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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Random Max

I felt like a Max-specific update was in order because the kid is simply a riot these days. On the cusp of kindergarten and all the big kid-ness it should entail, except that it doesn't because then you go off to elementary school and realize you're the youngest all over again, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

Anyway, he is so five years old and all that comes with that. He makes me crazy by practicing the four questions for the Passover seder to the extreme, then refusing to do them when the time comes. He asks for help then refuses to let you help him (unless it's buckling his seat belt - then suddenly his very capable arms become very, very tired). He hates getting in the shower and hates getting out of the shower. He will still try to whine and cry to get his way, but it's only for a moment. He is the confounding mix of fearless and shy; he knows no physical limitations yet wants to disappear when another adult speaks to him.

I have a new theory on why grown men don't speak as much as grown women. If most men were anything like Max as a boy, they have simply used up all of their words by the time they make it to adulthood. There is so much screaming, shrieking, story-telling and dreaming to be shared at this age. There are fewer mispronunciations these days, but they include "panado" for potato. As exhausting as listening to him can be, I also never want it to stop.

He's reached another milestone for all parents of small children - the end of the nap bag. I've been waiting for this day for nearly four years, and the email came the other week when we were told he no longer needed to schlep his blanket, crib-sized sheet and pillow back and forth to school each week. Somehow, we made it through these years using all of the same items we started with, which of course I consider a personal accomplishment. Despite spending a large portion of each weekend doing laundry, that nap bag has always been a particular source of stress for me, and I am not the least bit sad to see it go. Marc was a bit shocked that I threw it away without remorse, but I knew that if I decided to keep it now, I'd never find the strength to let it go again. And while I know we will move on to lost elementary school library books next fall, another thing I found stressful on a weekly basis, it's good to know we're making progress.

One last Max-related note - the kids gives me compliments like no other. He loves to tell me I'm "pretty and beautiful" - even when I haven't bothered to do my hair or dress well. He's usually fishing for a compliment back, like when he was wearing his seder outfit above, but I will gladly provide one for him. And it's always nice to hear him say something other than a karate-related "HI-YA!" (See the video below) How I love that kid.

video

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Having It All Project: David Levy

Julie introduced me to David when we were all college students, only he was over at Harvard and had a much nicer dorm room. Our lives continued to intersect a bit over the years, and I was one of many who was unhappy to see him move away from Boston, but will also count myself among the many cheering him on his new endeavors. Here is how David is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am a newly transplanted New Yorker, just arrived in Brooklyn on February first after a lifetime spent in the greater Boston area (with a brief hiatus in Los Angeles for two years after college). I hit the ground running, with job and apartment in place, and I haven't looked back. Unlike most who move to a city they've never lived in before, I came with at least three distinct social circles waiting for me, so there's been very little anxiety about making friends. On the contrary, it's been a struggle to make sure I find time to see everyone I want to spend time with, and two months in there are still some very close friends I haven't connected with yet. 

Throughout my life, I've had a tendency to get very involved in volunteer activities, a trait I inherit from my mother. When I was in high school, a friend and I used to describe ourselves as "organizational cancer" - once we show up, we take over. I'm trying hard not to accumulate new volunteer responsibilities quite yet, but I do sit on the board of Keshet, a non-profit that works for LGBT inclusion in the Jewish community, where I also chair the development committee and sit on the executive committee. (See what I mean?) Since moving to NY, I've dipped my toes in the pool of the Jewish community, and one of the great things about being in a bigger city is knowing that there's less pressure for everyone who has any kind of ability to take on leadership, simply because the pool of potential leaders is bigger. That said, a couple co-conspirators and I have begun laying plans for a live show based on one of my blogs, Fuck Yeah Stephen Sondheim, and I've noticed that since moving I've begun posting more actively at Jewschool, a site where I was once an editor but took a step back about three years ago.

