October update

I’m posting this update on October ten days into November because I wish October never happened. There may have been a few high moments but it was mostly a month of worry and stress. The month started out peacefully enough and then without notice, we learned our daughter’s best friend was diagnosed with cancer. This little girl (and her entire family) is dear to us–hearing this news felt like we were hearing news about our own daughter. While they are on their treatment journey right now and everyone feels hopeful, there was a confusing two weeks where no one knew what would happen. For now, it’s a continuous cycle of loving, supporting, waiting, and let’s be honest, periodically drinking.

October was terrible. No two ways about it. So I’m happy that we’re on to November even if it’s super cold in New England.

So, October….

Things I want to do weekly:

  • Exercise 4x a week: 14 visits to my exercise class. I came down with a serious cold that knocked me out for a week. So getting back to 5am workouts was tough.
  • Give kids weekly allowance: Nope.
  • Do one act of kindness each week: I baked for people. I brought bagels to my friends in the hospital because I didn’t know how to help. I helped organize meals. I tried to help my friends. All I did was try and be kind (when I wasn’t busy being angry)
  • Read one full length article in a magazine every week: I read one incredible article after hearing its author interviewed on Another Round.

Things to do every month:

  • Regular library trips: The library is a part of our routine now. The girls have books everywhere. I’ve taken all of my book club books out of the library. The girls ask about going to the library after school on Fridays. It’s AWESOME!
  • 2 Yoga classes: Zero yoga classes.
  • Read 2 books: 1!
    • Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. There’s no way I can convince you to read it because it has math in the title. But this is a book about how racism is encoded in big data and it was fascinating and depressing and important.
  • Write 2 blog posts: Yes!
  • Choose outside: I know I was outside a lot. I don’t remember all of the times I was outside but summer never ended in New England so I was outside as much as possible.
  • 1 date night: date lunch but no date night

Some other great stuff that happened this month:

  • Celebrated dad’s 73rd birthday
  • Took kids to Great Wolf Lodge and survived
  • Took kids to see School of Rock and they loved it
  • Survived a solo trip to IKEA
  • Attended a great training in Boston (Tufte)
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The little things giving me life right now

The longest of weeks feels like a month when the alarm sounds at 5am on Friday morning. Two weeks of life sucked away by illness and ambient worry and this week was the chance to get back to routines.

But the week was full of small moments that are giving me life, lifting me up, making my heart sing. Even though there is plenty to worry about in the big, broad world and in my local world, there are still many moments where I catch myself and wonder how I got to be so lucky. Then I make a mental note of the little things. Then I promptly forget. And at the end of the week, they all come tumbling out of my mind and I want to catalogue them because I know I’ll them another day.

So, in no particular order:

I traveled round trip to Boston for a workshop led by a giant in our field. I filled my head with loads of ideas. My brain hasn’t stop churning.

I had the chance to explain what I do to total strangers at a work event and the most common response I heard: I can tell you’re really passionate. My response, “It feels good to love what you do.”

I sang our wedding to song to one of my daughter’s as we snuggled in bed one night. I probably sang it to her as a baby but never as a big kid. I had been talking all day so my voice was warmed up and I didn’t miss a word or a note. When I finished, she said, “That was really pretty” like it was a brand new thing.

My little daughter demanded “You are my sunshine” and I sang that, too. Then she asked for opera singing and I belted la la las and she cheered. I felt ten feet tall.

I taught a workshop, addressing a room of professionals doing totally different kinds of work and they all seemed to appreciate the discussion. I am always inspired by the opportunity to help people do great work.

The trees are all changing colors. There is always a big storm that expedites this gorgeous time of year but for now, it’s technicolor and I’m loving it.

I got to see my husband during one work day which is always a treat. We actually saw each other all week even though it often feels like we’re ships passing in the night.

I got back to my exercise class. After a week off, I was worried I’d slog through but I can still do super pushups and the energy I get from a room full of people at 5:30am in the morning has carried me through the week.

I stayed tuned into friends all week. Text threads and social media connecting us over time and space and grounding me in the comforting notion that I have people that I love close by and far away.

I got to see my baby nephew crawl (really scoot) via video chat. He’s so grown already and I know it’s a downward spiral into toddlerhood. For the moment, I love his joy in getting to move in the world.

It rained fiercely overnight midweek. The rain was loud and powerful. It rained sideways. It pressed down on everything. The sound was incredible.

The weather was moody in a way that made the world pulse. The sky was gray, then bright than gray again. The sky was striped, clouded and today, shiny.

I got time on the couch to catch up on life. Didn’t tie up all of the loose ends but came close.

I consumed every inch of political news until I couldn’t take it anymore. Then one night on my drive home I switched on Hamilton and belted every song.

We ate well. We slept well (mostly).

Simple things. A busy week full of simple things.

