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Friday, August 4, 2017

BlogHer17


At close to the last minute, I decided to attend BlogHer17 in Orlando at the end of June. It frankly took a lot of justification to get me there. I wasn't excited about the location. I didn't know many people attending. The timing meant not being at home for my 15th wedding anniversary and the kids' last day of school.

And, let's face it, I'm barely blogging these days.

But after witnessing so many joyful posts from another blogging conference, and feeling a hefty dose of FOMO, Marc encouraged me to go. I needed a break, something just for me, and I wasn't likely to find that in any other avenue (side note: why don't I seem to have the kind of friends that go away for a "girls weekend"? Who are those people?). I'd make my own fun, somehow. And the hotel had a lazy river ride too.

As the conference drew closer, the two members of my tribe, my hook, could no longer attend. The big announcements from the conference organizers, that come at the last minute for amazing speakers and hosts and parties, weren't as big as they had been in past years. I definitely had the vibe that this might be the last BlogHer, and attending further confirmed that for me. There were lots of newbies, and maybe the conference will continue in some other form, but I don't think the BlogHer of yore will be back.

There were still some amazing speakers - the panel with Chelsea Clinton and Cecile Richards was so good, and I will never forget Margaret Cho's definition of a hate crime - but I had no interest in hearing from the many sports legends (sorry, Serena Williams) that were involved in several of the panels. I only made it to one breakout session, and one of the authors saw my tweeting about her book and sent me a copy afterward, but I heard other sessions, especially on SEO, were great. But after 10 years of blogging, I've still never bothered to look into that, and I doubt that I will now. There was too much of a push to go to Disney, which wasn't my point in being there, and too many vagina-centered sponsorships. Which, don't get me wrong, many attendees bonded over the humor inherent in that, but also left us questioning things many previously hadn't pondered. Even the annual highlight, Voices of the Year, left me less inspired than usual, and LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER'S open mic got a bit derailed. (Please, please, my friends who run these events, do not see this as criticism, I know how hard you worked to make these a success!!)

Despite all of this, I had a really great time with many conference attendees. It was hard to put myself out there, feeling like this was the last time I might see some of these people, and questioning the value of having more Internet-only friendships in my life. But in the end, I don't think I held myself back. Prior to the conference, Danielle introduced me to Stacy, and I enjoyed a lovely lunch with her and her wife. I walked the Expo floor with Ashley, and we had deep discussions together over dinner and in the pool. I got to watch Melisa and Momo race in the lazy river, and Tracey and Erin discussed politics and saw me develop a sunburn in the pool the next afternoon. I hugged Jen and Lea, and got to know Kate. I met Wendi and Anna and Aliza, all writers I've read for years. I got a bit of closure to the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER experience over lunch with Ann, Deb, Taya, Melisa, Tracey, Kristin and Jill.

I didn't quite get the name of the woman who shared the story of being propositioned for a threesome at the hotel bar, but maybe that's best for everyone involved. ;)

My biggest takeaway from the weekend, other than memories made with these wonderful women, is that if you are still reading someone's blog? Let them know. Leave a comment. Share a post. I still love reading blogs, and it means so much when we get a chance to actually connect with others through what we write. And if it is the last BlogHer, I'm glad I was there. But I hope I can still see all of these great people again some day.

Friday, June 9, 2017

I'm On My Way

I knew enough to know that I should have had a silk scarf to tie my hair back. But when you’re living out a moment you’ve only seen in movies, you don’t always have the proper accessories on hand.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ed Sheeran’s latest hit single “Castle on the Hill” has captivated me and brought me back to the summer of 1997, exactly twenty years ago. He sings,

“I’m on my way,
Driving at 19, down those
country lanes...

I still remember,
these old country lanes,
When we did not know the answers.
And I miss the way, you make, me feel,
It’s real.”

I was 19 myself all those years ago, and yet I don’t feel old enough for twenty years to have passed, to be thinking back fondly on these moments. I feel the same - just a little more tired. But I remember sitting in that car that drove too fast up and down the hills in the dark, the convertible roof down, the stars shining brightly when the street lights couldn’t compete.

I liked him more than he liked me, but that experience was typical for me at that point in my life. And it’s funny how he almost doesn’t exist in my memory of those moments. It’s more about the music, the same driving bass line that emitted from the club music he preferred.

