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Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Pictures

These types of posts exist simply to make me happy. Here's a month by month favorites from 2012. Happy New Year - may 2013 be filled with lots of love, health and happiness for you all!


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Official Launch of The Having It All Project

One of those moments when I had it all in 2012

It started as a small germ of an idea just days before the Springboard Conference; this need to do something more with this space. I mean, I know you all love my ramblings and ideas on having it all, and I love dissecting the issues of the day. But it's always bothered me to read all of these pieces that don't actually address how we're getting it done. Policy is all fine and good, but until the big changes are enacted, what are people doing in their every day lives to have it all, in the right here and now?

The Having It All Project hopes to address just that. Every Friday in 2013 (hopefully), I'll be posting an interview with someone who should have an interesting perspective on how they are personally having it all. Here's are the questions each person will answer:

1) Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.

2) What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?

3) Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.


4) Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?


5) Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?


Wanna get involved? Email me at havingitallproject@gmail.com and I'll schedule a date for you.

Looking forward to sharing many insights with you in the coming year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Work At Home Tuesdays

In February 2011, I started to work from home every Tuesday. Here in Newton, MA, the elementary schools end their day on Tuesdays at 12:30 pm, and looking ahead to when Hannah would be attending religious school at 4 pm on those days, I started my work from home journey in anticipation of needing to fill that childcare gap. LinkedIn is doing a series of articles on "Big Idea 2013" highlighting the concepts we need to address in the coming year, and flexibility without shame is one of them.

(Go ahead, go click on that link. And click on the one in the article about "how even just 15 minutes a day of “hair and make-up” time adds up to more than one workweek a year. !!!" Yes, "!!!" is an appropriate response when you do the math on that and get to 60+ hours. But I digress.)

Obviously, working from home doesn't work for everyone. We can't bring our broken sinks to the plumber's house. But for a lot of jobs now, working from home is a completely feasible way to work - if the powers that be can learn to accept it.

When I started at my current company, my back office job would have been very challenging to do from home, especially since I needed physical signatures on documentation every day. But when I moved to the portfolio management side, I knew that things would be more flexible. However, when I asked if it would be acceptable for me to work from home on, for example, days when three year old Hannah might have a doctor's appointment, I was told that I should still come in to the office. That was in 2007. The technology was already in place, but the attitudes weren't there yet.

But then I had the issues with my back, where I couldn't sit or stand without extreme pain, and I couldn't get through a day at the office (believe me, I stupidly tried and did work from the floor of my cubicle). I managed to work from home throughout that ordeal, other than the surgery day itself, and proved that I was capable of doing so much remotely. So when I asked about working from home one day each week nearly a year later, it was instantly approved. It turned out others were doing the same thing - just no one was talking about it (at least not to me).

So for one day a week, I skip the commute. I get to take Max to school. Hannah used to have in-home piano lessons during that gap of time. Sometimes she and I go out to lunch and just talk. I move laundry through the machines. I'm home for the electrician to install the beautiful new light we just put in this week. And I WORK. I make phone calls, review RFPs, update slides and get back to clients. But the time I spend doing other things that help make my life work is probably less than the time some of my coworkers might spend discussing their latest fantasy football picks. And, I think it's made it easier for some of my male coworkers to work from home on occasion too.

Working from home one day a week works for me. In return for the flexibility, my company gets a level of dedication from me that they wouldn't get if I was constantly replacing babysitters to accommodate that afternoon childcare gap, or taking time off to meet the electrician. I hope it's a concept more companies will be able to embrace, and without seeing it negatively, in the year ahead.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Honoring the Teachers

"Busyville" - the town Hannah created for a school project

As we all still reel from the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, last week, fellow blogger Outlaw Mama shared her post "I've Always Had Angels Looking Out For Me" about the teachers who took an interest in her throughout her life. I loved the idea of paying homage to those women and men who helped shape the person I've become. Below I share some of my experiences and thank not only those teachers, but acknowledge all of the family and friends who continue to shape and inspire children every day.