While it doesn't make me unique in any real sense of the word, I suppose being gay, male, and single makes me unique in the context of this series. I live alone (thankfully) in a one-bedroom apartment with my cat, Rhoda Morgenstern. I'm newly back on the dating scene, after a year of being in a relationship and then spending a few months pre-move actively avoiding romance (lest I get entangled with someone in the city I was leaving). That provides an extra level of excitement and stress and disappointment and mostly scheduling hell to add to the mix. Being out of practice only makes it more challenging.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
I would be totally lost without my Google Calendars. Plural. I keep my work commitments on one calendar, my personal commitments on another, layer in things like US and Jewish holidays on their own calendars, and thanks to the beauty of Google and Apple, can see it all on both my computer and my iPhone. It's not perfect, and I still occasionally double-book or miss appointments when something doesn't save correctly, but the ability to update all my calendars, instantly, from anywhere, has been life-changing. 

I'm also training myself to banish the Fear Of Missing Out ("FOMO") from my mind. There's so much going on, always, and I can't do it all. It's a struggle to recognize that I can't do everything I want to do -- a struggle that's only intensified since moving to the busiest city in the country -- so I've learned to prioritize my time based on factors like whether what I'm considering skipping is likely to be repeated, how recently I've seen the particular group of friends involved, what else is going on in my life, and how busy the rest of my week is. This is still a learning process for me. I doubt I will ever be great at scheduling in true downtime no matter how much I need recharge time with my cat. But they say recognizing a problem is the first step towards conquering it.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
The week of my move from Boston to NY, I came down with a stomach virus that may or may not have been the norovirus. (By the time I spoke to a doctor, she said we should treat it as such and not waste the time/money on the test.) That meant I missed half of my last week at work and had a big impediment in trying to pack up my belongings in time to load the UHaul to make the move. In typical David fashion, I had to move on the day I had set not because of a real estate closing or anything like that, but because I had matinee tickets for my first full day in New York and I didn't want to miss the show. Luckily, I am blessed with a tremendous group of friends who really are a chosen family for me, and they all came together to help with the packing and loading of the truck -- I even had a friend drive with me, and more meet me on the other end to help with the unpacking and Ikea shopping. Obviously, I would have had friends helping me out regardless of my health, but I was really touched by the way they rallied with additional energy when I most needed it.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I look at a lot of my working-parent friends and marvel at the way they keep it together, but it's hard to think of them as role models because our lives are so different. There's a lot of "grass is always greener" when we compare our lives, but outside of a (facetious?) vicarious lust at the prospect of being able to have sex with people other than their spouses, I don't get a lot of "boy, I wish I was still on the dating market at age 35" from my happily married friends. 

There's a myth in our culture that the happy bachelor can do it all, balancing a surging career with a swinging social life (often paired with an absurd amount of drinking), and maybe that's true of other people, but it's not for me. Just as parents often find themselves having less time to spend with childless friends once kids come along, I find myself having to calculate how much time to devote to dating vs. spending time with friends. Since dating plans tend to get made on a shorter time-frame than friends plans, I see my friends with the most flexible schedules (i.e. those without children or spouses) most frequently, because I can call them up after work when a date fell through and grab dinner with them instead.

I am terrible with hard and fast rules. I know some people reserve one particular day of the week for "me time" or "family time," or who have a strict limit on the number of hours they can give/activities they can be involved in, but that has never worked for me.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
I'm not sure I had any concept of 35 when I was 18. Certainly I would have expected to be settled into a long-term relationship, probably raising kids.  (When I was 18, the idea of gay marriage was only the punchline of jokes about Hawaii.) I probably would have guessed that I'd have moved to New York much sooner. I also never imagined I'd work full-time in the Jewish community. After spending my high school years as a hyper-involved leader in my Jewish youth group, I saw how much of themselves the professionals gave and didn't want to sacrifice my own personal life for the sake of a job. I'll leave it to others to decide if that's what happened in my twenties or not, but I think by this point in my life I've struck a good balance now between career, volunteerism, and personal life.

Relate to what David is saying? Leave him some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

General Busy-ness: March 2013

So we finished off February vacation week with Purim. Our synagogue always does a great kid-friendly shpiel, and then the following day Marc and the kids made their annual hamentashen. It was later in the evening and I was tired, but Hannah insisted on the usual photos being taken, so here they are.

