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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Five Random Things

A bit of old school blogging today, thanks to a tag from Phyllis of The Napkin Hoarder. I've done a few other "random things about me" posts before, so it's a challenge to find a few more, but it gets me out of writing the harder post I had in mind. So here goes. 

1. I save and reuse number birthday candles. They make pretty effective blog photo props too. 

2. A friend with a teenager posted that all the teen wanted for her birthday was gift cards and permission to light candles in her room. I loved candles as a teen too, and still remember packing up my collection so carefully for Brandeis, only to be told it was a fire hazard and never burn them there. 

3. Being an institution founded by Jews, Brandeis did have rules allowing some candle lighting, for Shabbat and Hanukkah. We had to light them inside of little aluminum pans pre-filled with water. Since then, the sound of a community lighting candles together is one of my favorites. 
4. I'm wearing a new (p)leather jacket today, and think I look a bit like a homicide detective, like Debra Messing (Brandeis alum! And one of my favs) in her new show "The Mysteries of Laura." It's better than looking like a finance geek, but the glasses I still need probably betray that fact too. Anyway, I'd watch your back around me today. I'm feeling a little bad ass. 

5. Bad ass people probably don't recycle birthday candles as props for blog photos, and find five seemingly random but totally interconnected things to write about, do they? Well, I'm re-writing bad ass to include that in the definition. ;)

So there's my random 5. I'm tagging Diane, Janet, Chandreyee, Cameron and Kristin from LTYM Boston Season 1 to keep it going. And what should I know about you?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mindfulness in the ER

I spent the majority of my Sunday in the emergency room at Mass Eye & Ear. 

I wish you could hear what that sentence sounds like in my head. But I'll get to that. 

Just three weeks after getting the all clear, my corneal ulcer is back. I know it's "back" and not "still" because I could handle being in sunlight these past few weeks, and on Sunday morning the sun became my mortal enemy again. My guess is that since I only had a few days in there when I didn't have a cold, the ulcer probably never truly healed. Or who knows. I'm in my hated glasses and while I'm already doing better, I won't be reunited with my contacts for a good long while. 

I usually love the fall. But this year, I seem to be going from one calamity to the next. Still can't catch a break. Still tired. 

-----

We both graduated a semester early, with jobs in the city, but still lived on campus. So we took the commuter rail into Cambridge at the same time in the mornings. We rarely found each other on the longer part of our ride, but instead met at Porter Square. The morning view as we crossed the Charles River on the Red Line was just glorious. A hush would fall over the train as we crossed the water and everyone stopped to look. People used to talk to each other more on trains. Now, everyone probably Instagrams the view, spending more time choosing the right filter than actually seeing the view. 

He and I would talk. His first job was kind of boring. He spent a lot of time reading the financial press, trying to learn things. I was busier at my job. There was so much doing where I worked. I had a hard time with stillness, even then. 

He had the perfect Boston accent. "Mass Eye n Ear," he'd repeat after the barely intelligible announcer. It always made me smile. 

I moved into my first apartment in Boston proper a few months later. I missed our train rides. When I saw him again a few years ago, his accent was still there, but in a far less pronounced way. He's become an expert in his field; now, his insights are quoted in the financial press. But I could still hear his voice in my head as I entered the doors of Mass Eye & Ear for the first time. 

-----

I brought my friend Carla's new book on parenting and the practice of mindfulness with me to the ER. Thankfully, she says you don't *have* to meditate to find some ways of being more mindful while parenting. A good thing, as my breathing is still somewhat jagged from my cold. But I found myself closing my eyes, sitting alone in this crowded ER. 

I closed my eyes and I pictured that view just outside, across the Charles River. I am back to those early mornings when the fog was rising off the water, when we'd wipe the condensation off the windows of the train car so we could see. Sometimes it was so cold that our breath would fog the windows all over again. 

And I realize, I am thinking about my breath after all. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

37

Despite spending the entire weekend indoors, trying to rest, and Max's very strong proclamations that one cannot be sick on their birthday, I am indeed still sick. On my birthday.

I know how colds go for me, and I'm on the upswing now, as the cold is mainly in my chest now. I no longer feel like I'm running a fever (which for me is anything about 99 degrees), and I no longer feel like I was punched in the sinuses. So, progress. But it'll likely be weeks before my cough totally goes away.

My parent's dog Ginger passed away last week, and while I was looking back at old pictures to find some of her, I was struck instead by pictures of myself. I was shocked to see how good I looked, posed with Marc before attending a fancy company event, or just playing with infant Hannah on the old rug in her room. If you'd asked me then, I wouldn't have said I looked particularly good. It's a curse, that we don't know how good something is when we have it. But I was also videotaped for a training at work last week, and so I saw myself, granted, not dressed up for a swanky event, but still having made an effort, and oof. I look so tired.