For the teachers who:
  • Let me show off my new Cabbage Patch Kid dolls.
  • Pretended that she and I had special mind-reading skills.
  • Put on the play I wrote in third grade.
  • Let me join the choir when I moved in mid-year.
  • Taught me organizational skills along with science.
  • Were purposefully hard on me, because they knew I had more to offer.
  • Organized the trip to Boston that changed my life.
  • Allowed my friends and me hang out in your classroom during your lunch hour.
  • Appreciated my point of view more than the fact that I completed the assignment.
  • Permitted the class discussion to go off topic on the days we needed it.
THANK YOU. Thank you for showing up each day, for taking the task seriously, for treating each student as an individual, for taking care of children in ways that their parents cannot.

What did a teacher do for you?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

General Busy-ness: December 2012 Edition

H&X Hanukkah scooters
I've been wanting to post all week, since I've really been trying to write at least once a week, but writing responsibilities at work just left me completely drained each day. Plus I had the annual task of writing my self evaluation hanging over my head, which due to those other writing assignments, didn't get started until Friday afternoon.

The Friday afternoon of Newtown, CT.

I wrote through my tears as I listened to live streaming coverage, not watching, just listening. I'm not going to be able to add anything more eloquent than others have said elsewhere, but I am absolutely heartbroken for all involved.

It did make me realize, however, that I didn't need to justify the post I wanted to write. While I've been trying to be more eloquent, sticking to a topic, keeping my Having It All Project progressing, I also don't want to lose the roots of what got me writing in the first place. So welcome to the inaugural edition of "General Busy-ness" - basically, what we've been up to for the last month or so. Here goes.

Just before Thanksgiving, Marc accepted a new job and will be starting tomorrow! After nearly six years with the same company, this is a big change for him, and for me too. I'm going to be working an earlier schedule and picking up both kids after school, which I have to admit makes me nervous. More to come on that as it unfolds.

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving in Cleveland with my parents, Ryan and Allison. My mom prepared a lovely meal for Thanksgiving day. Ryan brought his Xbox Kinect with him from California and kept all of us entertained with a variety of games all weekend. We got to see the newly expanded Cleveland Museum of Art, the botanical garden (thanks to Monina for the suggestion) and the Natural History Museum, but the highlight was celebrating my parent's upcoming 40th wedding anniversary at Moxie. It was a really special night for all of us, and I'm so glad we got to spend the time together.

Just a few days after we got home, Marc went on a five day business trip, his longest trip away from home yet. I'm still not quite sure how I got through the time without him, especially as I developed a problem with one of my eyes just hours after he left. Unfortunately, my cornea sustained a very painful "peripheral infiltration" that forced me into my glasses and on antibiotics for just over a week. There's still a teeny tiny white spot on my pupil, which only I and my doctor am able to see, but I'm making a bigger effort to wear my glasses now and give my eyes a rest. Thus, after five and a half years, I finally bought a new pair of glasses too.

The kids, of course, aren't slowing down for a moment. Hannah got to perform for the first time with the Kol Keff children's choir at our synagogue, both at a local nursing home and in front of the congregation at our annual Hanukkah party. She also performed as an alien during her after care's performance of a play created by her "opera club," which was one of the most creative and fun things I've seen her do yet. Max entertained us all at a session of his T-ball class at the JCC. I had thought toddler ballet classes were the height of cute, but seeing these kids try to hit the ball from the T and running the bases was beyond adorable. Max is also keeping us busy with his constant counting and singing - Hanukkah has been an excellent holiday for exercising those skills!

Hanukkah in general was low key but lovely. We ate latkes and sang songs. Hannah is quite a serious dreidel player now. Max and I had a great time at the JCC party, where while doing a craft he carefully applied the letter stickers to "Happy Hanukkah" completely backwards (did Disney know it spells "hakunnah" that way?). We went to our annual Wright Family Hanukkah party in Hartford yesterday, and it was great to see so much of Marc's family. The kids were thrilled with all of their gifts this year, including the scooters you see above.