The following weekend was Hannah's Kabbalat Siddur ceremony at religious school, where the third graders showed off their knowledge of all of the prayers and received their own prayer books with fancy embroidered covers. Hannah had practiced a lot for this big event, and she and her classmates did a fantastic job. It was a really special morning. Hannah also got to take a duct tape crafting class and had another concert performance with Kol Keff this month.

The following week we had yet another snow day, which delayed Max's kindergarten screening to the following week. He was so excited to finally go to Bowen for something all about him, and from all accounts had a great time. He also had his last sessions of his karate and music classes at the JCC, which I was lucky to be able to attend. In a couple of weeks will get to see the movie his class filmed on the story of Passover - he was very proud of his part as Aaron.

Marc and I got a couple of nights out too - we went to see Stereo Sinai perform as part of the Boston Jewish Music Festival and to attend a mystery dinner at synagogue.

Work continues to be all-consuming and exercise not happening as often as I'd like, but there have been so many unusual events on the Sunday and Tuesday mornings when I usually go to Zumba that I'm trying not to be upset about it and just go when I can.

And unbelievably, it's time for Passover. It's actually one of my favorite days of the year, when Marc basically spends the whole day cleaning.

So that's what's been going on here. How are you? Anyone feel like de-lurking and leaving a comment for once?

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Having It All Project: Sharon Gavini Reilly

I first met Sharon on Twitter where, well, I was drawn to her sarcastic sense of humor. But then I met her in real life and found out she's incredibly genuine too, and now I sometimes have to figure out which one she's being within the span of a 140 character message. Unless she's making me cry about Disney World, since she's done that too. Here's how Sharon is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.Unique, huh? I’m not really sure there’s anything unique about my life. I’m just a regular gal. I have three kids (6, 4, 2), and a loving husband. We live in a small house just outside of Boston. I run a blog and a small video production/social media business part time out of my dining room. My husband is an architect and works out of a studio in the backyard. My kids are all so close in age that for the past six years there has always been someone napping so we stay pretty close to home. We all spend A LOT of time together. I joke that it’s a good thing I not only love my husband, but actually like him too.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
Coping with chaos. Now you’re talking my language. Coping with chaos will look different for everyone.

My chaos consists of three children and a husband all home at the same time. We are big believers in the reset button in our house. It’s sort of like the Staples Easy Button. If things are getting crazy or have gotten waaaaay out of hand, we can just press the reset button. We leave the crazy behind, forget the hurtful words or deeds and press the reset button. 3, 2, 1 Reset. Everybody breathes and moves on. That’s not to say we don’t deal with what went on. We just don’t do it right then. We have dance class to get to after all.

Also my phone and calendar help a lot. Everything on my computer is on my phone. I set up alarms for everything.

 

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Well there hasn’t been one moment that stands out, unless I’m blocking it out. Which is quite possible. For me when it all breaks down it has to do with me, breaking down. If mama’s not having a good day, no one is having a good day. It’s discipline that gets out of control. I’m a yeller and I’m working on it. It usually happens when the days seem to just go on and on without a break. The days when someone doesn’t eat the chicken nugget that I made from scratch because I don’t want them eating that other nastiness, and they start yelling about it, then the baby starts crying. Then someone gets up from the table without being excused to get a glittery messy craft project. Adding to it I haven’t showered let alone gone to the bathroom by myself ALL DAY. I have no more wine. Then husband comes in looking for dinner and says “what’s wrong with you?” all frowny face like. OMG what’s wrong with me??

That’s when it breaks down. I just have to walk away and give myself some space. Do some deep breathing or yelling into a pillow. Whatever works. Then I let my husband take over and put the kids to bed.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books and blogs about simplicity and getting back to basics. This spring is going to be a real Spring Cleaning for us. I have the intention of getting rid of about half the stuff in our house. Nobody needs this much stuff. This also spills over to scheduling. We don’t do too many organized activities, yet. I try to keep the schlepping to a minimum.

