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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Breaking Point

So after my not-so-vacationy vacation, juggling all the balls in the air, and being managed through a stressful situation, I settled into last week as an already frayed end. My cough had returned and persisted through the weekend. On Monday, I went to the dentist for a cleaning, and they found a cavity. On Tuesday I went to the endocrinologist and my blood sugar still needs some work (as always). And then I woke up on Wednesday with what I assumed to be an ulcer on my cornea (I had one about two years ago), which was confirmed by seeing my eye doctor that afternoon. And I had to go to the eye doctor again on Thursday.

I don't recommend corneal ulcers. They hurt. A lot. And I can't wear my contacts, which means I don't see as well, which means I'm even crankier than just being in pain would imply. But fortunately, these things heal quickly upon treatment, and I should be back to wearing my contacts in a day or two.

But yea, I hit a bit of a breaking point. So fortunately I was able to work from home last Friday, and I spent the day sitting in the dark (light sensitivity is a big factor in the pain). I had a really productive morning, but a quieter afternoon, and it was truly what I needed. I got a chance to rest, and didn't have to miss out on going apple picking the following day, which is one of my favorite activities of the year.

I'm feeling better now. My cough has dissipated. I'm working on the blood sugar and have an appointment scheduled for my cavity filling. The next few weeks don't look quite as hectic, especially with the forced downtime of the coming Jewish High Holidays.

I'll continue to hover over that magical line between "a lot" and "too much," and hopefully I won't stumble across the line into dangerous territory again soon.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Who I Am, and How to Manage Me

September arrived as if shot out of a cannon. The kids returned to school, and, at least it seems, everyone got back to work and dug in deep. I myself didn't have much of a slowdown this summer, but last week's activities at work took on a new, feverish pace. I was so busy that I hadn't even eaten lunch one day, which is highly unusual for me.

I generally don't mind being busy, but there are still only so many hours in the day. A project came up that required extensive revisions on a very tight deadline, and I was already scheduled to be out of the office attending other meetings. Despite bringing it home to review during the evening, there was more work to be done than hours I had, and so it had to go undone.

Now here's what you need to know about me: I work really, really hard. If I'm not doing something that I'm supposed to do, that is a personal failing for me. I budget my time carefully, make every effort to be proactive, and put 100% of my effort into everything I do. Even outside of work, that often means I don't do the things I love, like writing blog posts, until practically everything else in my life is already complete. I don't take any of my responsibilities lightly. And if you accuse me of shirking one of those responsibilities? Well, I take it personally.

So when that happened last week, I was hurt. I felt my professional integrity was being undermined, and that I was being misrepresented. I made my case to my bosses, who I've known for nearly nine years now, but I knew I was already preaching to the choir. I knew I had their support. But I still felt awful.

We only had a few minutes to talk before another three hour block of meetings, but one of my bosses pulled me aside and made sure we took the time to address my feelings before those meetings began. In just a few minutes, he managed to completely transform my attitude with only a few key phrases.
  • I am a valuable asset. My bosses need me to be focused on the task at hand, and not whatever else might be a distraction. And I should remember that this situation merely was that: a distraction. Not worth all of the effort and thought that I was putting into it.
  • He, along with only a couple others, determines my career path within the firm, and they all had my back. They knew what I was doing and supported it. They knew I'd prioritized things the right way. They knew the quality of my work, as well as my work ethic, and didn't doubt me now.
  • My feelings were valid. If he had been in my shoes, he would have felt the same way. But, he encouraged me to not repeat his mistakes by dwelling and fixating on it. He told me to move on, because if I was distracted, I couldn't be that valuable asset he needed. I was told to brush it off, but not because the way I felt was silly or stupid. I could brush it off because it honestly didn't matter.
And the three hours of meetings that followed? They went really, really well. We worked seamlessly as the team that nine years of building rapport and trust has created. All because he took a few minutes to diffuse what had become a tense and upsetting situation for me.

It doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes, that same boss is the one creating the difficult situation. But he's generally a reasonable guy, and willing to hear me out in those moments too. It felt really good to be both heard and understood this time around, and the validation he provided helped me get through the day. Hopefully, the next time something like this happens, and I have no doubt that it will, I'll remember how this time felt, and take the same approach.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour: What Process?

My friend Michelle of Balancing Jane recently tagged me in what's called The Writing Process Blog Tour. Which is kind of silly because she assumes that I have a process. Michelle said, "I'm always amazed at her ability to put out such frequent, meaningful posts and would love to hear how she does it."

How she does it? That's like my favorite question ever. Yea, I kinda know how she does it.

But alas, this is a different "it." A new post is required. So here we go.

What are you working on?

This. A blog post for work too, since that should be launching relatively soon. An RFP for work. I should be tweaking a submission for a book opportunity I noticed, but they keep pushing back their deadline, so I keep pushing back mine. Right now, I'm blogging without a game plan. I don't have The Having It All Project to ground me anymore. I still can do the occasional "Stress & Strategies," but I'm not sure anyone liked those except me. I can't do anything sponsored, more than ever, because if I'm blogging for work too, that's just too many conflicts of interest to count. I'm probably not reading at this year's LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, so I'm not writing anything for that. So I'm hoping I'll blog and write something meaningful at least once a week.

(What's that? You want to know about the book outline I once jotted in the Notes section of my phone? It's a good book too, a guide for working parents to survive the 0-5 years. I would have loved to read a book like that, and I haven't seen many others out there. But for me to find the time to write it, for the oh-so-little return I've seen my other author friends make? I'm better off sticking with the current gig. But thanks for asking.)

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Are there others like me? Where? I'd love to read them.

There are certainly lots of other working parents out there, but I'd love to find someone else (a woman would be amazing) working at a high level in finance with a full-time working spouse and young-ish children. I started writing this before I was pregnant with Max, when I was still going to business school part-time too, and have kept you updated for over seven years as I figured out this life of mine. I'd love to find someone else blogging through similar circumstances, who can't do sponsored content, who is trying to make this side effort worthwhile through occasional published pieces or stretching to do things like LTYM. Someone who has to write because they love it, even if it's just for them. Is there anybody out there?

Why do you write what you do?

I write what I do because I don't think there's anybody out there, and because, well, I like to think that I'm good at it. I write because I value the connections that it has brought to my life, whether through the friends I've made in other bloggers, or because you know me in real life and feel like you know me better because of all I've shared here. I write because it's how I process my world. I write because it's the baby book I've never bothered to make otherwise. I write because it's how I know who I am.

How does your writing process work?

I attended my first blogging conference in 2012, and as I sat in a session that was only marginally related to what I actually do on this blog, I wrote that note to myself. I JUST WRITE, and I needed to remind myself in that moment that it's okay to JUST WRITE. For me, often it's just about diving in and getting started. Many times, because I don't have a ton of spare time, the blog posts are already fully formed in my head before I've had the chance to hit the keyboard. There's a snippet of conversation, or an anecdote that I know I can work in somewhere. Sometimes there's a theme tying it to the moment or current events, which helps, but that's not always the case. If the words don't flow and quickly, then I'm not meant to be writing about that topic, or I'm not ready to write about it yet. At least on the blog, it seems to boil down to this: if I don't write about it and get it out of my head, I might explode. And that would be messy. I hate messes.

Keeping the tour going

I hope you've found this post mildly entertaining and a bit illuminating as well. I'd love to hear from these amazing ladies about their writing process, too.

Lisa, also known as Squared Mommy, writes at "What Makes a Real Family?" about her experiences as an adoptive mom and more. We met at BlogHer14 and the story of her family is something we need to hear more about.

Melisa of Suburban Scrawl is the New Cities Mentor for LTYM and Chief Hair-Stroker and Facebook-Liker. Oh, and she's a fabulous writer too. I love her posts about parenting her now adult children, because she does it so well.