I rarely wore my hair up - I still rarely wear my hair up - so when he called to take me out for a drive on a beautiful summer night, I left my hair down. Maybe it would matter to him, I thought then (it didn’t). I couldn’t contain my hair as it whipped around me while we drove, and eventually, I gave up and let it go. And in letting it go, I had one of those perfect moments, when you know you’re making a memory while it happens.

This past year of parenting has changed me. Watching Hannah become a bat mitzvah, alongside so many I’ve had the privilege to watch grow over the past years (or decade), I now see we are on the other side of something. Assuming a stereotypical path, Hannah has just five more years at home. They will be unlike any other five year period we’ve had with her. If this past year is any indication, they will be a period of less and less time together, of making time where we can, quality versus quantity. There will be challenging conversations, and times when I can’t do much more than listen. Her world is expanding so quickly. She is looking to me for more and more answers, and yet I don’t feel like I have many more than I did twenty years ago.

I don’t think it’s about having all the answers. Or maybe you find answers in experiencing those rare moments, the edge of danger and the comfort of safety, foot tapping, singing, hair whipping around you.

 

(I just watched the video for the first time when I went to add it here - I had no idea it showed them going around in a convertible too. :) )

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Stylogic Box Review #Spon

Some of my Stylogic goodies
Disclosure: I was invited to try Stylogic and given a discount on any clothing I purchased. All opinions are my own. And I don't know why my fonts are being inconsistent below.

Right around the time I was feeling frustrated by all of the cold shoulder, no shoulder, sleeves with slits, open back and the list goes on, lack of work-appropriate clothing out there this spring, Stylogic contacted me to see if I was interested in trying their subscription box service. I've been a bit wary of these services before, as most of them didn't accommodate plus size clothing options. But the tag line "Every Woman Deserves to Feel Beautiful ” in the email they sent me caught my attention, and so I did a little investigating. Not only do they carry larger sizes, but they customize the outfit based on when you plan to wear it (like to work or for a special event), and shipping is included both ways, so no laying out your own money when you want to return something. I was in. 

The difference between Stylogic and other companies is that Stylogic hopes to send you a complete outfit. This should eliminate the problem found in other subscription boxes of "I love it, but I don't know how to wear it." I filled out an online profile, most of which consisted of photos of outfits and how likely I was to wear them. This would give my stylist a direction to go in. She also contacted me about the sizes of clothing I'd selected, and let me explain that I prefer looser tops, but that I'd be swimming in the same size on the bottom. 

When my box arrived, I was happy to see that it was rugged enough to withstand the return trip, and that it included a plastic shipping bag large enough to put the box back inside, with that prepaid postage I mentioned. The items were definitely selected just for me, and packaged with care. I first took out a Calvin Klein white blouse which would have been perfect...except I already have a few similar items in my closet. Then came an embroidered navy shirt WITH SHOULDERS! Completely on trend but in a way I was comfortable wearing it. It was paired with seersucker pants, which actually fit me perfectly. A cute necklace and a fun pair of shoes completed the look. So I basically had two outfit options, depending on which shirt I might want to wear. 

In the end, I kept just the embroidered shirt, and sent the rest back.  While the pants fit well, I couldn't really see myself wearing them, but I noted the brand and size so I could try to see if other options are available the next time I'm looking for new pants. I didn't try on the shoes, as they were a little out there for me, but it was fun just to consider them for a while.

The Stylogic site and the sets that are created come a in wide variety of options, and you can set how often you'd like to have a new box sent to you. I might consider them again when fall is coming around and I hit that wall of hating everything I have to wear. I think pretty much everyone hits that moment at some point in time, so perhaps you'll consider giving Stylogic a try then too!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May We All Be So Lucky

Singapore during the last night of my trip

During the months of March and April, I traveled for work to Akron/Cleveland, Milwaukee, New York City, Chicago, Hong Kong and Singapore. I also had two day trips in April, to Hartford for Passover, and back to NYC to see the Broadway show "Waitress" with Hannah. That last experience and my time in Asia will forever be connected for me.

I'd seen "Waitress" in 2015 with Marc, when it was in previews before going on to Broadway, and I loved it then. It's even better now. It's a shame that it came out the same year as "Hamilton," because I think it would have gotten more attention otherwise. Musician Sara Bareilles wrote the show, and she appeared in the lead role for a short period of time, so I knew it was time to take Hannah and get there before that ended. The crowd was electric - I don't think they expected to enjoy it as much as they did. The show is sweet and funny and heart-breaking and life-affirming all at once.