My social networks both online and off provide a great source of support and guidance on just getting through the day, but also on having it all and having some balance in that effort.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
My boyfriend and I had just recently broken up so I’m pretty sure I never thought I’d make it to be 40-something. My life was filled with tears and door slamming. Wait a minute...

I think my 18 year old self thought life would look almost just like it is right now. She never in a million years would have guessed how it would feel and how much more difficult it would be than how it looks to 18 year old eyes. Also, I bet she thought we would be famous by now.


My life is pretty awesome. This having it all thing is pretty easy if I adjust my perspective. Nobody can have a picture perfect house, a dream job, well-behaved children, a loving relationship, and time for themselves all day, everyday. I pick the things that are important to me that day, that week, or that month. It shifts and moves all the time. These days it’s just having happy healthy children and husband. If I have that, I have it all.


Relate to what Sharon is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mine

Isn't it pretty?

So much changes when you become a parent, but the biggest adjustment I had to make was around shopping, or more specifically, the "today was awful and I need something to make me happy" kind of shopping. Crazy to think now, but online shopping wasn't the thing to do from 2000 - 2003, and working where I did in those days, I had amazing access to any and all types of shopping. My favorite thing to do was to walk over to Marshall's and peruse the aisles until I found something that would alleviate the stress of the day. And because I was still in the stage of life where I needed just about everything and had a comfortable level of disposable income, it was fun. If I spent $100 on a random Wednesday at 9 pm, I didn't think much of it.

But that all changed in 2004 when I had to leave work each day and pick up Hannah from daycare. And then I also had to pay that daycare bill. Suddenly, shopping became a lot less fun. It became something that needed to be analyzed and planned, this purchase then, maybe that next month, next year. I've gotten fairly good at telling myself no, until I finally feel real anger and upset over the situation. Then I'll find a way to steal away for a few hours, and pick up whatever it is I've been wanting, but still with a great deal of reason driving the process.

So when Marc framed 2012 as the year he gave himself permission to buy and do the things he felt he needed to do to succeed, I realized I need to do more of that too. And thus I introduce you to the lovely new addition to my life - a laptop to call my own. It's probably been a decade since I've had my own computer, and I've always hated having to sit at another desk at home after sitting at my desk at work all day. I still waited months and plotted about this major purchase - but I didn't tell myself I couldn't have it, didn't need it.

I'll probably never be at the point again where I'll shop frivolously. I've come to hate window shopping and just looking for the sake of looking. But I think I do need a little more balance about it, and to stop thinking of shopping as an all-or-nothing event. And tomorrow night is Wednesday, so...

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Having It All Project: Carol Allman-Morton

Just when you thought The Having It All Project might be getting a little too rabbi-focused, allow me to reintroduce you to my minister friend Carol, my longtime Brandeis roommate. For me, it's very special to read the answer to what she thought of herself at 18, since we've been friends since then. When Carol wrote me a letter after finding out we were roommates, she said "Sleep is for dead people, right?" Clearly not much has changed since then. Here's how Carol is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am a Unitarian Universalist minister working for a congregation half-time in Great Barrington, MA, and a full-time Associate Director coordinating Reunion at Amherst College. My husband Tadd is a United Church of Christ minister and serves a congregation full time. We have been married for almost ten years and live in Northampton, MA in a small apartment with three cats and two teenagers. I am thirty-four years old and the step-mother of two kids in college, Abbey and Sam, ages 17 and 19. They did not go to traditional high school, got their GEDs and entered community college early. Sam will be transferring to a 4-year school next year, and Abbey is planning to join the circus in a year or two, for real. They came to live with us full-time in 2009 and I was in charge of the homeschooling process for my step-daughter for two years.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
Each day in our house is different, but often the day of the week is the same. For example, Tadd has most Mondays off and I drive Abbey to circus classes on certain days of the week after work. However, as ministers, each week we have different meetings on different nights and have to work to find time together. It is impossible to do anything at the same time every day, but it is possible to find patterns in the chaos. My “weekend” is from 5 p.m. on Friday to noon on Saturday. I try to hold unstructured time for myself on Saturday morning, with no responsibilities, or I get really rebellious and cranky. We also have tried throughout our relationship to have at least one date night a week, even if that date is takeout on the couch with a movie. We check in about the weekly schedule on Sundays and plan for when we are going to see each other. Tadd and I try to exercise together at least 3 days a week for some couple time. We keep separate calendars and communicate about the schedule via email and text so we have the reminders in writing. I live by my Google calendar on my phone, Tadd is a paper guy. When something goes wrong and we need to deal with repair folks or car problems, Tadd is usually able to work from home and take care of it. He also does 99% of the cooking for the family. The system only works because his schedule can be so flexible.