Do you want to get in on the fun? Answer the four questions above on your blog, and then pass it along. Use the #WritingProcessBlogTour hashtag on Twitter and Facebook for sharing your posts!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Plates, Balls, and Moles

It's her last year of elementary school, you guys.
I haven't written here in over a week, which makes me very twitchy. I love writing here, it's one of my only releases, and to not have had time for it means life has been really, really busy (said it before, saying it again: the blog title does not lie). I've been neglecting Facebook and Twitter too. That leaves a really disconnected, sad shell of me.

Plates are being spun, balls are juggling in the air, and moles are being whacked. Use all the metaphors, please.

The kids have started school, fifth and first grades, which simultaneously feels impossible and completely right. They like their teachers, have a few friends in their classes, and things are off to a good start. Of course that also includes aftercare and religious school too, and more activities will be starting soon. They're both taking swim lessons, Max is taking chess, and Hannah hopes to start choir soon, plus clarinet at school. Add in the usual flurry of forms, supplies, new clothes and shoes, and the return of homework.

I arrived back from vacation to find out that a million things were needed at the office, all of them due immediately, if not the day before last. It's good to be busy, but it's been hard to be that busy and then this busy at home too. Plus, just after getting over my missing-the-mornings guilt, I changed my schedule and have been home doing mornings again. That means longer days in the office, and so far, more trying commutes during peak hours. It's an adjustment that will probably feel normal in a few weeks, but for now it's meant a few episodes of mid-day low blood sugar and extra exhaustion.

Like I said, new routines will soon be established and life with continue on as it always has. But allow me a moment to say that I'm glad this past week is now behind me.

There just hasn't been much extra time this past week, and I've felt it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Lazy River Ride: Extreme Involvement Edition

I had earned this moment. I was the one who was encouraging them to swim after all, and if it wasn't so that I could enjoy a lazy river water ride, then what was it all for, anyway?

Oh yea, I want them to avoid drowning too. This would be an excellent test of that skill, for certain. 

By the time we made it to the water park area of Hersheypark, it was already late in the day and very warm. The line was long, but I was determined to take the kids on the lazy river and that they would enjoy it. I had explained that the water was just two and a half feet deep, and that on their scale of thrill rides, the lazy river was below the roller coaster they'd just been on. 

We descended the ramp, and the water was really, really cold. I hadn't anticipated that, and Max started to freak out. Hannah was charging ahead, and I ended up scratching Max with one of my fingernails as he tried to flee the scene. There was no place else for him to go though--he had to get on. Hannah was already gliding away from us, and somehow both Max and I got on the inner tubes too. 

I tried to keep Hannah in sight as Max adjusted to the ride. He didn't want to get wet, and was worried about his scratch. I quickly gave up trying to sit on my inner tube and instead began walking in the middle of the doughnut hole. I caught up to Hannah, steered Max to keep him away from the water sprays, and for one small moment, it was all going okay. Max was laughing. We decided to go around again. 

I thought I could attempt getting on the inner tube again, but failed miserably, cart over apple. I opened my eyes under water, shocked I hadn't hit my head. I grasped for my sunglasses. When I emerged from the water, Max immediately yelled, "Mommy, your contact!" It, by some grace, had stuck to my cheek. Germs be damned, I somehow put it back on my eye. Moments later, Hannah fell off her inner tube. Max was shrieking that water sprays were about to get him, and I averted another crisis just in time. We were approaching the bridge where Marc stood, and though I felt so defeated, I smiled and had him take the photo above. I wanted to remember this moment, because even if it was the most highly-active lazy river ride in history, the kids did end up having fun. 

They might not remember that part. They might instead remember the cold water, the shrieking, and the fear they felt at first. More so, they will remember that less than five minutes later, when they were back on solid ground running on the splash pad, Max careened into another child and gave himself a black eye. 

I took him directly to First Aid, and as I write this, it's two days later and he's healing well. He will have a great story for the first day of school. I suppose I have blog fodder. 

If I wanted to keep everything rosy, the story should have ended with us leaving the lazy river ride, me getting a workout, but the kids ultimately having fun. Instead, it ends with this perhaps unexpected nugget from me. 