The day we traveled to NYC, I was exhausted. In between each of those trips mentioned above, I'd been working like crazy. Evening and early morning conference calls, working at night and on the weekend, thoughts of work bleeding in to my every waking and many non-waking hours. I wasn't even trying to achieve work-life balance. Work had totally taken over. But I was okay. The kids and Marc were managing. It was just a really intense period.

The dam broke during one of the more saccharine numbers of the show. The three female leads sing a song called "A Soft Place to Land," a song about dreams.

"Dreams come and they go
But hold them and keep them
And know that you need them
When your breaking point's all that you have
A dream is a soft place to land
May we all be so lucky"
The moment was so extraordinarily beautiful that I sat in the dark of the mezzanine and I cried. Not heaving sobs, but a steady flow of silent tears.

I think I've lost sight of some things lately. I haven't spent any time dreaming.

Four days later I boarded the plane to Hong Kong. I'd never been anywhere in Asia before, and I was beyond nervous. I worried about being so far away from my family, and for so long. Imposter syndrome was making it hard to hear my own thoughts. I over-prepared, thinking over many worst-case scenarios, both for the presentations I was doing and the logistics of the trip. I spent a lot of that 16 hour flight reviewing my notes, discounting the 18 years of experience I brought along with me.

In the end, I managed just fine. I brought my A-game to every presentation, which in Hong Kong meant crashing into bed as soon as I got back to my hotel room due to the 12 hour time difference, and in Singapore meant a 13 hour work day I got through on adrenaline. I took care of myself, preferring sleep to tourism. I ate the granola bars I'd brought along when I couldn't face eating lunch at their normal time. I took pictures, which is always one of my favorite things to do. I tried to stay in the moment, rather than floating above my head, feeling like it was someone else in the suit at the podium down below.

It wasn't easy, but it was a huge accomplishment. It felt something like living a dream I'd never bothered to dream before.

The trip gave me a sense of confidence that I think I've been working toward over the last several years. I don't know how it's all going to work out, but I know that I did my best, and I learned a lot while doing it. I made it through to the other side of a really intense time, and on the other side, I regained some of the insight I'd lost along the way. I need to make time to dream.

May we all be so lucky.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

RENT, 20 Years Later

This week I had the privilege of visiting with an old friend. It's the 20th anniversary of the musical RENT, and I took Hannah and a few of her theater-loving friends to see the production, directed by their former drama teacher, at the high school they will eventually attend. I'll be taking Hannah to see the touring production here in Boston later in April.

I don't spend much time with RENT anymore, but in 1996-1997, it was a near-daily presence in the life of me and my freshman year roommate, Carol. I still have every lyric memorized. Carol surprised me with tickets to the show in April 1997. We spent so much time analyzing the intricacies of the plot, assigning roles to each of the characters among our group of friends. My role changed with my mood. I wanted to document everything like Mark. I wondered what my legacy might be, like Roger. I wanted a deep love like Collins had. I envied Maureen's confidence.

In 1997, I'd never paid my own rent, I'd only visited New York City briefly, and AIDS wasn't something I'd encountered personally, but I so strongly identified with this group of artists, forging their own paths into adulthood, seeking "connection in an isolated age." My friends were everything to me at that point in my life, and I miss that so much now. I knew back then that I'd never eat a meal alone unless I wanted to, that I always had a place to go, that every day had the potential to evolve into something special. And it often did. I used to back-date events in my planner, reflecting how things ended up rather than how they had been planned.

That period in my life was so short, given that I met Marc as I was finishing my last semester at school, and we were married by the time I was 24, and I was a mom at 26. My life took a path more towards Benny's character than anyone other. But "the need to express, to communicate," has still been an important part of my life.

I watched Hannah and her friends, some of them on the edge of their seats, as the drama unfolded before them, totally engrossed. I was in it too, but when the words complete themselves in your head faster than the cast can actually say them, it's hard to stay true to the moment. Until one small scene near the end caught me in a way it never has before. Throughout the show, the parents of the main characters call and leave messages for them on (gasp!) their answering machines. Usually a bit of comic relief, this scene shows four of the parents trying to reach their children, all of them asking where their children are. And I suddenly felt 20 years older. I'm closer to that point of being the parent, wondering where my child is, than I am to starting a riot in an abandoned lot. Well, maybe I never really was the kind of person to start a riot, but the 19 year old me used to think it was a possibility.