I'd joked that morning that I was my own version of hungover, which includes no alcohol, but having done too many things and having stayed up too late. So, yes, I was tired.

And I know that most of the people I surround myself with at this point are older than me, so a constant theme in my life is hearing that I'm so young, that I'm just a baby still. So it surprised me to see that it's really true. I look a lot older than I did then.

Just before my birthday, October 2004
The upside to all of this? The little baby in that picture has also gotten older, and she's utterly fabulous. The baby I couldn't even picture at that point is counting the days until he turns seven. And the other family and friends who also look 10 years younger in those pictures I found? They're still by my side. Along with a lot of great new people, too.

Yes, I'm sick, and I'm very tired, but I'm still incredibly lucky. I need to recommit to solving the sleeping piece, and probably the exercise piece too, but if a birthday isn't when you take stock of things like that, then I don't know what is. Thirty-six was the year I took my family to Israel and the year I produced a show, the realization of a more-than-decade long held goal, and a goal I never knew I had.

It is worth it, this growing older and looking older. That girl with the windswept hair above? She had no idea of all the good things still to come.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Temporary


Fall leaves? So temporary.
I have a cold. I can't catch a break.

It's been a bit of an unlucky streak for me, as September took off like a rocket. I was overwhelmed, and I ended up with a corneal ulcer. It took far longer for that to heal than I expected, but somehow I made it through the High Holidays. Then the day I finally reunited with my contacts, I had to get a cavity filled. I was certain then that things would turn around for me, and I had a good week, a full seven days where life was busy again, but at least I was as physically healthy as someone managing a chronic disease (diabetes) can hope to be. But as the day went on yesterday, I found myself crawling into my bed at dinnertime, nursing a head cold.

Just a cold, but it has me feeling beaten. I'm so tired. I just want to be able to do what I need to do, without being pulled away to deal with physical needs. I mean, it's 2014, how are we not bionic by now?

It's temporary, I know. I'm trying to remind myself that so many of these things are short-lived, and really, they don't matter. Having Hannah be upset with me when a promised trip to the library doesn't work out, it's temporary. Even her years in elementary school, while it's been six years since she started, it's almost over now. Temporary. Max's frustration with his current reading level? That threw me for quite a loop with Hannah, but having lived through it with her, again, I know it's likely temporary. Work frustrations? Very specific ones are almost always temporary. This cold will be temporary, and the better I take care of myself now, hopefully the even more temporary it'll be.

I'd rather not be beaten by the temporary. But sometimes, that's really hard.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What It Takes to Have a Chic Outfit

Last week, a woman sharing my elevator at the building where I work reached out from behind me and touched my arm. I whipped around, thinking maybe I'd dropped something, but she started gushing. "That is such a chic outfit. Right down to your patterned tights. I'm jealous."

She was wearing a fairly conservative suit, like many others I own, but that I wasn't wearing then. I was wearing a houndstooth patterned jacket of silver and black, a black dress with pleating down the center (and pockets! OMG pockets) that ended above my knees, wedge heels with a bit of patent leather at the toe, and black tights with a checkered pattern. And yes, I'll agree for once and say it, I did look pretty chic. I love my new outfit. 

I've been struggling to figure out how to dress for the role I'm in now. For so long, a top paired with black pants was all I knew, and all I needed to know. If I wore a suit, or even a dress sometimes, people would joke that I must be going on a job interview. Two years ago, when I was trying to get promoted, I bought a few new suits. I spent a small fortune having the pants altered, but I hated the bulk of all the lining and the boring conservative sweaters I'd paired to wear under the jackets. A while later I bought two more suits, a brown one and a purple one, but I felt silly in one color from head to toe. But I did figure out that I preferred jackets where I didn't need buttons. I bought a couple different tops to replace my boring sweaters, but I still lacked variety. Over the summer, as I continued to sweat in silk and lining on ninety degree days, a Facebook friend suggested sheath dresses as a way to keep cool. But somehow I didn't get around to buying anything else until a couple of weeks ago. 

So here's what I've figured out about assembling a chic outfit. It takes time, and it takes money. Shocking, I know. 

The night I ordered that outfit online? I probably spent over an hour picking out that jacket and dress. I picked out another jacket and dress too. Then I accidentally shut down for the night without buying anything, after I'd tracked down online coupons and everything. I realized it a few days later when I went looking for the shipping notification that never came. Oops. Thankfully my online cart was still full, so I placed my order. But here's the thing: I'm usually a fast, decisive shopper. If it fits, that's usually enough to make me happy. But this time, I spent a lot of time looking before I decided on anything. And I had to invest even more time when I had to return one of the dresses when it didn't fit. 

