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Sunday, October 16, 2016

What Happens to An Unloved Tree

The other week I felt a moment of profound sadness for a tree. This is rather uncharacteristic of me, because while I like trees, well, I don't always notice trees.

During autumn, around my birthday like it is right now, I notice them in their daring "look at me!" tantrums of color. I notice the leaves that get embedded in the rug at the front door, stuck wet to shoes hastily shrugged off. I notice the tree on the tree lawn of our house, with its huge branches that could break during a storm and crush a car below. But this particular tree, on another part of our property, I'd really never bothered to notice before.

It is/was wedged between our garage (something else I barely notice, as it is not wide enough to accommodate a car) and the fence that belongs to our neighbors and their garage. Per the survey done on our property during last year's renovation, it is/was definitely our tree. But given its location, a few feet behind where one could easily walk and the fact that it was just so large, it somehow just became background.

Over the summer, "my" car, our SUV, got less use while the kids were both at camp, and I took to parking it at the end of the driveway, near the tree. But then when I did go to use the car, I'd find it covered in bird droppings and other debris from the tree. After this had happened several times, I finally looked up and saw it, really saw it. In the middle of the summer, its branches were completely bare. The tree was dead, and based on the woodpecker activity, probably rotting away quickly.

My unloved tree--almost too big to fully fit in the photo
It took a couple of months for us to bump "tree removal" to the top of our schedule. Spending a four-figure amount just to get rid of something really didn't appeal to us, but it was the responsible, adult thing to do. It would have been worse for us to wait and see what the winter would bring, likely broken tree limbs and destruction. So on a Friday morning, a very brave man, in a bucket raised high into the sky, cut down the tree.

Coincidentally, both Hannah and Max are studying trees at school. Trying to appeal to seventh graders, Hannah's science teacher told the kids that they might some day impress love interests with their knowledge of trees (the kids were #notimpressed). Hannah had a leaf project where she had to gather, research and document a large variety of leaves from trees she found locally. They needed to be local trees so that they could be identified, so she was specifically told not to go to Arnold Arboretum in Boston, as they have trees from all over the world there. So of course that's where Max's class is going on a field trip. He's been learning about how tree trunks get their rings. And I can't help tying all of the stories together, as fifteen years ago, *I* was the one being romanced and getting a new ring in Arnold Arboretum. Well, Marc proposed to me there, under an unidentified lilac tree, though my ring wasn't ready for another couple of days. But it was the beginning of trees being special to me. We followed up with a tree on our ketubah (Jewish wedding license), and trees created at Hannah's and Max's Hebrew naming ceremonies, and more since then.

So you can see why I felt so sad about this long-neglected tree that had been right there, unnoticed by me for the last ten years. I only seem to notice special trees, and this wasn't one of them, until it was about to be gone. Only when it was about to be gone did I bother to see just how beautiful it was.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Last Work From Home Tuesday

Over five and a half years ago, I started working from home on Tuesdays. This post from 2012 sums up why, and Hannah and I once made the front page of The Boston Globe for it, but for a quick refresher, a childcare gap during the afternoons due to early release schedules each week necessitated someone being at home then. That someone was me. Now that Marc has started a new job where several other people work from home on Tuesdays, it's going to be him.

This is a good change for me, but a bittersweet one. Over the last year, it seems my Tuesdays have gotten more hectic. With two kids coming home at different times, my work was interrupted twice for catching up with each kid. Orthodontist appointments were sometimes thrown in. Max's piano lessons interrupted as well, and since his teacher was on the unreliable side, that sometimes added disruption too. And while I liked making the kids laugh as we waited for their Hebrew school carpool to arrive, some days it was hard to tear myself away from work one more time. I always got everything done, but my Tuesdays were far from easy. (I think Marc tends to be less distractable while working than I am, so I don't expect he'll have as hard of a time dealing with this as I did. We shall see.)

While all the interruptions sometimes complicated things, I will miss the extra time I got to spend with my kids. I think it was good for all of us. I think Marc will benefit from it now.

In a couple of weeks after I do some travel for work, I'll be starting a new routine of work from home Wednesdays. It's going to take a bit of time to shake out because I already agreed to some Wednesday meetings, but eventually I'll be working from home with a longer stretch of uninterrupted time. Sometimes I may have to take Hannah to a mid-afternoon rehearsal across town, and again, I'm grateful to be able to have that flexibility. But now it's an exciting thought that I can work from home one day a week mostly because it's good for me, and not just what I need in order to make life work.