Another factor in managing the chaos has been the educational model we used with our kids. We have trusted in the un-school model of raising our teenagers. We have let them be the guides of their educational interests and activities. They both attended a homeschooling resource center called North Star in Hadley, MA and have chosen very different paths from each other in many ways, but for the moment are both in college at the same school. This model has helped them to be more independent than the average teenager, and has made it possible for Tadd and me to work as much as we do.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
A couple of weeks ago, Tadd and the kids all had a stomach flu at the same time. I had to take Sam to the hospital because he is diabetic and needed fluids, so we were up late one night, and then then next the Tadd and Abbey were up sick the whole night. I was on bucket and cold compress duty. I wasn’t really able to sleep, but I meditated in the downtime and that made it possible for me to get through the next day. The next week, when I got the bug, Tadd took his day off to run getting me crackers and ginger ale. We are lucky that we have jobs that allow for sick and personal time and that maintaining spiritual practices are part of our jobs. That said, it is just as easy for us to fall out of the good habits for taking care of ourselves and our spiritual lives as for anyone. I work to carve out time to be attentive to my own spiritual needs and some months am better than others. Most of all I try to remember to hold life a little loosely and luckily everyone in our family is very funny, funnier than me, and that makes all the difference.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I was blessed with the opportunity to be in seminary with a group of amazing people, many of whom I am still connected to. I have tried to take the best advice and models from my colleagues, professors, and mentors and carve out a life in ministry that works for me. I am not able to engage in spiritual practices that require me to do the same thing every day, because no two days are the same, but I am able to hold on to practices that help me to do my work. For example, before I lead worship, and throughout the service, when we are in a time of meditation or silence, I have a mantra to keep myself from being nervous that I will say something wrong and to remind myself it is not about me: “not of me, but through me.” Someone taught me that once, and it has really stuck. Also, Tadd and I remind each other when things get bad that G_d can hold our anger. Sometimes it is okay to yell and cry in the car when no one is looking, or even when they are. I try to listen to what I preach for others (minister heal thyself) and take my own advice.

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

When I was 18 I imagined that I would be a social justice radical in my 20s and 30s. I am radical in my beliefs and committed in justice work, but I have not taken all the chances that I imagined I might. Being responsible for the welfare of elementary aged kids at 23 definitely shaped the trajectory of my young adulthood. I wouldn’t change it for the world, I love my kids and am grateful for the life I lead. I recognize that I am not going to be able to keep up this pace of life forever, and am doing the best I can to be attentive and aware through everything. I never want to wish away a day.


Relate to what Carol is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Luck or Leaning In?

It should be no surprise to long time readers here that I've been eagerly anticipating the release of Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” I'm thrilled to have written a piece for the book's launch over at MomsRising.org, and I plan to read the book as soon as possible. There has already been a lot of criticism and backlash, and I'm sure some of it is valid, but as I wrote at Moms Rising, it seems like the book was written for *me. * In Time Magazine, Judith Warner of "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" wrote of Sandberg, "She speaks their language: our all-too-universal language of self-doubt, of striving to please, of often feeling like an “imposter” when things go well, or feeling like a failure when everything can’t come together just right."

Did anyone else nearly fall off their chair nodding in agreement with all of that? The self-doubt when we hold ourselves back from applying to a job. The striving to please by ending every email with "Please let me know if I can do anything else to help." The feeling like an imposter when you sit in the meeting, but can't actually contribute to it. The feeling like a failure when the project deadline slips past. Yes, this is my language, and I do hope Sandberg speaks it well.