One of the things about great art is that you can find something new every time you come back to it. The characters of RENT may be forever young, but time has marched on for me. I still remember so vividly how it felt to be that person that I was back then, but I am glad there is so much left for me to explore. After all, there is no day but today.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

10 Years of Blogging

On March 16, 2007, I launched The Life of LilMisBusy, which later became Busy Since Birth, with these words:
While I have a lot in my life for which to be very thankful, it hasn't come that easily. I think having this space to chronicle some of these experiences will be cathartic for me. I can't promise that posts will actually revolve around a theme, or that they'll fit neatly into labels. But I hope that if you chose to read along, that at least you'll find it worthy of your time.
I don't think I imagined that it would all still be true ten years later, but it is.

It was apparently an auspicious moment for me to start a blog, as so much has remained the same over that decade. Same spouse, same house, same company, one more kid (who I became pregnant with the month after I started blogging, so basically the entire time). And yet, so much is different. My husband has had more different jobs and aspirations and interests. My house is now so much more comfortable since we renovated last year. My job is infinitely more complex than it was back then, with regular travel now required. And those kids have left behind diapers and toys for guitars and rehearsal carpools.

I wonder how much I've changed as a person too. I have a few more grey hairs than I did then. Maybe a little more wisdom. Hopefully I'm a better writer. But fundamentally, I don't think I've changed much.

I don't write nearly as often I'd like to anymore, but I'm still happy to have this space for when I can. I think I have more important things to say, so I keep coming back here, and sometimes to other places as well (see my latest post at the Human Writers blog). My most exciting success was when I had a blog post in The New York Times, and I'm so proud of the work I did with Listen To Your Mother, which grew out of my blog work. I've had a ball at conferences, and made some good blogging friends too. I definitely didn't see that happening with my anonymous, hard to find, initial blog post. I'm really glad that it did, and I hope this space leads me to more adventures.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hannah's Bat Mitzvah - Part 2

Quintessential Bat Mitzvah Photo
I didn't think I'd be coming back with the follow up to my first post so soon, but our amazing photographer, Amy Emily, already sent us all of our AMAZING photos. Did I just use amazing twice in the same sentence? Yep, and I'll do it again. AMAZING. I really struggled with which photos to share here, because I love something in all 500+ of them. She captured so many of the details of the day and so many small moments of the party that honestly, it's been hard for me to do anything but look at the photos over and over again in the few days that I've had them.

We worked with a few different vendors for the party, and everything came together so well that I'm sharing them with you here. Consider it my personal recommendation. And nope, nothing was sponsored, so don't worry about all of those blogging concerns.

We worked with my friend (and Having It All Project person!) Rachel G Events to help get some creative ideas and make the party flow seamlessly. Neil Morris and A Perfect Taste helped us serve a wonderful meal that made the party even more fun. Nate, Kenny and the crew from Siagel Productions kept us on our feet all night long. Ed Shems of Ed Fred Ned created Hannah's gorgeous invitation and the logo we used all night long and on her favors as well. Every one of them was a consummate professional, and I'd love to work with them all again!

And now, what you've really been waiting for, the photos! Yay!

Max holding Hannah's invitation
Reading Torah together
A rare photo of me and Marc together!
Dabbing. Because of course.
How cute are we?
Party attire. Note Hannah and Max's Converse.
Hannah and Max with their grandparents and cousins
Aunt Rachel
Uncle Ryan, Sara and Aunt Allison
A portion of the room
Centerpieces made by me and Hannah
Part of the Arts & Crafts table
Colored pencils and coloring pages for our youngest guests
Grandma Fillis and Grandpa John
Grandma Susan and Grandpa Hal
Hora time! (Hannah's hair in this one. OMG.)
My niece getting down! Boogie, Sara!
Me and Julie
Hannah singing one of her camp Zimriyah songs
Make Your Own S'mores for dessert
Water bottle and fan/flashlight favors with the Camp Hannah logo
Thanks to all of the friends and family who made it such a wonderful day. Here's one last shot of me and my girl. Can you believe it - outside photos in January in Boston? How lucky were we?

The luckiest.