So yes, it's a lot of cheeriness above, but hopefully you know that there is a lot of gratitude too. I want to have this living archive of who the four of us are, and while these types of posts might not garner a lot of comments, they're really important to me. I hope you'll keep reading along, and be inspired to share the wonderful (and not so wonderful) parts of your life with me, too.

member of the blogging community lost her nephew, Noah, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Donations to help his parents and older siblings can be made here. More information can be found here. I hope you'll consider helping.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Online Resources for Having It All

As I continue to grow and expand my having it all focus, I wanted to share some of the resources I've found for others thinking about these issues too.
First off is the site Hello Ladies. I was recently interviewed by the woman who runs the site, Liz, for her upcoming book on working women and housework, and it raised so many questions for me about my own life and how I'm managing things. Liz's posts range from serious discussions, casting light on topics many would rather avoid, to fun gift guides for the working woman in your life. Liz is looking to conduct more interviews for her book still, so please contact her if you'd like to get involved. Hopefully she and I will get to meet in person at some point too!

Since Anne-Marie Slaughter lit up the internet with her article Why Women Still Can't Have It All, The Atlantic has become one of my go-to sites (and favorite Twitter feeds) for a lot of great content. They recently launched a new section called The Sexes where they intend to expand upon the conversation that started in earnest with Slaughter's piece. I really enjoyed this article on a new film and the author's conclusion that "sports, despite hundreds of films and thousands of beer commercials, just has nothing to do with being a man."

Finally, there's Liberating Working Moms.Written by a group of working moms of many different stripes, the site conquers the day-to-day aspects that I talk about here too: finding time to work out, what to wear, the emotional side of it all. I'm envious of the woman in this post who got to take a week off between the end of one job and start of another - that is something I definitely fantasize about.

What about you? What are some of your favorite sites? Please share in the comments below!

This post is something I've written as part of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, Day 7. I'm really enjoying thinking about my blog in all these new ways!

image credit: HelloLadies.com

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mars, Venus and Guilt

Max's preschool planet diorama 

I recently had a conversation with a friend where I mentioned the guilt factor. Yes, for me it's an ever-present feeling of incompetence that I'm not able to be in more places at the same time. I hinted it a bit on Halloween, that incompleteness. I wanted to be at both the school party that morning and able to Trick-or-Treat that night, but I knew I had to chose one because I had to work. I know I should feel fortunate that I work at a job where I could go at all, but I still felt sad. But my friend said it would never have crossed his mind to feel bad at all, much less guilty, that he couldn't be in both places. 

In his mind, he's made his choices, and when he made those choices, that's it, they were done. For him, he decided to work. He knew that if he worked, of course there would be things along the way that got missed, but it wouldn't be a new injury each time. He said it was a Mars-Venus thing, that as children, boys are more indoctrinated in the idea that your choices have consequences. Where girls are told they can have it all, boys are taught to make sacrifices and not look back.

Perhaps it's a bit of a generational thing, as I'm not sure many of my peers look at the dynamic as a Mars-Venus thing anymore. I know plenty of men who feel guilt over not being able to do it all as parents. 

Or do I? Is this a more common reaction for women than men? Am I the only one who struggles with each new conflict? Let me know in the comments below.

(And hey, when's the last time you shared a post from Busy Since Birth? I'd love it if you shared this with your friends!)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Top 5 Tips for Surviving a Solo Parenting Weekend

Marc is away on a business trip and I am trying to hold down the fort as best I can on my own for a while. This in and of itself isn't incredibly interesting, but I'm participating in "31 Days to Build a Better Blog" with someone of my fellow Boston Parent Bloggers, and today's assignment is to write a list post. (Yesterday's was to work on your elevator pitch - anyone catch the new tagline on their way to this post?) I have to admit I am a fan of the list post...within limits. Not too long, definitely no slideshows, and preferably the extended list format that I'm about to employ below. So here goes. And yes, I'm pretty much making this up as I go along.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Surviving a Solo Parenting Weekend.