So with the kids starting back at school today (7th and 3rd grade OMG HOW?), I'll be saying goodbye to Tuesdays, at least for now. Maybe in a year it'll all change again. Mostly, I remain grateful for this opportunity that I've had, and I continue to hope that others can be afforded similar flexibility.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Making the Montage

So as I mentioned in my recent piece, I am working on assembling a photo montage for Hannah's upcoming bat mitzvah. For the uninitiated, at some bar and bat mitzvah parties, video montages are shown depicting photos of the child growing up, set to sentimental music. It's not a requirement by any means, but I've always loved watching them, regardless of how close I am to the kid involved. I usually even shed a tear or two. Kids grow up, time passes, we're all getting older. How can you not cry? Just thinking of making Hannah's has had me on the verge of tears many times already.

And yes, I've started to work on it now, after admitting I hadn't yet gotten to it during the first half of the summer while both kids were gone. But this past Sunday I spent a significant chunk of time going through the over THIRTY THOUSAND PHOTOS we have access to online. How amazing is it that virtually every photo taken of this kid since the moment she was born is available to be accessed on a computer? I remember sorting through physical photos of me, with my parents, to make the montage that was shown at my bat mitzvah.

Thankfully though, Hannah isn't in all thirty thousand photos. In fact, there's an awful lot that I should delete, and many photos are duplicated due to various systems used over the years. But my first cut of the photos left me with about 250 from which to chose, probably 100 or so more than I need. It will be harder to cut the number down, because oh my, what an amazing, lucky, wonderful, fantastic life has she (and I) had over the last twelve and a half years? These photos highlight so much, from her first patriotic outfit on the Fourth of July, to the three times she was a flower girl, to amazing vacations. So many photos with Max and Marc and me, and many other family members and friends. School projects. Plays and concerts. It's a true highlight reel.

That version is what we'll show at the party. Obviously, a party like this is when you're supposed to look back on only the highlights. But it's not the full truth.

I won't include photos of the hard days. There won't be photos of tantrums or tears. I won't show the school project that was only completed through force. You won't have to watch video of the recital that didn't go well. There aren't photos of the endless piles of laundry or carpool runs done in the rain. There aren't photos of the conversations at bedtime, about a how a "friend" wants to copy your work at school. And you won't notice the three month period when no one took any pictures of my children, because I was completely incapacitated before back surgery.

The hard stuff doesn't make the montage, but it's still there, in our history. We wouldn't be able to see how wonderful the wonderful moments are, without acknowledging the hard is there too.

I last watched my own bat mitzvah montage a few years ago, showing it to my kids. Mine was a highlight reel too. I didn't cry when I saw it as a newly minted 13 year old Jewish adult, but I did re-watching it then. I cried for the grandparents and other relatives since lost. I cried for the way my Dad picked just the right songs, synchronizing the photos to land at just the right moments. I cried that my own mom is in too few of the photos, being behind the camera herself. I cried for the passage of time, wanting a new highlight reel to reflect what happened from age 13 on.

And then I realized that I'd be making Hannah's montage. While Hannah's accomplishments are hers, not mine, so many of the best moments of my life over the last 13 years have involved her, and Max, and this life Marc and I have built together. So in a way, this video will be a highlight reel from ages 26-39 for me, too.

Now to find the perfect music for making me cry.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

What I Really Learned While My Kids Were at Overnight Camp

On Friday, I had my second piece published on, "5 Things I Was Able To Do While My Kids Were at Sleepaway Camp." (Please click over, read, comment, share. Thanks.) It's a perfect little piece for the site where it's published; Marc's response upon reading it is that I've gotten better at writing pieces for the purpose of selling them elsewhere. A worthy blogging goal if there ever was one, since I don't make any money off of Busy Since Birth.

However, there was one idea I'd told him I'd been mulling over, which didn't make it into the piece. And that idea maybe isn't as revolutionary or sellable, although maybe it is. Are you ready?

It's that I actually *like* doing things with my 12yo and 8yo kids. Shocking, right?

But here's the thing. When they were smaller, not so very long ago, we savored every break we got from our children. The exhaustion and relentlessness of life with small children is a lot. Most days are overwhelming. Most HOURS are overwhelming. Breaks are very, very good. But now?

Well, the kids are fairly self-sufficient at these ages. Sure, they still need us, but the physicality of it all has decreased. Beyond that, they're really good company. I love hearing their opinions and including them in discussions of complicated topics. If we're going to a concert or a museum, I want to bring them along and share it with them. If I'm talking with friends, they can usually entertain themselves long enough so I can finish a conversation. They still need me, but not in the same ways, and I know, all too soon, not for much longer. Which makes it even harder to let them go to camp.

(You wouldn't blame me for telling Hannah she could come home for the second half of the summer. I couldn't help asking. At least she was polite when she firmly told me, "no, not happening.")

