCenter were a lifeline for me. She updated them weekly, but I'm sure I went back in time and read the entire archive. Her daughter, nicknamed Birdy, is close to Hannah's age, and Newman's blog became a book, "Waiting for Birdy." Though I felt like I already knew the story, I devoured the book too, and made attending the book reading a priority. This was 2004, and while it's hard to believe now, meeting people you knew through the internet was still a rarity discussed in hushed tones.

So when Newman came to town, I was there, probably sitting in the front row. She read and I nodded along eagerly. She signed my book, and complimented my smile, a complimenting strategy that works so well with new mothers who may be wearing ill-fitting, possibly stained clothing, no make up, and haphazard ponytails, but who at least made sure to brush their teeth that day. She didn't invite me to be her new best friend on the spot, but she still bothered to connect with me, and with her stories of slightly older son Ben, I knew that there was light further down in the tunnel, ahead of what I could picture then.

I left the reading feeling more like myself than I had in a long time. It was a glimmer of how I could, and would, feel again, with time. I think I did feel that way for a while, but I've lost it again.

I see glimmers of that version of myself sometimes: a really productive day, a new way of thinking about an old problem. But the hard thing is that the glimmer is all about me. It can't be generated by something my kids do, or some goal we've reached as a family, though those things contribute to it. Maybe it sounds selfish, but I need to have things that are just my own, too. And so much of my life right now doesn't feel like it's about me.

Newman has a new book out. Though I've kept up with her blog all these years, like me, she's shared less and less about Ben and Birdy as they've grown. I'm looking forward to reading it, and catching up with them again. I wonder if, in the intervening 12 years between her books, Newman also felt a little lost sometimes too. I wonder if, with the publication of this new book, she's catching a glimmer of herself again. I hope that the glimmer is actually a glow.

And maybe I'll catch her on her next book tour.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Year Nine: Making Room

My desk and vanity table in our bedroom. Spaces for me.

It's another blogiversary, my ninth one. I'm still here, I guess.

I sounded a lot more confident last year, at the end of year eight. That feels like a very long time ago, longer than the year it's been.

I haven't been writing very much. I wrote something I'd rather forget, had to re-learn not to read the comments, and to let the comments said to my face not derail me completely. That piece was only part of a much bigger reckoning that kept me awake during many middle of the night hours in recent months. I then wrote a long piece about the difference between friends and family, grappling with issues on that topic that I've had for as long as I can remember. That piece is sitting in drafts, probably never to see the publish button clicked, but it helped me process things.

Writing always does, which is why I keep coming back.

I've made room for so many things over the past year. We literally made room in our house, doing the addition. I now have a place for me - a desk and a vanity - and they make me so very happy. I've made room for more work-related travel. I made room for planning a trip to Disney, and now, maybe, for buying a puppy. I've made room for running lines with Hannah and for practicing spelling bee words with Max. I've made room for Marc to add more coursework as he pursues one of his dreams. I haven't made much room for blogging.

We'll see what happens in year 10.