Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Photos

A look back at my favorite pictures from each month of 2014. Enjoy!

Turning 10 and 6

Do you wanna build a snowman?
Before a fabulous bat mitzvah

The sign for Listen To Your Mother
John's 65th birthday party
Off to camp!

The Cheesecake Not Cheesesteak Tribe at BlogHer
Who left these two in charge?

Marc's 40th birthday
Apple picking with Maya

Thanksgiving snow ball fight
Pre-professional photos with Nate, Evie and Steven
Looking forward to lots more memories made in 2015!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014: Making an Impact While Treading Water

With just a few days left in 2014, it's time to see how well I did with my 2014 word of the year, Impact. As with 2013's word, "more," I didn't think it would be that difficult for me to have an impact for the year, but I wanted to put more consideration into my actions, and hopefully to spend the year having a stronger effect than I've had in the past.

So how did I do? Well, um, meh. I just did meh. Fine, nothing bad, just nothing that truly spectacular by my account.

2013 was going to be really hard to beat. I finally got promoted to the role I'd wanted for years, the kids were both in the same school and doing really well there, we went to Israel and I had the Having It All Project and got published by The New York Times. Super duper banner year.

2014 has felt a lot like treading water. My job was fine, but it didn't have the growth that I'd expected to unfold in a dynamic yet organic way. The kids are in their second (and final, ever) year at the same school, so there were no major transitions for either of them. We didn't go on any big trips or major adventures. LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER was fabulous, and I really loved my piece, but it left me wanting even more. Health-wise I've taken some steps, but the exercise piece just hasn't happened for me. I had a column published in The Jewish Advocate, and two syndicated pieces on BlogHer. With two months of posting here every day, I'll have met my goal of posting more each year, which is really big considering I had 50 "Having It All Project" posts last year. But taken on the whole, with a big word like "impact?"


I've already received next year's word engraved on a stone, and it will sit alongside "impact" on my nightstand. I'll be sharing my word with you soon. I feel as if I'm lowering my expectations for 2015 though. I think maybe I had my sights set too high this year. Or maybe it's time to be considering the next big thing.

What about you? Was 2014 all you thought it might be?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

General Busy-ness: December 2014

Hannah congratulating Max on his "Star of the Day" award
I haven't done one of these catch up posts in a while, so here's what we've been up to lately that hasn't merited a post of its own. Or, I haven't had time to write a zillion little posts. Funny how I'm great at making time during NaBloPoMo and then I completely give it up as soon as I can. I partly blame December.

The kids went to the dentist early in December, which isn't usually a big deal, but they both have things I've been monitoring. Max lost the four middle top teeth over the summer, but only two of them have grown back in so far. We saw the dentist this summer, and he said to wait it out, which we did, but practically every time Max smiled, I wondered about those missing teeth. We did an x-ray this time and confirmed that yes, the teeth do exist, but they are taking their sweet time settling in. More waiting, but at least we know the teeth are real. Meanwhile, Hannah needs an orthodontist consult. Her teeth are actually in pretty good shape, so it might be minor, but that's on my to do list to figure out in 2015.

December 4th was a very unusual day for me, as I spent most of it at the Massachusetts Conference for Women, where Hillary Clinton keynoted, and then went to see Bravo TV's Andy Cohen at a book reading that night. I really enjoy going to the conference and spending time thinking about ideas beyond the scope of my immediate work, but also get caught up in some of my more nuanced opinions (like that I hate the "do what you love" trope or the "I couldn't do it without my husband" public praise). I got to meet the author of "Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink," who inspired this post. I was as impressed with HIllary Clinton as I expected to be, and I enjoyed catching up with a few blogging friends. Andy Cohen was fabulous and funny, an I hope to read his book over the next few months.

Hillary Clinton and 10,000 women
Andy Cohen and me
In addition to Hannah's play, Max passed another swim level, Hannah performed in an impressive event with the New England Philharmonic Orchestra at Boston University, we attended two holiday parties with our neighbors, went to lovely Hanukkah parties at temple and with Max's best friends at school, resumed our annual Hanukkah celebration with Julie, Mike and now the lovely Maya, I got my hair straightened, we somehow purchased all of our holiday presents mainly on time and successfully, I'm planning an evening on social media with Nanette, LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Boston is slowly progressing, a paper I wrote at work has been cited in new federal regulations, I improved my blood sugar over the last three months, we've started working with an architect on renovating our house, and I planned Max's upcoming birthday party and Marc planned a trip to NYC for Hannah's birthday to see a show.

