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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Wearing My Identity Again

Since receiving my first necklace adorned with a Star of David in fifth grade, I’d worn Jewish-themed jewelry in some form or another fairly consistently. I’d begged my parents for that first necklace for months, with every weekend trip to the local mall. The triangles were crafted from the letters for the word “love,” which I thought was the perfect expression for my love of Judaism. Wearing it each day strengthened my Jewish identity. My friends at camp and youth group wore Jewish jewelry too, and comparing styles (mezuzahs, chais, Hebrew names and hamsas were all common) became almost as ubiquitous as our rounds of Jewish geography (“wait, you know Isaac from the Midwest region too?”).

Over the years, my collection expanded with bat mitzvah and Hanukkah gifts, cool finds at local craft fairs, and a trip to Israel while in high school. I had rings and earrings, and could find a way to weave Jewish jewelry into practically every day. I kept it going all through college and my first full-time job too. At that point, it felt like something to latch on to as I entered the “real world” and left behind the Jewish bubbles I had maintained for so long. By then, my most treasured piece was a hamsa with a bit of turquoise that my boyfriend gave to me shortly after we’d begun dating.

Then one night a few months before that boyfriend became my husband, our apartment was broken into, and all of my jewelry was stolen. We didn’t have much worth stealing then, and most of the jewelry I had wasn’t particularly valuable, but the sentimental value was priceless. My fiance and I scoured pawn shop logs, but the police thought the thief likely threw all of it away upon closer inspection. That idea simply broke my heart.

Friends and family knew how sad I was, and over time, replacement jewelry was purchased with the best of intentions, but I didn’t wear it much. It didn’t hold the same meaning for me, while new pieces in my life did. My engagement and wedding rings, in particular, were precious, and later, a circle pendant that my husband gifted me upon finishing my MBA. I wore it when my son was born, and as he got older, he often looped his fingers through the pendant. I’ve worn that necklace almost every day for the past decade.

The break in was many years ago, and things have changed. Unfortunately, we now live in a more politically charged environment, and wearing a visible sign of my identity feels important again. It took awhile for me to find something that expressed my Judaism but felt like it fit with the 40 year old me, but I finally settled on a delicate bracelet with a Star of David in the center. I thought it might feel awkward wearing it at first, but I noticed how quickly I got accustomed to it. The bracelet felt like it was always supposed to be there. I think that it probably was.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

It's Been a While

Visiting Zurich
Hi friends.

I haven't written anything since the kids' birthday letters back in January - so long that my new laptop had never even been to before. The last school year was a blur of constant activity, and most of the stories I wanted to share didn't feel like they were only mine, so I stopped writing. I know I feel better when I make time for it though, so hopefully I'll make more of an effort this coming year.

This summer was actually fairly quiet for me. Both kids were at camp - Hannah for seven weeks, Max for three and a half - and then Marc and Max took a really big road trip (Max vlogged all about it on his YouTube channel). I only had one work trip, to Zurich and Amsterdam, which was very exciting but ultimately still a work trip. The kids and I took a quick trip to Cleveland to visit my parents. I read a fair amount, binge watched all of Friday Night Lights, and spent some quality time with our new puppy, Shira. Overall, it was good to have some rest, and I feel ready for fall and a return to routine.

Hannah's about to start high school, Max is finishing up elementary school, Marc's in his second year of cantorial school, and I'm...still the same me? Still evangelizing about bank loans, still trying to convince myself to exercise, still Broadway-obsessed (seeing Jagged Little Pill, the new Alanis Morissette-based show, twice this summer was a highlight), still drinking Diet Coke (though not after 3 pm if I want to sleep!). Still trying to have it all.

I've struggled with writing here because I'm not sure if anyone bothers to read blogs anymore. I mean, I read them all the time, but it's not the same anymore. I miss my blogging pals and opportunities to see them and read about their lives, and I miss sharing my own life with you. I hope there is still space out there to make this effort worthwhile. But it's hard to start again after such a long break, so maybe now that I've written this, I can somehow start again.

And photos of all three of my kids now, just because I can. Yes, I'm one of those annoying dog moms now too.

How are you?