 

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The accidental social experiment

I have longed wondered whether our ability to vet and consume information is weakening. In this age of endless information, streaming constantly, it’s a hypothesis I never meant to test, but I ended up testing it by accident.

Last month, there was a little Rogue Cheerios blogging snafu. I decided to sneak a post onto the blog–or I tried to sneak one in. My approach to blogging is to write and complete polished essays. Some of those essays can take time, and so I often start an essay that remains in the “Drafts” section of the WordPress Dashboard for a long time. Sometimes I start a blog post, commenting on an event or a milestone and I don’t finish it for another year. There’s no way to predict delays finishing essays–I could have been pressed for time or I couldn’t find the right words. In the end, it’s my own process and I recognize it’s benefits and drawbacks.

WordPress has this feature, though, whereby it timestamps the blog post when you start it. Sometimes, if you forget to change the timestamp, when you publish the blog post, it ends up in chronological order on the blog based on that start time even if you click publish weeks or years later.

So, a few weeks ago, I realized I never published the post I wrote on my birthday but I’d put enough time into it, had curated some photos to go along with it, and I wanted it to look back in next year when I turn 40. So early in the morning, I quickly skimmed it and clicked publish and walked away.

An hour or so later, I saw that I was getting some notifications on Facebook and Twitter. The timestamp feature had somehow failed to post it in chronological order, so the post had been shared to Facebook as though that day in September was my actual birthday. My birthday is truly in May. And as it goes with Facebook and birthdays, I immediately started receiving “Happy birthday” messages.

I was a little mortified. It was a simple mistake and I didn’t hurt anyone by accidentally convincing everyone it was my birthday.

And yet, people believed it was my birthday because the Facebook post said so. All they had to do was look up at that little section on the navigation which alerts users to their friends’ birthdays that day and they would not have seen my name. Better yet, if they knew my birthday was in May (which some commenters did know because they’ve known me long enough), they could have put two and two together. I added a comment to the thread which said something like, “Oops, not my birthday” and people continued to wish me a happy birthday.

A few people did comment in confusion. What was happening? Is it your birthday and we missed something?

We’re all reasonable people, right? Well, this was our test. Are we paying attention? Do we question our sources–even the reliable sources of information? And do we push back when we think something is off?

I’m not judging people–I was happy to get a few extra Facebook messages and an actual hug in person even though it wasn’t my birthday. I was even happy to be ribbed by my husband about wishing it was my birthday ten times a year (because that would be amazing). But what worries me is we’ve lost the ability to slow down, make sense of information, and question its reliability and validity.

We’re looking for sensational news or constantly reacting to crisis that we fail to do the basic due diligence like checking the publication date, the source, the author, to ensure what we’re reading (and ultimately sharing) is worth knowing. Everyone has their strategy: some click everything, some click nothing. Some engage with specific sources of news and some only a subset of news outlets. Some people will share content regardless of its age (like if it’s old). But having a filter or a strategy for engagement might be necessary as the news space floods with content and photos and statistics and stories. It’s overwhelming.

As our attention span slims down over time, I wonder whether we’ll become completely dulled to sensation and whether our filters will shift to autopilot. As it is, I rarely engage with news on social media because it takes time to do the due diligence. I have other seemingly unhealthy ways of finding news (like chain listening to politics podcasts and watching White House press briefings–it’s an affliction).

Rumors start with mistaken or erroneous information shared on Facebook and there are some rumor mills I want to avoid. Know this: my birthday is in May. Start all the rumors you want about my birthday being in September because I would love a quarter birthday celebration.

Who wants to wait for a half birthday anyway?

 

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September update

September was a pretty big month. Reflecting now, it’s hard to believe that Labor Day was just 30 days ago. I knew that the month would be busy between work and the holidays but I didn’t know how much energy we would have to sustain to keep everything running. But we did it. And now it’s done.

Things I want to do weekly:

  • Exercise 4x a week: 16 WIP classes. I’m most proud that I motivated myself to exercise on the road which is a major challenge for me.
  • Give kids weekly allowance: Nope. We just had a discussion with our girls about the idea of allowance, how we should save and share with others before we spend. So I think we’re going to get back on the horse this month.
  • Do one act of kindness each week: One act of kindness in preparation for the holidays, I sent letters to lost connections and I know at least one landed.
  • Read one full length article in a magazine every week: Nope. This has been tough over the last few months. I read so many small things that I don’t engage with long form journalism. But I need to.