Here's the thing though: I've been working for 13 years now, and there are a few instances I can recall where it wasn't by "leaning in" that I got ahead, but instead it was sheer luck. Two weeks of pounding the pavement after my college graduation had yielded two job offers. Knowing next to nothing about Bain Capital, except that they had agreed to pay me $1,000 more than the other offer I had, I took the job and ended up spending the rest of my resulting career in this niche in finance. A couple of years later I got a lackluster raise - and decided to go to grad school on the company's dime and get my MBA. Those programs generally don't exist anymore. Shortly after I got pregnant with Hannah at only 25, I knew I wasn't ready to stop working. It honestly wasn't such a premeditated choice, that I'd be a working mom, but I just wasn't done yet. And then the opening in the department I'm in now came up just a few weeks after I'd had a miscarriage. If I was still pregnant then, I might have held myself back.

Sure, there was a lot of time spent laying the groundwork for success too. My mother always pushed me for better grades than I could get. I loaded up on Advanced Placement and Honors classes so I could graduate from college early. I've always worked hard at the jobs I had. But I can't discount the luck, the right place/right time, I've also been graced with along the way.

(So I wrote this post on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday evening, Sandberg appeared on 60 Minutes and said women need to stop pinning their success on luck, and admit that they have core skills. Apparently I do have a lot to learn!)

Thanks to Nanette Fondas and Moms Rising for having me in today's blog carnival. It's a true honor.


Friday, March 8, 2013

The Having It All Project: Rabbi Eleanor Steinman

Yes, it's time to profile another Rabbi - you do know I went to Brandeis, right? I think rabbi is the most common profession in my Facebook feed, followed by teachers I went to high school with. Anyway, Eleanor, who will forever be Ellie to me, became a dear friend when we took a class on the 1960's, spent too much time in the Hillel lounge, and made each other mix tapes. Here's how Ellie is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am a Reform Rabbi and I currently serve as Executive Director of California Faith for Equality, an organization that works to educate, mobilize and support California’s faith communities to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and support religious freedom. I have wanted to be a rabbi since I was fifteen or sixteen. Sometimes I still pinch myself that I am doing what I dreamed of doing long ago. My partner, Denise, is also a rabbi. She serves a congregation in West Hollywood. Living in a two-rabbi family can make for a particularly busy schedule though I don’t know that makes us any different than any other family.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
Chaos is ever-present. When things are at their worst, I find technology to be particularly useful. I have iOS devices and I love the reminders app, calendar in time for things that are not traditionally found in a calendar (at least they didn’t appear in mine). I write grocery and errand lists also because sometimes time is far too precious to forget the eggs at the grocery store. I am a firm believer in the importance of date night. Though it is not always formally scheduled on the calendar, when we know our schedules are going to be crazy (fortunately we can sometimes predict it) we are sure to calendar those date nights.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
The High Holy Days are always a busy time. This year, though I am working full-time in a not-for-profit and not at a congregation, I had every intention of being a “Jew in the pew.” Surprisingly, I got a last-minute call from a group in Honolulu, Hawaii, who wanted a rabbi to lead their Yom Kippur services days before the holy day. It involved a lot of juggling but somehow I made it to Hawaii for Yom Kippur, had sermons, music and liturgies prepared and managed to set my away message on my email at California Faith for Equality. I was in Hawaii for 48-hours or so, 26 of which were spent in prayer and reflection, and managed to dip my toes in the ocean once! It was a great adventure.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I can’t say that I have one role model. I feel like I learn a lot from lots of different people. That’s sort of how I live my life. I think everyone and every experience has something to teach though the lessons might be difficult to discern.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
I knew I wanted to be a rabbi so that is no surprise to me. I was nowhere near ready to come out to myself or anyone else, so that is something that I was not prepared to envision. I am proud of the person I am and am becoming every day, and am grateful to those people who have been and continue to be my friends, family and fans along the way!

Relate to what Eleanor is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Faking It On Facebook

 The picture I posted to Facebook this past weekend.