Hannah at camp
Max at camp
Shira and one of her favorite toys

Friday, January 5, 2018


Today, Hannah Ruth, you are turning fourteen.

This post is harder to write, knowing how many of your friends now read my blog, but you still wanted it written. I appreciate that you know we both get something out of this exercise. After all, you're grown up enough to see this from my point of view, which is crazy enough on its own. Grown up in so many ways, and yet so far still to go, and high school looming.

So, thirteen. I will never stop saying it: your bat mitzvah was one of the best days of my life, and I think it was for you too. Our day in New York City seeing "Waitress" with Sara Bareilles, eating cheesecake at Junior's and somewhat-enjoying a Starbuck's "Unicorn Frappuccino" is hopefully going to become an annual tradition (without the gross drink - iced coffee instead). You were Ginger in "Zombie Prom" and a conspirator in "The Tragicomedy of Julia Casear," and loved singing with the Troubadours, HaZaPrep and at Junior Districts. You won a poetry slam at school, and went to your first protest. Camp is life, and you live 10 for 2, but still manage to cram so much into the 10.

You have moved on from Converse to Adidas, and wear string bracelets until they break. Your eyeliner game is strong. You are telling me in March that you would go on to win Zimriyah in July, as if there were any question (and you did). You are mostly straight A's but accelerated math sometimes kicks both of our butts. You are too many friends to count, but your Bowen #squad remains true, even with one of you now in Spain. You are always there for your brother, and he is always there for you.

My wish for you as you grow another year older is that you believe in the worth of your own voice. Not just its capacity to hit certain notes with true clarity, but that you believe your words and opinions are always worth being heard, no matter who the audience may be. Speak, sing, chant, belt, cheer, scream, and when needed, wail. And know that I always want to listen. I love you so much, Hanniebelle. Happy 14.

(You can also see letters for ages seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve and thirteen.)

Monday, January 1, 2018


Today, Max Benjamin, you are turning ten.

Ten feels completely and utterly ridiculous and totally appropriate at the same time. You are not the little boy that Facebook's "On This Day" feature slays me with on a regular basis, with memories of your adorable *and* not-so adorable behavior from years ago. But 10? Dude, that sounds just so very old for my little buddy to be.

Nine was the year where you and I finally seemed to figure each other out, and where the sarcastic edge to your humor got a chance to blossom. You chanted Ashrei at Hannah's bat mitzvah beautifully, and started both guitar and flute lessons. We saw "Wicked" and watched the witch fly during "Defying Gravity," and you were a zebra and a hyena in "The Lion King" this summer. You received your siddur, loved camp, participated in a magician's act and won over 500 tickets in a claw machine.  You love singing, with a solo at Zimriyah, Guys in Ties, and especially anything by Imagine Dragons while doing Karaoke during school choir. I really hope you write that song you'll sing your whole life long #thegreatestshowman.

You're so proud of the fact that you've watched all of "Stranger Things" and it wasn't even that scary. Your biggest goal right now is to become a gaming YouTuber, and you watch several of your favorite channels every day (look for Max's channel in 2018!). You love to discuss Minecraft and Roblox and Harry Potter in excruciating detail - honestly, you love to discuss EVERYTHING in excruciating detail. Your hugs are still epic and you've developed a reputation for them. You have more friends than ever, but your sister is still one of your best ones.

And now you're 10. You're ready for it, and so am I. I can't wait to see you fly as John in "Peter Pan," and I hope you know that however high you want to fly, I'll always be here to help you soar. I'm so glad you're you. Happy birthday, buddy. I love you.

(You can also see letters for ages three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine.)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wrapping Up 2017 and "Celebrate"

Friends, it's been a long year. We all know this. But I'd entered 2017 optimistically, choosing my word of the year as "celebrate." I knew I had many big, noteworthy occasions coming up for the year, and I did well celebrating some of them. But my real goal was to celebrate some of the smaller moments in life, and I often forgot about that. I've spent a lot of this year stressed, overwhelmed and tired. I definitely lost sight of my aspirations. More to improve upon in 2018, I suppose.

But the good moments were very, very good, and so that's how I'm choosing to end the year here.

I still can't believe Hannah's bat mitzvah was as truly amazing as it was.