1) Get some alone time before it even happens. For me, that was a trip to Target on Friday night. Alone. Yes, I know how to live it up! But seriously, a shopping trip was exactly what I needed, as I was able to get all those random odds and ends that were rattling around my brain into my cart. Which brings me to my next point.

2) Tape. Lots of tape. Or whatever your child's favorite non-messy crafting supply might be. I bought Max six new rolls of tape from the dollar bins and the kid is as happy as can be. Max can keep busy designing any number of things with his tape, from a "cast" on the paw of his Pillow Pet to giant pirate ships from multiple sheets of paper. Tape is fairly non-destructive and cheap, so you really can't wrong.

3) Eat what YOU like. Last night we hit the Mexican restaurant that's a bit of a pain to get to, and since Mexican isn't one of Marc's favorites, we went and ate chips and salsa til our taste buds burned. Tonight, I put out a bowl of uncooked carrots, and the kids tried to crunch as loud as they could, but it made them laugh and they ate a lot more than usual. This is the chance to do something outside the norm and relax.

4) Be a little more lax on bedtime. Those extra minutes mean so much to my kids and don't cost me much. Now I'm not saying throw out your whole schedule, but 10 minutes sounds like an awful lot to a nearly five year old. Who (ahem) also slept in my bed last night. It was a special treat, and he knows he goes back to his room tonight, but the extra bit of good will made him miss Daddy a little bit less. But tonight?

5) Put clean sheets on your bed. Really. I know it's one of those chores you might be tempted to skip when there's so much extra to do on your plate, but getting into a bed with clean sheets is one of the best sensations ever. So when you're finally done putting the kids to bed and all of the other chores are accomplished, you get to experience that moment of bliss of getting a nice clean bed - all to yourself.

So there are my tips. What would you add?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Just Wanted To Blow Dry My Hair (A Post on Expectations)

The other morning I got up early for the 6 am Zumba class I've been attending. When I got home an hour later, I hopped in the shower and then went back to my room to start getting dressed. Marc was there, fully dressed and ready for the day, searching online for a Hanukkah present we needed to buy. He wanted my input on the present, as we'd only vaguely discussed it. I wanted to blow dry my hair.

Now if you know my husband, or just have an impression of him from reading this blog, you have probably guessed that he's a really great guy. And I wanted to be happy that he was taking the initiative to order the gift, something that otherwise would have been left to me (and I already had it on a list of things to do). So this post is in no way meant to hurt him.

Instead, I'm diving into what I expected of him during this brief time period that I was going to be getting dressed. I expected that he'd be downstairs with the kids he'd already made sure were dressed, feeding them breakfast. I expected he'd be packing Max's lunch and Hannah's snack. I expected that he would appreciate my extra cute outfit for that day since I was working from home, but hadn't yet done the laundry from our vacation and my jeans were dirty. I expected that my usual blow-dried hair would be part of that outfit.

But since he was looking around for that present, again, something I recognize also needed to be done, none of the other things that had to be done before the school bus arrived were being done. So I quickly got dressed and threw my wet hair up in a claw clip, and then quickly progressed through the rest of the morning routine. Everything was done pretty close to on time, including printing out some pictures from our trip that the kids had requested at the last minute, but I couldn't get over the fact that my hair was wet.

I know I'm a complete stressball in the mornings. In my mind, you don't do extras, like looking for Hanukkah gifts, until the mandatory tasks are complete. If I'm being really honest, I don't want to do any extras at all - if there's spare time, I want to sit quietly and think about the day ahead. But there really never is much extra time, especially once you ask Max to put his shoes on at least 74 times.