The last night of Hanukkah
And now I'm on vacation until January 5. We'll be home for most of the time, and I'm excited for my sister-in-law and her family to be visiting with us, especially to meet my new nephew! It's great to have a break after all of this busy-ness, and I'm looking forward to reading (I'm half way through Amy Poehler's "Yes Please") and cleaning out my DVR (so much "Scandal" to watch!). December is always super packed with activities, but it's nice ending with some quiet too.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

We Noticed You, Hannah

After months of build up and excitement, Hannah's fifth grade play, "Seussical," finally happened this past week. As you might recall, she handled her audition experience like a very mature 10 year old, and, somehow, I was able to figure out a costume that met all of her specifications and expectations. I volunteered to handle the ticket assignments, and attended and photographed two of the rehearsals. By the day of the show, I was more than impressed with all of the fifth graders and their teachers, I was blown away by what they had managed to put together. And I was so, so proud of Hannah.

She played the role of Gertrude McFuzz for the first half of the show (most roles are shared), a bird with a one-feathered tail, who has an unrequited love for her next-door neighbor, Horton the Elephant. Gertrude takes some pills to enlarge her tail, and sings a song trying to get Horton to notice her, but he never does. Then when Horton is in danger, Gertrude's tail is too big for her to be able to fly to his rescue. The play ends with Horton finally noticing Gertrude and she offers to help him raise his elephant-bird...which is another story altogether.

Hannah did a fantastic job in the role, projecting her voice and with great comedic timing. She told me she wished she could do this at least once a week. She seemed at home on the stage, and even when some things went wrong along the way, she learned that she needs to recover and function as part of the team.

I hope she continues to find opportunities like these, and that she keeps being the bright star she already is. Here's a clip of one of her solo performances from the show. Horton may not have noticed Gertrude, but the audience definitely noticed Hannah.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Controlling Time as a Marker of Success

A while ago, I rearranged my day to arrive at work early for an overseas conference call, only to find it had been canceled just minutes before. This is my least favorite of outcomes. My time is the most valuable resource I have, and I wasn't using it efficiently in that moment. I had a list of other places I could have been, and a dropped call was the last thing I wanted.

What I did want was control. The lesson of how to cope when I don't have control is one I'm constantly relearning. Probably half of the posts on this blog are about me controlling the situation or dealing with not having control. 

I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women a couple weeks ago, and in one of the sessions I attended, having control over your time was considered as a marker of success. The opposite of success was exactly what I felt when that call got dropped. I felt insignificant, that my time wasn't valuable. And yet, that dropped call likely had absolutely nothing to do with me--who knows what could have been happening so many time zones away?--but I let it ruin a big chunk of my day.

Yesterday, I got up at 5:30 in the morning, dressed and drove to work, arriving just after 7 am. I dealt with "overflowing inbox after two days of vacation" syndrome, had a different conference call, and ended my work day at 3 pm with an in person meeting where I was thanked for helping to provide a secure retirement for 250,000 plan beneficiaries. I got home in time for a meeting on a house project, and then attended our synagogue Hanukkah party with my family. It was a long day, and I fell asleep by 9:30, but I owned every minute of it. And like that panelist said, I felt really successful.

There is so much more that goes into that successful feeling than controlling my time though. It's children who are now old enough to manage a lot of their own daily needs. It's a reliable spouse who even took on another task I'd had scheduled for myself that day. It's a working car and the disposable income to pay for parking once in a while. It's company management that doesn't require face time from 3-5 pm so that I can work from 7-9 am instead. 

Having control over my time is fabulous, but when that gets derailed, whether through a canceled phone call or an emergency school pick up, it shouldn't make me feel less successful. After all, I felt really successful when I navigated Max through a split lip earlier this month too.

Perhaps it isn't only about having control of one's time, but instead that one's time is being valued. Maybe success is better defined as getting to use your hours in a way that you deem worthy, whatever that looks like for you. We're all in different places in life, struggling with different circumstances. What looks like time well spent for one might be unfathomable for another. But I hope that in this busy time of year, you're all getting to spend some time in the ways you find most valuable, and can feel successful along the way.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Girl She Used To Be

I've lost big chunks of this past week to Hannah's fifth grade play. I've been organizing the ticket distribution, plus I attended a rehearsal, and I helped her figure out another portion of her costume and her make up. It was the make up, though, that made me cry.