The money piece is obvious, since I'm not getting anything for free, but I ended up spending more than I usually like to spend, especially more than "black pants and a top" Cheryl cared to spend. I still hunted down coupons, and price was a factor, but I didn't let it be more important than other factors. I'm fortunate to be in a position where I can do that, but yea, it cost more. Thankfully the tights and shoes were both purchased last year. 

The last thing it takes to put together a chic outfit? A little bit of getting over myself. Getting over my reluctance to wear a dress and higher heels. Getting over what I think I'm supposed to look like at work, perhaps a bit of not wanting to be especially noticed. Getting over the fact that I'm not a kid anymore, that I'm a VP with fifteen years of experience, and that I can dress like it.

The compliment in the elevator felt really good. So I'm vowing to keep putting in the effort. I'll keep checking the sales racks too, but it's worth it to me to try to do better. Finally.

A photo from Marc's 40th birthday dinner, wearing one of my new dresses.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Things They Can't Say



I have no idea how I found Shell and her blog, Things I Can't Say, but I've been reading along for years as she discusses her life raising three boys. I'm honored to be on her site guest posting today, as part of her "Things They Can't Say" series, with a story of how Hannah, and I, experienced the process of auditioning for the fifth grade play.

No, I didn't audition, but it was so incredibly difficult not to identify right along with everything Hannah was feeling. But then she surprised me by actually feeling something completely different than I did. It's pretty cool to have learned something from her, not for the first time of course. And I know I'll have lots more learning ahead.

So click on over to read all about it.

Oh, and she got the part. Expect an excess of Mom pride come December.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

10 Days

Last week, during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, I posted the article "11 Questions About Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask" on Facebook, mostly because it stated that graduates of Brandeis University make up half of Boston's Jewish population (guilty as charged). But the article prompted my high school friend Sarah* to ask me what I like best about the High Holidays, and the 10 day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I started listing everything in my head, and realized it made a much better blog post than Facebook comment, because there's a lot to like. But it's also not that easy.

Woven round challah, to symbolize the new year. Sprinkles optional.
I like going to services and hearing our rabbi's sermon evolve each year, as our daughters are close in age, and often she sheds light on a topic we have in common. I like that the ushers know that Marc and I can step in for pretty much any honor part in the service if the preassigned people don't make it on time. I like hearing the blast of the shofar for the first time each year, and seeing which shofar blower can last the longest. I like spending the days with family when we can. I like wishing my friends a "Shana tova," happy new year, and taking the extra minute to hug and kiss, which we don't bother with the rest of the year. I like buying new clothes to wear to synagogue, and the sweet and sour meatballs Marc makes for lunch on the first day of the holiday. I love round raisin challah. I like planning for our annual sukkah open house, which comes a week later. I like that parts of the holidays have become routine, and "what we do." I like that it's a little break from the world in the middle of the chaotic start to the school year.

But that part right there? That's also the hardest part. Fitting in this extra layer of routine, even when we generally know what to expect, is really difficult. Planning for the days out of the office and school. Doing extra shopping and cleaning for holiday meals. Buying that special new clothing. The most challenging part, though, at least for me, is to get into the mental head space that these 10 days are meant to inspire. We are supposed to reflect on the past year, and ask forgiveness from anyone we might have hurt. We should be thinking about how we'll evolve and try to become a better person in the year ahead. We should be festive and celebratory, but also reflective. And that's really hard to do when you're rushing home from work, and your corneal ulcer still hasn't healed, and you're hungry because you're eating that fancy meal later than usual, and you have to  convince your six year old to tuck in his shirt and wear his tight new dress shoes.

And yet, it's worth it. Because of all those things above. Because I don't make time for much reflection the rest of the year, and so it doesn't hurt to make it a priority now. Because the work can wait. Because we don't hug and kiss our friends and family often enough. Because the shofar blast connects us back to our ancestors, to a long gone era. Because the quiet stillness experienced while listening to the shofar is like nothing else I experience all year.

Much of life is the same over the 10 days. But it's also a lot sweeter and richer during those days, too.

* By the way, that friend Sarah, who started all this? She just founded a firm called All in Stride Marketing. She's doing anything writing, editing, marketing, social media, e-newsletters and email marketing, and websites, etc., in Lexington, Kentucky. She has a strong background in the equine industry, but can help businesses outside of the horse industry as well. If you can use someone like Sarah, let me know and I'd be happy to connect you!

(See? You give me blog fodder, I try to pay it forward!)

(That's probably a good thing to do during the 10 days too. Or anytime, really.)