I was annoyed that my hair was wet all day. But I just expected Marc to read my mind and that's not remotely fair. The gift did get ordered, I got everything else done. I haven't died due to the cold I should have gotten walking around with a wet head. But I'm upset with myself for not speaking up about what I wanted.

Ten years ago, when Marc and I met with the rabbi who was to marry us, he told us that the secret to a successful marriage was managing expectations. I guess I'm still working on managing mine.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thank You

I'm typing this out quickly from my mother's house as it rattles and shakes to the sound of Star Wars video games being played below. The smells wafting upstairs from the kitchen are already incredible. I know how lucky I am to be with my family, with everyone in good health and good spirits, and I am ridiculously grateful for all of it.

I am also very grateful for this space. I love being able to share my life here, to process how things are happening and commemorate these small moments in time. I appreciate your comments and feedback, your shares and tweets and likes. I'd love it if some of you lurkers took a moment to comment and let me know who you are today. It's just my corner of the Internet, but it means a lot to me.

Thanks for being here. I hope you're all basking in warmth and good spirits in some capacity today. And for my few international readers (Chile? Really?) thanks for joining in the fun. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Perfect Storm

Yesterday was a cluster of competing priorities.

On Tuesday, Hannah brought home a note that said her art was going to be on display at the Education Center and there was a reception the following day. I had my eye exam scheduled for the same day and knew I couldn't really leave early, so Marc agreed he'd take her.

I assumed he'd take Max too, since he normally picks up Max each day. But at the end of the day Marc texted me asking if I could get Max, that he'd also been out for an appointment and couldn't get Max and get her to the art show. So I ran out the door like a bat out of hell, thankfully the train cooperated even if the traffic did not, and I got there by 5:45.

I was so angry about the whole thing, and every little complication along the way. Angry that the school system, which had obviously coordinated a big event for weeks in advance, only gave us a day's notice. Angry that I missed the call from my boss, who is traveling in Australia, three minutes after I left. Angry that Marc's day had gotten more complicated too, so he couldn't follow through on getting Max first. Angry at myself for not automatically rescheduling my eye exam (though we all know how critical it is that I get one, and I got *another* reminder phone call from my doctor's office about it yesterday morning!). Angry that my commute, while actually smoother than usual, was so long to begin with. Angry at our narrow driveway and that it took me four tries to navigate past the window-unit air conditioner and not wreck the house or car. Angry at all the traffic from Winchester St. onto Nahanton St. and the woman in the fancy SUV inching alongside of my car in the one lane portion of Nahanton St. before she could turn down Wells Ave. (shout out for the JCC crowd reading that part). Angry that I'd needed to use the bathroom for over 90 minutes before I had the chance to do so. Angry at Max's less-than-enthusiastic greeting and the fact that his car seat was in the trunk when I went to put him in the car. And finally, angry that I came home to emails cancelling something I really wanted to do.

So it was a perfect storm of moments, all designed to induce stress, anxiety and sadness. All of which I only want to numb with carbohydrates, TV that makes me cry (I recommend "Parenthood"), dark rooms and sleep. All of which I granted myself.

Today is a new day, a chance to do it better and try to have a little more control. But that's the thing I'm still struggling to learn: control is just an illusion. I can plan and execute everything to the best of my abilities, and there will always be that last minute interruption, the meeting that runs late, the traffic and weather corroborating to ruin the moment. So somehow, I need to find a way to roll with it more easily.

What do you do to get through moments like these?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Better Conversations

I've never had a particularly hard time making friends. Not that I've been super popular or anything, but I'm an outgoing, social person by nature, and friendship is important to me. For a few years while Hannah and Max were younger, friendship was still important to me, but the demands of juggling family and work meant there wasn't a lot of time left for movies and long, leisurely dinners. Thankfully, that's changing, and I'm making time to spend with friends about once a week.