We did a trial run on Thursday night, and, well, she hated it. I've never put make up on another person before, and my skills were less than perfect. I'm terrible at eye make up--I never wear it myself. We bought brighter colors than one would normally wear, which will work well on stage, but were kind of scary looking in our living room. She'd never worn make up like this before, and it was overwhelming.

I thought she was beautiful.

This year of fifth grade, the last one spent in elementary school, has been going so, so fast. I can't believe the play is almost over, this giant thing she's been looking forward to participating in for so many years. I know there will be more plays, more amazing things ahead, but this is the one that she (and I) have looked towards for the longest time, and there will never be another like that.

I remember the first make up kit she was given, on one of our visits to Cleveland. It was junky kids make up, but after so many mornings sitting on the edge of my bed, handing me various tubes and compacts during my five minute make up routine, she was so excited to have something of her own. She loved that the blush brush was as soft as mine. She took such care in applying all of it.

Three year old Hannah, March 2007
I reapplied her make up on Friday morning, before the dress rehearsal. I had to get to work early, and was already sad to be missing the dress rehearsal. I'll be there for all the other performances, and I know I'm not missing much, but the missing feels more acute now. I already feel the window closing on her childhood, and I'm missing my little girl. Nearly 11 year old Hannah is truly fabulous, and I wouldn't want to go back to her being three and miss out on anything that's happening now. But as I walked to the train that morning, I flashed back to that little girl, who used to sit at her Little Mermaid vanity and dream of wearing make up. Yes, she's mostly wearing it for the stage now, but wow, that all happened so fast.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

When Bloggers Attack, and What We Can Learn

This is a post I've really been wrestling with, but I want to be able to talk about things like these. Identifying details have been removed, because it's not about the individual people or the circumstances, but what we can try to learn from each other.

The other night I found myself wide awake at 3 am, and so I did what any reasonable person wide awake at 3 am would do: I looked at Facebook.

Okay, yea, that's probably the worst idea ever. Don't do that at 3 am. Be better than I am.

I rubbed the bleariness from my eyes and saw the top story in my news feed, an article I'd seen shared by a number of my friends earlier in the day. This time though, it said three of my friends had commented on the post, and there were 40 comments on it at the time. "Oh no," I thought to myself. I knew that this thread was going to be very different from the others I'd read earlier.

The subject of the thread was a magazine article, about a writer and mother I know, on a complicated and difficult topic. This wasn't the first time I'd read details of this story, as I've been following this woman's blog for years. Meeting her at BlogHer13 was like meeting a celebrity for me, since I'd long ago fallen in love with the way she puts words together. We are Facebook friends, and while I don't know her incredibly well, I think very highly of her.

I like this friend. I believe she is a good mom, a good person who was trying to do her best in a situation that I can't begin to comprehend. I was grateful to read her story, to gain some insight into that which is beyond me.

The thread I read at 3 am was initiated by a friend, another blogger I admire and respect greatly, and had the pleasure of meeting at BlogHer14. Two other bloggers and friends of mine commented on the thread, coming from the other side of similar situations in the magazine article. They were all very upset about the story shared in the piece, as well as the tone and some of the specific word choices used. All three of these friends are people I think very highly of, and am honored to know.

I really like these friends. I believe they are all good moms, good people who have tried to their best in situations that I can't begin to comprehend. I am grateful to read their stories, to gain some insight into that which is beyond me.

Though the Internet can seem so big, the blogging world is in fact pretty small. If I were to ever bother classifying people into the lists encouraged by Facebook and Twitter, I'd probably put all four of these women on the same list. But it wasn't until that night, when I was confronted with the hurt comments I saw, some of them attacking my friend, that I realized the four of them were also connected through the tangled threads of this difficult topic.

At 3:15 in the morning, I sent one of them a message, trying to describe how I felt. We talk often, and I knew I could open up to her about how I felt and we could have a discussion. That I thought the article's tone was off, that maybe the circumstances weren't perfect, but that I knew the woman and felt that she tried to do good overall. My friend said she appreciated my reaching out, and in fact, I asked her to pre-read this blog post before I hit publish.