Over on the Jewish parenting website Kveller, a recent post titled We Need to Quit Telling Lies on Facebook has racked up an astonishing 93 thousand (no that is not a typo) Facebook likes. I've been reading Kveller for quite a while now, and you all know I'm a Mayim Bialik fan. I really appreciate the Jewish perspective on parenting, and I find many of the columns thought-provoking and challenging. But I am not among the 93 thousand who agreed with this piece.

The article details a regular day in the life of a mother and her two children, the version that gets Facebook'ed and, well, the version that does not. The good parts are presented for the Facebook universe to like, comment, and either adore or secretly abhor. The bad parts are kept off of Facebook, and in this case, saved for blog fodder. Over the years, I've done that more times than I can count, too.

Most of the time though, my worst moments get composed into a pithy status update, and then deleted, the cathartic act of typing and deleting being enough for me. Even though I have this online presence, and I think over the years I've become more honest about it all, I am still guarded and value my privacy and that of my family. So I don't put all of the bad moments - the messy food faces, the mega-tantrums in a restaurant, whatever - out in great volume. And I don't blame you for not doing it either. Anyone who has had a child, or known a child, had a job or not had a job, been soaked in a rainstorm or caught a bad cold, basically, anyone who has been a human, gets it. Life is not easy, and sometimes it helps to commiserate about it online. But most of the time, and I think for most people, we keep a lot of it to ourselves. But I don't think that means we're being fake.

Because when the going gets rough, we do post about it. We post about our parents or children being hospitalized, and prayers and good wishes are sent. We post about sleep issues and tantrums when we're at our wits end and need advice. We post about sore arms from shoveling snow and the meals prepared that no one liked. And then we post about the moments of "frolicking in a field of red poppies" because they are beautiful, glorious moments and may be the first time the family has had a successful outing in weeks. Or maybe the photo captures that fleeting moment in a less-than-successful outing before a child started whining that his feet hurt. But I know that on Monday morning I'll be missing my child again, and staring back at the frolicking photo and remembering the happiness of that one shining minute. The collection of commiserating likes I might get on more realistic (maybe negative) post won't be the thing I want to recall.

Nearly three years ago, I posted "It has been a very difficult day, much harder than I expected. Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers - please keep them up." The comments I received after my back surgery meant so much to me then, and they still do now. Facebook has helped to deepen my relationships, and I've learned more about the people who mean something to me. And even if all I've learned is that my friends tan well while on their tropical beach vacations, that's not being fake - it's 100% genuine emotion I'm feeling. Happiness for them, of course. May we all be able to share the good things in life with each other, so that when the bad things come around, we all still care.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Front Page News


It's a bit hard to tell from the above image, but this week, Hannah and I graced the front page of the Boston Globe. Here's a close up of the image:

And here's the portion of the article I was actually quoted in:

And here's the bostonglobe.com image:

The link to the full article and the related video, starring me.

Still here after all that? Because let's be honest, this could make for a longer lasting momento of my fleeting fame than the actual piece of paper will.

So during a rather boring episode of The Bachelor, the Globe reporter who wrote the article had sent out a tweet asking if any parents who work from home wanted to talk about it for an article. I sent back this post about my work at home Tuesdays and the following morning she reached out to interview me, in light of all of the Yahoo kerfuffle about employees no longer being permitted to work from home. A few hours later, the photographer came by to get some (fairly staged) pictures and video, and then boom, front page news the following day. It all happened so quickly, and I was nervous about how it would go, but I'm very happy with the turnout. Thankfully, my employer was very excited about the whole thing, actually sending it out to the whole firm to see.

Of course, I was hoping the article would say more than it did. I believe that for many employees, being in the office for some portion of their employment is critical. I'm only home that one day a week. For the majority of that time, I'm home alone. I usually end up putting in a longer day when I'm at home, since I don't have the commute to deal with. I thought the Yahoo memo, as circulated by the press, was a bit blunt. However, things at Yahoo might be very dire - and if they need all hands on deck to saving a sinking ship, better that no one works from home than all of them lose their jobs when the company shuts down. But hopefully managers and individual employees who truly depend on working from home were able to work something out, since I'm pretty sure no one other than the CEO is able to build a nursery at the office.