This past weekend, one of my four roommates from junior year of college was in town, and she rounded us up to get together (though we missed Julie). In the picture above I'm sitting between Carol and Michael, and opposite me are Julia and Michael's husband Justin. We were roommates from 1998-1999, though I'd lived with Carol for the prior two years as well, along with Julie. Carol and Michael grew up together in Wakefield, MA, so I met him on the first day of college too (and Michael met Justin during that junior year as well). Julia joined our group not too long after when Carol met her in second semester Chemistry, I believe. There are so many stories that come to mind just typing these few sentences. We've been lucky to see each other through the years at weddings and now keep up with each other through social media.

But Sunday's dinner was different. Once we all settled in, there was a moment of awkward silence as we all studied our menus. It had been more than two years since the four roommates had last had dinner together, and I'll admit that I panicked a bit in that quiet moment. But that's all it was - one tiny moment - as we spent the rest of the night talking at a frenetic pace, catching each other up on so many details of our lives, discussing politics (gotta love it when everyone agrees with each other), and finally, dissecting disappointment.

There's a new song by Train called "Bruises" (video below), and the lyric "these bruises make for better conversations" has been rolling around in my head since I first heard it. And that's the point my friends and I got to as the night started to wind down. We talked about how much harder life has been than we anticipated back when we lived together in our fake apartment. That despite all of our education and career success, and trust me we are an accomplished bunch, that we still didn't foresee the things that we all have faced and struggled through. We were young and naive.

But the connections we made at that long ago point in our lives are still very real. And while we may not get together as often as we should, it was good to see that our conversations over our cheap attempts at meals in 1998 were no different than our conversations over fancy French fare in 2012. Well, other than the food being better.

I'm lucky to have them in my life still, and happy to make even more time to nurture these friendships in the years to come.
Carol, me, Michael, Julia and Julie in our "Grad" campus apartment, Fall 1998
 The table of friends at Marc's and my wedding, June 2002

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Doubt

Just before lunch on Friday, my bosses pulled my colleagues and me into a conference room for an impromptu meeting. This doesn't happen often, so my anxiety ticked up as we walked down the hall. Moments later, I definitely lost my appetite for lunch, after finding out that I need to take a licensing exam.

Both of my bosses have taken this test, and immediately began describing it as a non-event. However, they described Hurricane Sandy in similar terms just a couple days ago, and clearly most people would disagree with that assessment. But after a bit of investigation, I see that it doesn't look too bad. Multiple choice, just 120 questions over a couple of hours. One site said a fully prepared test-taker would have completed 70 hours of study.

Cue "needle scratching on a record player" sound effect. How in the world am I going to find 70 hours?

Life has always been busy. Long time readers here know I can juggle things with the best of them. My best friend from high school sent me a birthday card with Super Woman on the cover. So if I've survived so much before, why does a new test send me into a tailspin of doubt?

Maybe it's that the subject matter is only tangentially related to what I actually do, and therefore not something I really enjoy? Maybe it's that we're heading into the holidays, with travel and extra commitments? Maybe it's that I have fallen a bit behind on my commitment to exercise, at best making it twice a week lately? Maybe it's that work has been crazy busy as it is, and I'm not sure when I'll find time there to study either? Or maybe it's that it's been five years since I last took a test, and I really hoped I was done with that portion of my life.

Whatever it is, I need to get over it. I know that I will. But I wish my first thought wasn't "I can't do this."

What about you? What things send you into a tailspin of doubt?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

I have to admit - I'm feeling like more of a Halloween failure this year than in past years. I blame Pinterest. And all my crafty, DIY blog friends. The store-bought valley girl and Captain Hook costumes do rock, and the kids loved them, but this year I've felt like I should have done more. But, the pumpkins got carved, the kids are happily ripping into their candy now, and we're waiting for the handful of kids who bother shlepping down our street to come by.




You can see Halloween 2004 to 2010 here. I still love that post so much. And for the sake of completeness on the blog, here are some shots from 2011 that didn't get posted at the time.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Boo. Florida Fun and #Fails

(Title Edited on July 5, 2013. I keep getting a ton of spam hits on this post and am trying to break the original link. Thus, Boo.)

