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Sunday, March 1, 2015

February Flop

So February ended up being quite a month.

And yes, I know it's only March 1 now, but I'm still confident that above statement will end up being my understatement of the year.

February and I are no longer friends.

It's not like I was on great terms with January either. Just to recap that last week of that month: I slipped and fell on ice on Monday, we had the first snow days Tuesday and Wednesday, and Hannah was diagnosed with pneumonia and out of school Thursday and Friday. That resulted in me canceling a long-awaited spa day on Sunday, February 1, too, so I guess February wasn't off to the greatest start. And that rolled right into two more snow days.

I vaguely remember spending a few days at work and cramming in the first round of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER auditions before we were walloped with two more snow days. Two more days at work, which included a doctor's appointment for me followed by a late night video conference, and then another work from home day so I could take the kids to their annual pediatric well visits, which had already been postponed a couple times due to snow.

That was a Friday, the 13th to be exact. The kids were due to spend most of the next week visiting their relatives in Arkansas for February vacation. But in the space of a few days since those well visits, Max developed strep throat, and the kid's trip was canceled (which also meant that a two night hotel staycation for Marc and I was canceled too). I stayed home part of the week, and Marc stayed home the rest. Max didn't really get better though, and he started on another medication.

The kids went back to school that Monday morning, with Max being monitored by the school nurse. His breathing wasn't quite right though, and so that afternoon took the biggest turn of all, as we ended up at the emergency room and eventually, admitted to the hospital for two days and two nights. He had also developed pneumonia and the breathing issues related to that.

My hospital identity
Once we were in the hospital, I have to admit that I was fairly zen about all of it. We were where we needed to be and in good hands. The staff was fabulous and tried to make Max and the rest of us as comfortable as possible. Everything else in our lives could wait, be sent on to co-workers, be rescheduled or simply missed. As a working parent so often held to the parameters of my calendar and so many competing demands, it was actually pleasant to have just one priority: making sure Max got better. We were very lucky that he did, even making it back to school for a shortened day on Friday, as if he'd never been in the hospital at all.

This month was just crazy. Almost nothing went according to plan. I even got a fortune cookie, during lunch after Max's strep diagnosis, that said "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail." I laughed thinking those fortune writers didn't know who they were dealing with; I *always* have a plan. I just don't get to always see them through.

March is going to be so much better, right?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Endings and Anxiety

Tuesday night, I kept falling back into the same dream, despite trying to get myself out of it numerous times. But I'm a light sleeper lately, and I guess I kept picking up where I left off. In the dream, I was at work, but everything had changed. My team had moved, something we're actually slated to do this year, only I didn't move along with them. All of my personal items had been thrown away, and I was left to be part of another team that I had no desire to be on. I protested, but no one could hear me, or maybe they didn't care.

Of course, this dream came after two more snow days spent at home, more than 48 hours without leaving the house, and feeling very anxious about how I'd get into the office that Wednesday morning (which indeed took two hours to accomplish). I told one of my bosses about the dream that afternoon, when he happened to get news that our team's move date had gotten pushed back. He reminded me that my new office is right next to his, and that of course I'm coming along, though I might not have room for my artwork with our new glass walls.

I've been thinking a lot about endings, as they seem everywhere these days. Two of my favorite shows, Parenthood and Glee, have recently ended or will be ending in a matter of weeks. Jon Stewart announced he's leaving The Daily Show, a position he's held for most of my adult life. Even Rosie O'Donnell announced she's leaving The View (again), a show I haven't watched in longer than I can remember, yet I still watched her vlog for why she's leaving too.

I've been at my job for closing in on 10 years now, and I've only ever had to really leave one job before this. Every other job I'd held was known to be temporary from the start, whether I was a camp counselor or working as a bank teller or in the college library. Everything else had a fairly established end date without intervention from me. Leaving my last job was, well, kind of traumatic for me. I'd loved working there, but was basically told that they didn't see me advancing further despite the half-finished MBA, which they were paying for at the time. I was so hurt to have to leave, but I knew I hadn't peaked at the age of 27.

I was fortunate to find my next job relatively easily, a lateral move that was challenging in ways I hadn't anticipated, but it opened up a much broader world to me. My company has invested in me, and I've grown a lot over the last decade. It seems weird to have been there so long when it seems like everyone else I know has switched jobs many times over the same period, but people at my company tend to stay (my group hasn't had someone leave since 2007). Long-term plans have been made with me in mind. I have no intentions of leaving.

But it's interesting to me that despite all that, the goodwill I know is felt for me, and the loyalty I feel towards my job, I'd still be hit with an anxiety dream of being left behind. I don't blame any aspect of my job for this: they encouraged us to stay home as the blizzards hit, and I've always been supported when I work from home. But will I ever feel secure enough in myself, that I am doing well enough, that I won't have worries like this? Or is this just the curse of being an employee for someone else, that you can never truly feel 100% secure? Or maybe it's just all this snow, making me crazy.