Things to do every month:

  • Regular library trips: I know we’ve been engaging with the library. Our trips haven’t been the lazy kind–they’ve been more efficient. I am happy to report that my book club procurement is totally library focused now.
  • 2 Yoga classes: Zero yoga classes.
  • Read 2 books: 1!
    • This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel: This might be one of my favorite books in a long time. It’s a simple story about complicated choices in family life. It felt all too real even though my family is different from the one in the story.
  • Write 2 blog posts: Yes!
  • Choose outside: This month has been a busy one getting the outside of the house ready for the fall and winter season. There has been planting, cleaning up from some work over the summer, and neatening up. So we’ve been outside but not always for fun purposes. We did get a super hot day outdoors at a festival visiting family in New Jersey.
  • 1 date night: We had a date weekend away celebrating at a wedding over Labor Day weekend. That feels like ancient history but it was a truly fabulous two nights away to ourselves (with a major party thrown in). We also finally figured out how to spend time together while the girls are at religious school so we spent one morning at the diner. Breakfast at the diner is not super fancy but I’ll take any alone time I can get with my husband.

Some other great stuff that happened this month:

  • Labor Day weekend celebrating our friends’ wedding
  • 80th birthday party for one of our cousins
  • Work trip to Washington DC to present at a national conference
  • Jewish holidays–made Challah for the first time with the girls, hosted dinner for friends and read a Haftorah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah
  • Visit to New Jersey to see my sister, brother-in-law and our nephews
  • A huge work week–4 presentations in 7 days

We’re off to the final quarter of the year!

October is underway….

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Pinch me: musings on a great day at work

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When I was in graduate school, I knew I wanted to do public-facing work. I wrote publicly about a career strategy: consider staying. Staying seemed the right choice for me and for our family. Uprooting ourselves for the possibility of … Continue reading

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A (birth)day in the life….

39.

That’s where we are. And I love it.

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The difference one year makes

It was August last year when I paced in front of my computer screen and stared at a message I had written to my boss. We were leaving the next day for our yearly pilgrimage to Cape Cod, and I needed to get in touch with her before I left. I squeezed my eyes and clicked send on my letter of resignation from that job. I was torn about leaving because I loved the possibility of what the job could be but knew that there was an issue with management that I would never be able to fix from the inside.

It had been a decidedly terrible summer in the news and somewhat in life. My husband and I were both struggling in our work. Whether we admit it now or not, we were at our unhappiest professional point and our unhappiness at work was spilling over into our personal lives. We tried to compartmentalize our feelings about our work but that meant returning to work every Monday became harder and harder with each passing week. Resigning before our vacation was a bold and necessary move.

During last year’s vacation I was able to relax but I also knew I would have to return to work and push myself to finish projects, to bring open items to a close and to hand things off as smoothly as possible. My youngest was starting kindergarten and I wasn’t going to put her second during a stressful professional patch.

Once the kids were back in school and we fell into a routine, we both started to turn the curve at work. I left that job and transitioned into a new one. I found my way to my current job by accident and thank my lucky stars it has turned out to be a supreme fit. My husband also found a new job and his transition has been slower to warm. We were faced with the simultaneous transitions which meant we were both trying to prove our value at a time when we needed someone else to be the backup person. Though we have a better work and life balance than ever before, it was a tough few months getting settled in.

And now it’s one year later. This time last year, I probably wished I could press the fast forward button. But we don’t get that kind of control over our lives and wading our way through the painful, pressure-filled moments is what make the joyful ones so delicious. As we packed for our trip to the beach this year, I could not believe the good fortune we have. We both left jobs that would not badger us while we were away, that would not interfere with time with the girls. And we could walk back in and juggle the kids and work until school started.

The reflection on one year ago is part of a larger set of reflections I cannot seem to escape because of the ubiquity of social media. Profiles and accounts have a way of dredging up good and bad moments, reminding me what a difference one year, two years, ten years makes. And then I try and wrap my mind around the idea that I’m in a stage of life where I can measure time in neat little chunks like 2 years or 5 years or even 10 years, and I shake my head. Because it feels like it was five minutes ago that I met my husband and romped around New York City and not too long ago I lived in New York state. And perhaps just a couple of years ago we lived together for the first time and bought our first house. And just and just…..

My incredulity, my disbelief is nothing new. I have written about this before and will likely write about it again. But just as mystified as I am by the passage of time, I am equally delighted by the changes that may be felt in a year as I did when Facebook reminded me of my work anniversary just yesterday.

I have to wonder how I’ll be feeling in one year about this moment because right now, today, life is good. The girls are growing and changing. The little kiddo has the perfect jack-o-lantern smile with two missing teeth. Their hair reaches halfway down their backs. Their school lives are so different: spelling tests for the little one and French for the big one. Their lives are getting busier as I settle into my work life, and one year later, my work life is so different. I spent a year establishing myself in a new organization and so did my husband. And we came out on the other side in one piece. We have moments as a family when we’re all in it together, and I think, if I could freeze this moment, I would stop everything now and get off this ride because it will never be as good as this.

I have to keep reminding myself that time is always running in the background. Sometimes slower, sometimes faster. The ante just gets upped. There will be new high highs and low lows. Nothing is perfect forever and certainly nothing is guaranteed.

But the feeling of contentment today, one year past a particularly tense time, is something I’d happily bottle up for next year if I could.

 

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