Did I diffuse some of the hurt my friend felt? I doubt it. Maybe a little. But I did learn.

As I have been writing this over the past few days, the world has been reacting to another situation like those we have seen all too often lately, dealing with police and matters of race. I have tried to dip my toe into talking about issues like race, or other complicated topics like depression, over the past few months. I know the power of the written word, and if I'm going to bother contributing to the cacophony, then I at least hope my words are fair, that I try to listen first, that I use this space as a medium for transmitting higher ideals.

While the topic may not be the same, I believe that all four of my blogging friends are trying to use their spaces for the same mission. We are sharing our stories as best as we know how, and hopefully, even through different points of view, we are all able to learn something from each other, and can limit the judgement we cast out towards others. I'm grateful to all of the people in my blogging community who help open my eyes to the complexities of these issues, and who force me to try to do better. I hope that I become a better human being because of your efforts, and that in turn, maybe I help some of you who are reading along, too.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Looks Like We Made It - #NaBloPoMo 30

It seems like just yesterday that I wrote the first post for National Blog Posting Month, full of inspiration and hoping it would pull me out of the rough fall I'd been having. Now that we're at the 31st day of writing every day, I do think it helped some, but perhaps not as much since I lost so much steam in this last week. Hoping to write something worthwhile every day when I'm so far from my usual routine is a huge challenge, and I know that's part of the point, but it didn't mean I did better knowing that it was a challenge. It just meant I could write posts and be okay with not bothering to promote them or care if they were read at all, which is actually ridiculous. Of course I care if people are reading, and to pretend it's worthwhile otherwise is silly.

Part of what made me get through this month was that most of my blogging tribe was doing it with me. Thank you Kimberly, Phyllis, Lisa and Danielle (and Melissa for her encouragement!) for pushing on every day. It's been fun doing this with their support, and it solidified our little group.

This is my 125th post this year, and I'll need to write seven more in December to break last year's record. Fortunately, it looks like I've got an exciting month ahead of me, and I'm sure there will be lots of great things to share with you all. Just not every day. :)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight - #NaBloPoMo 2-freakin'-9!

Greetings from the lovely Dunkirk, New York!

Okay, it's pitch black outside right now, I have no idea how lovely-or-not it is. We're on our way back to Boston, stopping here for the night to gain a bit of a head start for the rest of our trip tomorrow. But I slept some on our way here, and I'm not ready to fall asleep again yet.

We had a really lovely visit to Ohio. This morning we had our annual visit with my high school friend Betsy, her husband Bill and their son Simon, in their new home, and enjoyed a beautiful breakfast together. Then we met my parents, Ryan and Allison, and Allison's parents and brother in Ohio City for a visit to a brewery for lunch and a stop at the West Side Market. The food at the market is so fantastic-looking, it's hard not to buy everything. But I enjoyed a bubble tea and a tiny corner of a piece of maple candy that Max abandoned. Here are a few photos Hannah took--it's fun to get things from her point of view.

Marc and me with a replica lamp from "A Christmas Story"

West Side Market
West Side Market
We capped off the day with pizza from Geraci's, our family favorite, and cannoli and other desserts bought at the market. Hannah sang one of her songs from her upcoming "Seussical" performance, and Max arranged everyone for a family photo...which he then accidentally deleted. But we got a great group selfie with most of us in it instead.

The Pollock-Miller-Stobers, less Max
And then the songs that come up in the car are speaking to me. "Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight" by Amos Lee:

"We all need a place so we can go,
And feel over the rainbow.

But sometimes,
We forget what we got,
Who we are.
Oh who are are not.
I think we gotta chance,
To make it right.
Keep it loose,
Keep it tight.
Keep it tight."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Limping Along - #NaBloPoMo 28

Another puppy photo, this time Max with Truffles. 

Limping along towards the end of my month of writing everyday. I brought my laptop on my trip, but haven't opened it. I have taken two naps. That's a win, I think. Back to better content, most likely in December. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! - #NaBloPoMo 27

The Macy's parade has been watched. Turkey, and more importantly, peanut butter ice cream cake, have been consumed. Ryan and Allison are helping Max build a space craft, and Hannah and my mom are cuddled up with the dogs. There's just a bit of snow on the ground. We are warm, safe and happy. 

I hope the same can be said for you. 