Max had a lovely ceremony to receive his prayer book at temple.

My team won an award at work, and I traveled to Asia, treating myself to a fancy celebratory dinner there.

We saw the eclipse from a boat...

And Marc and the kids went back to school.

I turned 40 and we celebrated 15 years together.

We made time to hang out, have a little fun, and remember to be fearless.

I haven't found a word for 2018 yet, but hope that inspiration will strike. In the end though, it wouldn't be such a bad year if I just continue to make time to hang out, have a little fun, and be fearless.

Wishing you all the best in 2018.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Finally Forty

Today is my fortieth birthday, and as a blogger with 10 years of history to look back on, I actually remember writing the post I wrote on my thirtieth birthday, and many others since then. My 32nd birthday seems to have been my first documented case of always feeling like the youngest person in the room, something I still struggle with now (see the title of this post for more evidence of that!). My 34th birthday had me writing about some new health challenges, after I'd already been struggling with other health issues. Both 36 and 38 caught me referencing my few strands of grey hair. But I hadn't gone back to that 30th post until recently, because I knew I had some wishes that I'd wanted to fulfill back then, and I couldn't remember what they actually were.

Back then I wrote:
This will be decade, G-d willing, in which my second child is born, and when the BusyBee will go to kindergarten. Hopefully, we'll be able to do further renovations on our home to create our version of a dream house. There will be weddings and bar mitzvahs to attend, and I hope to finally see Europe. There won't likely be any more formal education, so I'm interested to see how I'll keep learning.
Well, it's turned out a lot like I did imagine it to be. Max is almost 10, and BusyBee, known to all of you now as Hannah, is in eighth grade. We finished renovating the house two years ago and haven't grown tired of our new space at all. There were lots of weddings and Hannah's bat mitzvah, and trips to Paris, Israel, Disney World and a totally unanticipated in any way work trip to Hong Kong and Singapore. And while the formal learning has indeed stopped for me, I never imagined blogging conferences, The Having It All Project, producing two shows and having a blog post published by The New York Times. I couldn't have seen 10 years ago that "writer" would become such a part of my identity, even if it's a too often neglected part of who I am these days. And I definitely couldn't have predicted being with the same company for 12 years now, in a role like the one I have - I didn't really know roles like mine existed then.

It's much harder to see what life might look like for me a decade from now. It's likely that both kids will be out of the house by then, but so much will have to have happened to make that possible. I'd still like to travel more, and I hope my health remains close to as good as it is today. And if we're asking for things, I'd really like my Jetsons flying car that turns into a brief case in the next decade, please.

But mostly, I feel really lucky to have lived the 40 years I've had so far. There isn't much that I'd change if I could, and I think that's a good way to feel at this point.

Monday, September 4, 2017

August and Everything After
This week begins a new phase of my life, yet almost nothing has changed for me. Marc is going back to graduate school, full-time, to work towards becoming a cantor. He will still have some part-time paying work on the side, but basically, I am now the sole breadwinner for our family, for the next three years. I guess you could say I'm bringing home the Kosher turkey bacon.

I have to admit that during the time leading up to this change, I've felt scared and stressed. That has dissipated some over the past few weeks, as schedules have gotten clearer, and as Marc has already begun working in the Jewish community. But I feel the weight of so much responsibility on my shoulders, and my need for stability and security is feeling tested. I'm a little too good at "worst case scenario" thinking, often at 2 am when I should be sleeping, and this change opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for me to ponder.

I try to remind myself that I was good at all of that worrying before Marc quit his job too. I know there are firings and lay offs and health issues and natural disasters that can upend life in a much more devastating way than choosing to go back to graduate school in a careful, calculated way. Remembering that doesn't stop my worrying (like I said, I'm good at this!), but it does contain it a bit.

I lost a lot of time this summer to these worries. This countdown clock was constantly in my ears. The weeks passed by until Marc stopped working and then in a blink started a new life. August, and everything after (yes, a Counting Crows reference).

I know that things will be okay, because they always are. I know that some day I will blink and all of the scariness of this period will be behind me. I don't want to spend the next three years worrying. Now that I've finally written about it, maybe it will help me to move on, or at least forward. On to the everything after.