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.