It's kind of funny how people think being in the newspaper is still really cool. The photo of my front page article garnered what may have been my most Facebook likes ever, and I'm not sure how I'll begin to top that. I don't even think everyone who clicked like agrees with the content of the article - just with the coolness factor of being in print. That's saying something, journalism majors of America. Don't give up on the reading public. Or, maybe just feature real people on the cover more often.

Thanks to all who reached out - I appreciate every one of your "you're famous!" and "can I get your autograph?" comments. It was a really fun experience, and I hope to have more opportunities like this in the future.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Having It All Project: Jessica Grimes


Jessica of Keeping Mommy Sane describes herself as a "Boston mom trying to balance family, work, fitness and fun." I knew I'd found a kindred spirit when I read her "day in the life" post...except for the part where she gets up at 4 am to go to the gym. ;) Here's how Jessica is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am the mom to a 6-year-old boy and 1.5-year-old girl who works full time in PR/media relations for a large hospital system in Rhode Island. This means I have a 25-30 minute work commute to Providence from our home along the 495 corridor, but my husband’s commute to Lexington is nearly twice that. I do of all the daycare drop-offs and pick-ups, see my son on the bus two mornings a week, and pick him up at his after school program, two afternoons each week. My day usually starts at 5am – the only time I can get to the gym squeeze in a workout, which usually means I am in bed by 9pm. However, I am incredibly fortunate that I am allowed to work from home on Fridays, which I call my sanity saver, and that my boss is a mom herself who “gets it” and understands that I may have to leave early to pick up a sick child from daycare or come in late because of a pediatrician appointment. I am so appreciative of her support.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
I am a firm believer that “it takes a village,” and am so thankful that I have incredible friends and neighbors in town who have helped out in a pinch with my kids when my husband’s been traveling or I’ve been delayed at work. I am one of those people who hates to ask for help, but working full-time with a child in full-day kindergarten, a little one in daycare and a husband who travels means I often don’t have a choice – particularly since I don’t have any family nearby who can lend a hand. Also, it’s so important to have a group of girlfriends who understand what you’re going through. I love my husband dearly, but I’d probably go crazy if I didn’t have other moms in a similar position who I can commiserate with, vent to and ask for advice.

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

My husband travels frequently for work, which means I then have to scramble to cover his AM or PM assignments, in addition to getting myself and the kids out the door each morning, looking presentable with lunches and snacks packed, sippy cups filled, etc. “Flying solo,” as I call it, is both mentally and physically exhausting. You have to be “on” all day at work, but since you’re the only parent at home, you have to be “on” all night until the kids are in bed. One day, when I was covering the AM bus with my son while my husband was out of town, we dropped my daughter off at daycare and then I jumped on the highway as if I was headed to work, instead of heading back home to wait for the bus! I made it one exit before I realized he was still in the backseat. I was horrified, although thankfully we made it to the bus stop in time. That experience showed me that I need to slow down, even if it means we’re going to be late, and mentally go through my “to do” list before moving on to the next item.

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

I’m still looking for a balance role model. Most of the women I know who are in similar positions also seem to find a hard time with the work-life balance, which is a little discouraging. But that’s why I think it’s so important to have other women you can go to, who understand what you’re going through, and can just offer support or an ear when you need to vent. My fellow mom colleagues at work are a tremendous resource to me. The one thing I try to avoid is checking my work email after 5pm. I’ve been vocal with my colleagues that once I walk out the door, I am in “mommy mode” and that’s my main focus. Anything else can wait until the morning, and if it was a true emergency (which, in my line of work, is often something I have to deal with) my boss and a few others know how to get a hold of me. I am very appreciative that my colleagues really do respect those boundaries. One week a month I am “on call,” which means I have to check messages, but besides that, when I’m home I’m just “mom.”
  
Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then? 
So different. I did get the journalism degree I wanted, but I thought I’d be a famous writer living in the “big city” … not a suburban mom who only works with the famous writers. But it’s okay – my family means the world to me and I wouldn’t trade my life (craziness and all) for a second.

Relate to what Jessica is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!