I know I'm not at an ending. But I do sometimes wonder what a new beginning might be like.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Kitchen Sink, Part 2

I am the kind of person who sets their alarm to wake up at six in the morning to do the dishes.

You see, I was too tired after this hard week, where I continued to marinate in last week's hard, right up til the end, when I called for surrender in the form of a ride home from the train station. It's not that long of a walk, but with snowbanks higher than my knees and portions where the only choice is to walk in a heavily trafficked street in the complete darkness of early evening, I couldn't do anymore hard.

I couldn't face the dishes after Shabbat dinner either. The kitchen sink is also my thinking place, and I didn't want more thinking. I wanted mindless television and a comfortable bed, which is what I gave myself. But I set my alarm, and unlike most mornings lately, I jumped right out of bed, and I cleaned the kitchen.

The thoughts I'd avoided last night came fast and furious this morning. Today, we start the audition process for a new season of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER. There is no one word that can adequately capture my emotions as we stand on this precipice, but it reminds me of Peter Pan in the Disney previews that plays on one of the kid's DVDs, when he grabs someone's hand and shouts "Here we gooooo!" into the night sky. It's feels a lot like flying when you're not sure you know how.

I didn't expect to feel this nervous going into year 2, but I'm glad I still feel as excited as I did in year 1. I know more of what to expect today and the days to come. I also know that my heart will hurt hearing many of the stories. I know I will do my best to honor each of the individuals who shares something.

My story, in the video below, still rings so true for me. I don't know if I'll be reading anything this year, but I'm still writing here, even if it's not as grand as that moment was. But I'm still revealing who I am this way, and it means a lot to me. So building on last year's theme, you should know that I am the kind of person who sets their alarm to wake up at six in the morning to do the dishes, if they couldn't bear the thought of them last night, and today looks really busy and the overwhelming sense of responsibility mandates that you get them done even though it's really cold in the kitchen so early in the morning but maybe you'll find twenty minutes to get a blog post written because of it.

And I hope you'll grab onto my hand, because here we go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


It's hard to get back to writing when I take any sort of break, but it's just been more than a week, and writing has often been on my mind. But the words haven't been coming to mind, as this last week has been lousy.

After a few weeks of on and off fevers, Hannah was sent home from school with another fever on Monday, at the start of Boston's first big snowstorm this winter. Marc picked her up, and on my way home from the train, I took a hard fall on the freshly snow-covered ice. I landed hard on my back (The Back, for longtime readers), and when I tried to stand up, found I'd had the wind knocked right out of me and I fell down again. I managed to get home to ice and Motrin right away, but it's a full week later now, and I'm still in a bit of pain.

And then we had two snow days. We managed, but I was ready to get back to work on Thursday. But then Hannah's fever came back Wednesday night, so work wasn't an option after all. I took her to the pediatrician, who recommended a chest x-ray, and a few hours later, Hannah was diagnosed with pneumonia. That meant Friday was out too.

Hannah is doing better, and really wanted to go to school on Monday, missing her friends and feeling out of sorts without a routine. But, another snow storm has come through, and we're home again, yesterday and today.

Winter is hard. Illness and injury are hard. Trying to work, feeling behind, and being without a routine is hard. And not knowing when it's going to get easier is hard.

I like to wrap up my posts with some kind of insight, but I don't want to say something like "getting through the hard makes you stronger," or even "I know it'll all be okay." Sometimes it's okay to just dwell where you are. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

To the Woman I Couldn't Help

To the Woman I Couldn't Help,

You got on a standing room only train on Friday morning, but the crowd parted as you entered. A young girl like you is probably used to turning heads, but this time it was entirely different. You were coughing and stumbling, a real sight to see among the conservative black wool pea coats and the ubiquitous North Face jackets. You looked like you belonged anywhere but here.

On this 20 degree morning, you were dressed in short shorts and sandals. Your legs were covered in bruises, with giant bandages on your knees. Your strappy white sandals might have been hard to walk in on a warm summer's day, but today you were really struggling. You had a thin scarf that you used to cover your mouth, and wrapped around your hand as you grasped at the pole to hang on. A floppy hat was perched on your head; I don't think you had any hair. You were all skin and bones, thin beyond levels I encounter on a day to day basis. If you hadn't come to a stop right beside me, I might not have noticed the strangest detail of all: your very pretty pink pedicure.

I asked if you wanted my seat, but you said you were getting off at the next stop. I paused a moment, to carefully choose my words, and then asked, "Do you need any help?"

"Oh no," you quickly replied, "I just have a medical condition." You tried, unsuccessfully, to make your shorts longer. You got off at the next stop, lurching and acting like you had no idea where you were.

Maybe I've read too much on domestic violence. Maybe I spent too long watching the Amtrak safety video, warning of human trafficking, while we waited to come home from NYC a few weeks ago. Maybe you were on something. Or maybe it was the mother in me desperately wanting to give you my scarf, my coat, heck, even my pants. Because I knew that what I was witnessing wasn't right.