So I settled for bringing home just Max at the halfway point. On the ride home, he shared new thoughts on racism and sexism, and wondered why there are so many chemicals in chocolate milk. He sang us a new melody for "Modeh Ani" and a bunch of other songs he learned. He asked if he can apply to be a counselor in training some day (Kerem 2024!).

So yes, I was able to get some things done while my kids were away, and have a little fun too. But it definitely wasn't more fun than I have when my kids are joining along.

Eighteen more days til she gets home.

Camp Yavneh Sibling Photo July 2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Come for the Politics, Stay for the Charts

One day after Hillary Rodham Clinton can finally declare that she is the Democratic party's nominee for President of the United States of America, what many have defined as breaking through one of the last remaining "glass ceilings" keeping women from attaining the highest positions in government and business, The Wall Street Journal ran this article on its front page, basically declaring the entire event as NBD, "no big deal."

For those of you without access behind the pay wall, the headline and sub-header read as follows:

"Hillary Clinton’s Historic Moment Divides Generations of Women

Presidential candidacy reflects hard-fought gains in gender equality so widespread that some women see little urgency in crashing another barrier"

Personally, I don't know who those "some women" are. Based on my Facebook feed and Twitter timeline, I saw a lot of women (and men!) who were incredibly moved by the moment, many watching the unfolding events with tears in their eyes, bringing their children to the television to see history being made. But I can admit that there might be some women out there who don't see it as that momentous. That proves to me that what we've been saying to women and girls in generations younger than mine, that you really can do anything, has worked. They already believe it, and that's great. I know my own daughter believed it too, until she was maybe 10, and then she stopped feeling so sure about that sentiment. I've seen that change in her in recent years, where the lofty aspirations she had as a kid became tempered by the reality of the world around her.

But what I came here to write about after a long work day and a frustrating commute was the supposed evidence provided in the WSJ article to substantiate that women ascending to higher positions is just so commonplace as to be unremarkable now, and the charts that they used to show the data. The text is inane too, but I'm going to focus on the charts.

Now, I design charts as part of my professional career. A good chart can tell a story more effectively than all of the text around it, and I pride myself on being able to do that well. Before those charts can be shown outside of our firm, to clients and prospects, they must be cleared through our Legal department. We have to cite our sources, show our calculations, and most of all, make certain that the charts are presented in an accurate and straight forward manner. Nothing can be cherry-picked or misleading in any way.

And there is simply no way that the WSJ charts accompanying this article would have passed muster with our Legal department. Frankly, for a paper that purports to have a higher education level among its readership, this is just embarrassing. Screw the paywall, I took some screenshots for you.

The chart above shows what looks like a meteoric rise in women elected to Congress since Clinton was born in 1947. The timing of her birth is awfully coincidental, as it doesn't look like there might have been any females in Congress prior to that time, or very few. Now there are 84 in the House. OUT OF 433. 19%. On the Senate side, just 20 women out of 100 serve today. The way the scale of this chart has its maximum set at 120 makes it look like women's involvement has hit the highest possible peak, but had the scale shown that maximum number (435, according to a law set forth in 1911), women's progression would be a lot less impressive. (And I'm still so impressed by those 104 women - watching the women of the House speak at the DNC was very inspiring!)

And then there was more. Four more charts that again were poorly made and misleading. In the Education chart, I'm not sure how 0.4% more women who completed fours years of college or more is *that* much progress, especially when the trajectory shown is very similar to that of men. The Money chart is again missing a top range showing the fact that men earn 100% (it's implied, but if it's on a chart, it's misleading to leave it off). As for the Politics chart, I had no idea how many people are working for state legislatures, and I consider myself not that ill-informed, but it took only a few clicks to discover that women are only 24.5% of legislators nationwide, so again, we're missing an upper bound on that chart. But my favorite chart by far is the Business chart, showing that since 1995, over the last 20 largely progressive years, a whopping 24 women are CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. You can do the math on the missing upper limit of that chart, right? That's 476 males still in significant power, but the chart looks like women's involvement at that level took off like a rocket ship.

So you're not that impressed with Hillary's accomplishments, up to and including nomination to the Presidency? I hope your reasoning is a lot more sound than the "women accomplish stuff all the time!" ridiculousness of these charts. And while I'm certain there are charts existing that tell stories I *do* like in misleading ways, I hope this post makes us all slow down a bit and evaluate things more carefully. Think about the scale, and think about what's not being shown.

And if you're a woman? Maybe think about finishing college, going after that higher paying job, or even running for office. We've clearly got a lot more work to do.

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?