Parenting is hard. I know I'm only a decade into it, but the moments like these can just take your breath away with the level of how much can go wrong, and frankly suck, on what is supposed to be a good day, a fun day, where everyone is healthy and plans have been made and hard-earned money is being spent. I know this. I feel like I try not to ask the universe for much because of it. I keep my expectations low, anticipate the breakdowns. But sometimes, it just stuns me how little good can come from a day, even when it ends with everyone mostly intact. Especially when it comes on one of those few days labeled as "vacation."

We are fine. I'm fine. School and work start again tomorrow and there is no vacation on the horizon for months. I have no idea if I'll ever get to go on a lazy river ride again, but there are great moments that I'm sure I will still have to come. But tonight? Tonight I'm still recovering from the suck. 

I Get Around

I came back from BlogHer with a goal of trying to guest post on other blogs and maybe find some new readers along the way. After all, I shared the stories of 51 other people here, why not try to get around a bit myself? And so far, so good.

My friend (and LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER cast mate) Julie of Next Life, No Kids did a series of posts on finding beauty in the every day. She shared a recent post of mine alongside some other bits of beauty, and I have a soft spot for anyone who calls me "fierce." Go check her out.

I had the honor of subbing for Judy Bolton-Fasman in our local newspaper, The Jewish Advocate, last week. They ran my column on Max and the World Cup, and it was the first time I've had a column show up in print. Seeing my name does not get old.

Finally, Cristi at Motherhood Unadorned has reinvigorated her series "Not a Bad Mom" where moms confess the things that don't make them, well, a bad mom. My confession was written about a month ago, and I'm actually going to be switching things up soon, but click on over to read about how I'm not a bad mom if I miss mornings at home.

And for one last big stretch: I submitted something for a book anthology. We'll see if that works out, but I've never done that before, so I'm glad I made the effort to do it. If it doesn't work out, you'll see it as a future post here instead.

Please go show my recent hosts some love, and if you have an opportunity for me, I'd be happy to hear it!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Twice as Old: My First Day of College

On this date, almost* half my life ago, I began my freshman year of college at Brandeis University. It's the day I met a few people who would go on to become some of my best friends, and the start of my life in the Boston area.

There is so much I remember about that day, and the memories are so vivid that it's hard to believe they happened 18 years ago. I remember that I wore a Planet Hollywood t-shirt and black jean shorts. I remember being horrified that I'd submitted such an old picture for our freshman class meet/meat book. I remember unpacking my room, buying my books and saying goodbye to my family long before my roommate Carol arrived. I remember meeting Julie from across the hall, and Mike from the dorm next door.

During that orientation week (our theme was Amalgamation--remember that?), there were all sorts of activities scheduled to introduce us to our campus and other classmates, but I mostly remember the other firsts from that week. Our first trip to the grocery store. Taking a bus into Boston to go to my first club. Walking for what seemed like forever, trying to find some random party. Not going to the first Shabbat dinner of the year, because I wasn't sure if that was right for me (then never missing a first week Shabbat dinner again).

That first semester was filled with early morning breakfasts with half of my hall-mates before Chem class, and planning for our first "Screw Your Roommate" dance (oh how we planned). It was about finger painting our window shade, funny email forwards printed out and taped into bathroom stalls, and hosting as many people as we could on the floor of our dorm room. It was about USEM (the required university seminar course, mine was called "Not For the Faint of Heart") and learning to write papers. It was about Sugar Babies, ice cream turkeys and family weekend. About not going home for Thanksgiving until you realized you needed to go home. It was going home for Christmas break, finding out about a loss and realizing that your support network, much less your entire world, had changed completely. It was realizing that change was okay.

So much happened over the next few years. A lot of it I'd love to relive if I had the chance, some of it I'd change, and there are portions I could do without. But I mostly look back on college fondly, and am happy with the trajectory of my life that began there.

* According to the official day count, I won't have lived in Boston for half of my life until next July, since I was almost nineteen when I started college. But this is close enough. :)

Carol, Julie and me at the end of our freshman year, with Justice Brandeis