We were on that train together for less than 10 minutes, maybe only five. You've likely already forgotten me, but I haven't been able to forget you. I wish there was something I could have done, though I'm not sure what it would have been. With all of my means, I didn't know how to help you in that moment. I still don't.

Maybe you're okay. Maybe I'm just seeing things that aren't there. I really hope I was wrong.

But I don't think I was. And for that, I'm very sorry.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Paralyzed by Perfection

I have three things I need to confess to all of you.

First off, I didn't send out any sort of holiday cards this year. And I love holiday cards. But I didn't get them done.

Second, I professionally straightened my hair. I first did this four years ago, absolutely loved it, but have held off doing it again for a lot of reasons. But I got it done.

Third, I've been trying to pack my lunch again. Only not in my cute little Bento lunchbox, but in this kind of haphazard way. But I did it three times last week.

These actually aren't three different confessions, but one giant confession instead. The real confession is that I'm a perfectionist, and if things can't be done just so, then I'd rather not do them at all. I didn't have a photo that I was thrilled about, so I didn't design cards this year. I didn't want to spend the money on straightening my hair (even though it makes me ridiculously happy), so I didn't do it for years. And somehow, it's more acceptable in my mind to buy lunch everyday than to produce a little bit of extra waste by buying individual hummus and yogurt containers and leaving behind the Bento box. All three of these things have been making me feel very guilty. Some of these are good reasons--but a lot of them are really, really stupid.

So I skipped sending cards for the first time in 15 years. We saw a lot of our family members over the past few months, and I'm in touch with more friends than ever thanks to social media. We've always sent WAY more cards than we receive, and while it's an activity I've always enjoyed, it didn't happen this time. And it's okay.

So I spent a bunch of money straightening my hair. But I've been, as I said, ridiculously happy with it since I did it. I've wasted so much time stressing over bad hair days, with Hannah telling me my hair has expanded and looks bad by the time we've reached the bus stop on a humid morning. I feel guilty for being so vain. But honestly? It's okay too.

And I just don't have the time in my day to be cleaning the crevasses of my Bento box, or dealing with the ramifications when the yogurt leaks in my bag, or feeling frustrated that my cute little food items don't fit in the confines of the box. This doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing exercise. I can buy individually packaged items. It's totally okay.

Despite the many achievements I've had in my life, I still struggle with little things like this. Making decisions and giving myself permission to not get everything perfect, but good enough, and then not feeling guilty about the outcomes. No one is holding my lack of a new year's card against me, no one else really cares about what I do with my hair, and no one else is judging me for my lunch. And yet I'm beating myself up, failing to move forward, paralyzed by the need to be perfect.

I'm working on it, obviously, but I wish it was easier than it is.

What about you? Has perfection ever paralyzed you?

I might have used this on a card. Wishing you all the best in 2015!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The End of a Birthday Era

With two kids born four days apart at the beginning of January, the "holidays" in our house never really ended until both of them had their birthday parties. Some years saw our "Birthdaypalooza" extend all the way into Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Planning their birthday parties was a task I've always taken seriously. Okay, not Pinterest-seriously, but I've put the time in.

Max's 7th birthday party
I've stressed over carefully worded Evites, and even a couple rounds of hand-printed invitations. I've hosted parties at home (this remains one of my most-read blog posts), with live entertainment, and beyond, at a few plaster painting places, giant gym complexes with huge play structures, even built a few bears (and oh, the lost coat story that accompanied that party--thankfully years later I can say the girls are still friends). I've tracked down last minute RSVPs and respectfully tried to limit non-invited siblings. I've reluctantly filled goody bags and dutifully sent out thank you notes. But I am confident enough to say that this is the year it's all coming to an end.

We had Max's seventh birthday party this past weekend, and we kept it simple. We only invited the boys in his class, and they came to our house to watch a movie. We had pizza and a homemade (by Max and Marc) cake. No goody bags, no tracking down email addresses of kids in other classes, no monitoring constantly for RSVPs. It was loud and chaotic and we're lucky no one got hurt, but Max had fun. It was exactly what he wanted it to be. I just don't think he's going to want that again.

Hannah's 11th birthday event
He won't want it again because Hannah raised the bar with her birthday. Instead of having a party, the four of us took the train into New York City for the day, to see the Broadway show "Matilda." Hannah had been wanting to do that for about six months after learning some of the music at camp last summer, but we didn't take the request seriously until it came up in conjunction with her birthday. We realized we would all enjoy going together, and added a few extras like a stop at a magic store for Max and a fabulous Kosher meal for Marc, and the day was made. The show was fun, we enjoyed being in New York, and despite a bit of rain and the long train rides, it was a really great day. I loved having this adventure together, and so did the kids.

They're growing up, and a day like that is just another sign of things to come. I'm glad to be moving on. I've had my fill of glitter-covered plaster figurines and remember-to-wear-good-socks climbing structures. See ya, birthday party stress. So long, goody bags. Bring on the new adventures.