I went to visit my best friend Julie in Naples, Florida, this past weekend ALL BY MYSELF. Yes, that deserves full caps lock, because I have never gone anywhere on my own just for fun, with no big event or reason to go, since becoming a parent. When Julie moved there last year, I promised I'd come visit, but finding a weekend that worked was difficult and I kept putting it off. But when I won a free round trip ticket from JetBlue at an event this summer, I finally had the impetus to get myself there.

I've talked a lot about Julie on the here over the years, but I still think it's amazing that the very first person I met in college ended up becoming one of my best friends. Our dorm rooms were across the hall from each other freshman year, and neither of our roommates had arrived yet when we met each other. It's been a privilege to share these last 16 years with her, and we still have plenty to talk about (even if we spend inordinate amounts of time discussing TV shows).

So a weekend with no agenda, other than to celebrate my birthday, was a real treat. The first order of business was pedicures, and then lunch and a swim in the development where Julie and her husband Mike live. Note the coconuts growing in the palm tree!


That evening we drove to a complex called Tin City, where we were going to take a sunset cruise out to the Gulf of Mexico. We had some time to kill and decided to get a drink and share an appetizer. The place we went was having a happy hour, a "2-for-1" as they explained it. We tried to clarify a bit and were told that everything on the menu except for one drink was just that, 2-for-1. So we each ordered a drink and an appetizer, and as you can see, we were pretty happy about it.

And then the bill came, and we were charged full price for everything. Because 2-for-1 meant we could have each had a second of everything for free. We didn't have time for more drinks or food, so that ended up being a disappointing happy hour #fail. Maybe we should have had more happy hour experience under our belts before trying that one.

But the sunset cruise was fabulous. The guides on the boat were super informative and entertaining, and we both really enjoyed learning more about the history of the area and its (really, really wealthy) inhabitants. Here are some of my amazing photos from the boat.





As the sun set and we made our way back to the dock, we saw amazing lightening strikes in the clouds, and I'd never seen anything like it before. It didn't actually rain, but it was fascinating to watch. Almost as fascinating as it was to see Julie eat kale as part of Mike's excellent Shabbat dinner later that night. :) (But it was really good kale!)

Our plan for Saturday was to go to the beach. I was particularly looking forward to it, as somehow I hadn't gone to the beach all summer. Despite reports of red tide, we were assured that levels were low, and the parking garage attendant (yes, the beach had a parking garage!) joyfully waved us in. As soon as we got out of the car, there was a smell, but we didn't identify it right away. As it turned out, there was a huge festival on the beach, and tons of people that we had to walk through before finding a spot to put our stuff down. When we finally made our way to the water, we were confronted with lots and lots of dead fish. Seriously, a lot. If you look at the photo below (click on it to enlarge it), there are white things bobbing in the waves - more dead fish. We didn't even stick our toes in, but lots of other people were out there attempting to surf and enjoy the beach. We stuck it out for an hour before heading back to the pool, as it was too hot to sit there and not be able to go in the water. So, beach #fail, but redeemed with our picnic at the pool and great people-watching.

Later that afternoon we went to the fanciest movie theater ever, Silverspot Cinema. There is assigned seating and premium food, including my custom made pretzel, which required a pager and a ten minute wait (it tasted like every other pretzel I've ever had :) ). We saw "Argo," which was really, really well done and suspenseful.

And this is the point where I seem to have tired of my camera, as I didn't take any more pictures. Mike joined us to celebrate my birthday with dinner at USS Nemo (where there was a hummus #fail, as #fail had become the running joke of the weekend at that point). All in all, it was a great ending to 34 and a fun-filled start to 35.

I really enjoyed my time away from home, though I missed Marc and the kids a lot. It was weird to be traveling without them, but I loved having the time to zip through the entire first season of "Homeland" in just a few days. And I got to come back home to this.
Thanks Julie and Mike for having me!