Thank you for reading and giving me this platform for sharing who I am. I'm grateful for all of you. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The View - #NaBloPoMo 26

We left our hotel in Albany, NY, around 7 am this morning. It's now 4 pm and we're finally entering Pennsylvania shortly. The view right now is actually pleasant and pretty. But I'm sick of being in the car. About two more hours to go. 

Safe travels to all of you hitting the road today too. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All Lives Matter - #NaBloPoMo 25

It doesn't feel appropriate to blog on any other subject today. I will just say this:

Black lives matter.

All lives matter.

I am talking with my children. I am reading and listening. I hope you are, too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why I Hate Packing: Decision Fatigue - #NaBloPoMo 24

Despite the load lessening on every passing trip, as my kids become more responsible for themselves, one thing remains very clear to me: I absolutely detest packing. I LOVE unpacking. I've been known to tackle a suitcase, start laundry and get my life back in order within 30 minutes of arriving back home. But the packing to go makes me miserable.

I don't know what I want to eat for breakfast each morning, much less what I'm going to want to wear five days from now. Even if I like all of the clothing I'm bringing on a trip, I still would prefer to have more options than be confined to whatever fits in my luggage. And there are just so many decisions to be made. There is science behind the fact that the more decisions you have to make, the poorer your choices will be, so you should try to make your most important decisions earlier in the day. I find I'm almost always packing at the end of the day, and while I haven't had any true packing disasters because of it, I know it takes me longer and requires more thought than I'd like.

Tonight I at least need to make sure Max gets packed up for our Thanksgiving trip. I'm working from home tomorrow morning, so I'm thinking I might wait to pack for myself until then. Maybe I'll feel more inspired to pin down that Thanksgiving Day outfit in the morning.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Less-Than-Crafty at the Craft Store - #NaBloPoMo 23

We are inching ever closer to Hannah's fifth grade play, Seussical, and that means it's costume procurement time. This has been stressing me out, because it's not easy to get Hannah and I to agree on clothing items at times, but I also worried that we'd need to please another girl and her mother too, since Hannah shares the role with a friend. Fortunately, the other mom also works full-time, and agreed that we should buy as much as we could. Not make. I was definitely on board with that sentiment.

But when it comes down to it, you just can't buy wings and tail feathers, so some crafting is going to be required. I hit two different craft stores this weekend, and in addition to a feather collar and hair accessory we've already purchased, I bought turquoise boas and sparkly foil leaves that will make great tail feathers. Max was actually the one to find both items with his eagle eyes--I go into a craft store and my vision seems to get blurry from the overwhelming amount of STUFF in there. I swear I stood in front of the elastic ribbon I needed for a good five minutes before seeing it.

So we're getting there. Paired with a turquoise shirt, black leggings, and hopefully sequined black boots, our Gertrude McFuzzes are going to look gorgeous. Now on to hair and make up.

Picture it: wings and a tail feather

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Smallest Gesture - #NaBloPoMo 22

Hannah, singing at Camp Yavneh
For the first time since Hannah has attended overnight camp (she's now gone for three summers), we attended a local Friday night Shabbat dinner organized by the camp. It was supposed to be a taste of what Friday nights are like at camp, with services, a festive dinner and singing. The only downside? Well, from a camper's perspective at least, the downside is that your parents are there too. But from a parent's perspective, it's a chance to see a bit of camp life, and who our children are when they're there.

There was a bit of uneasiness among the campers when they were called up to lead the closing prayer of services. Most kids had been sitting with their families, and they weren't unified as a group when they were called up. Hannah stood by her friend, but they hadn't really said hello yet. It was that awkward moment, where you haven't seen someone in months, and you're not sure if they feel the same way you do. And still, those parents are watching. But by the end of the song, the dynamic had shifted. Hannah and her friend went sailing through the crowd to find a table on their own. 

I kept stealing glances at that table behind me--they graciously allowed Max to join them, and I think it was the longest uninterrupted dinner stretch we've ever had--but my focus was on Hannah and her friend. There was a moment during singing when hand motions accompanied the song, a short hand clap with the person next to you. The girls didn't hesitate at all. Of course you grasp your friend's hand. Of course you do.

Just like I am with my friends, even my camp friends I hadn't seen in 20 years, there was a familiarity there, an intimacy that's almost hard to describe, but that can be felt. It was so gratifying to see that Hannah has that too. I hope she always does.