April 2018, check.

Spring is here–except you’d almost never know it given the wacky New England weather. It rained this month. It snowed this month. The sun shone strong and it broke 70 degrees more than once. I wore rain boots and snow boots.

The world has not made up its mind about which way we’re headed. So we wait patienyl for winter to settle down and for spring to emerge.

I was able to get a few things done:

  • Exercise (make room for one non-WIP workout per week): 14 bootcamps plus 2 workouts on our cruise.
  • Allowance for the kids: Totally off the wagon. Have to figure out how to regroup and recover in May.
  • Read 30 books this year: Read 3 books this month! All three were incredible!
    • Euphoria by Lily King
    • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
    • You Will Know My by Megan Abbott
  • Write regularly: Published one blog post I’d been working on for month.
  • 1 hike per month, preferably with the kids: Yes! On the first nice weekend of the year, Emily and I hit the trails with a friend and our cousins.
  • 1 date night: Crickets. But I feel like we will be getting some good time in together next month.
  • Donate blood 6 times: Due to donate for the third time next month.
  • Volunteer once a month: Volunteered at our second dog rescue event and our dog was adopted. So many good vibes from helping and snuggling with dogs.
  • Self care (once per quarter): Two months running with no dedicated self-care. It’s a pattern developing.
  • Experiment with podcasting: Picked out the equipment I need (and want) and planning to acquire the equipment this month. New experiment is coming.
  • Find new opportunities to speak in front of an audience: Found a new storytelling opportunity and pitched a story to them.
  • Capture my “best thing all week” every week all year long (52 total): Going strong–been capturing something every week and just looked to see some incredible highlights so far.
  • Financial planning for the household: Crickets.
  • Get our unfinished rooms completed: Brought in the contractor to talk about finishing off the porch. Started to scope out furniture for the porch, too. Waiting on an estimate and looking forward to having the work done early summer.
  • Crochet regularly: Made a baby hat while on vacation and still finishing Sadie’s scarf which is now for next year.

Other April highlights:

  • First family cruise
  • Jewish cooking club is finally off the ground–helped coordinate the first session: kugel!
  • Our friend is home from the hospital and feeling better
  • Softball is starting
  • We saw Chelsea Clinton speak

April showers had better quit in here in the northeast. We’re over tons of rain and ready for May flowers, being outside, seeing friends and family and kicking off summer!

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Push/Pull: On parenting through

I’m 50 feet off the ground and I’m coaxing my six-year-old to take a step off the first platform in an aerial ropes course. We’re harnessed into a writhing metal feat of engineering and the risk to her safety is minimal. And yet, she will not budge.
The catch: she’s done this before. Months ago, we took our girls to an indoor aerial ropes course twice the size of this one. She rode a zip line 200 feet long. She only balked as she started to get tired when we were at the highest and furthest point from where we began 60 feet up in the air. It was much higher and far riskier than the lovely attraction we stood atop.
She refuses to listen to reason. I remind her of the last ropes course earlier in the year and she insists that this ropes course is different. We start blocking traffic and I am figuratively flailing, but as I start to give up, the attendant swoops in and helps her across the first bridge. Rather than get to climbing, she announces she’s done and would like to get down.
So she does and I feel deflated.
***
The day before I am four stories off the ground, reasoning with my eight year old to go down a water slide. She has convinced herself she can do it and has climbed up four giant flights of stairs. It’s humid and loud and the color drains from her face as she realizes what she has to do to get back to the bottom.
As the line winds down and she is finally the next one to take the plunge, she refuses to do it. I urge her to accompany me but she will not move, her eyes filled with tears. I coax quietly and then loudly insist she come with me.
The catch: she’s done this before. During the last month of the summer, we took the girls to a local water park and both girls tried out water slides. They were super brave and they had a great time. I know she will love this slide–it’s just the right level of thrill for her.
But instead I walk down the stairs with her. She knows I am angry and I am also a little embarrassed at how hard I pushed her.
***
Weeks later we’re riding in the car and for the umpteenth time, my oldest belts out her favorite song on the radio, her voice clear and strong. And for the umpteenth time I tell her how much I love hearing her voice. And then I pause and gently suggest she consider singing in a choir. And she politely tells me no.
The catch: she’s done this before. She was in a dance class of two and her recital was essentially one big solo. And at the end of the summer, she joined the neighborhood kids in a backyard musical where she sang solo, too. She’s no shrinking violet and yet faced with the prospect of showing her stuff, she panics.
***
My girls are strong, except when they’re scared. They’re bold, except when they’re nervous. And when I know they can handle something, I am never quite sure if I should push or pull. I resist pushing until I can no longer stand it and then I try to push and they resist.
And then I worry that it will always feel like this. I’ll feel on the edge of how far to go, how much to support, when the take the brakes off, when to perch them on the edge of the nest, and when to walk away. We know that we’re coddling a generation of children and yet we fire up the helicopter blades because hovering feels safer. They are the most precious things, except they are stronger than we think.
And then I remind myself that it will always be like this. And they will grow and change and so will I. And I’ll worry less and worry more simultaneously. And I’ll lament every choice I made and stand by those choices. Because there is no playbook, no rules, no right way. But in these discrete moments where it feels so black and white, I constantly wonder whether we’ve mucked it all up.
***
I’m standing at the base of the mountain, craning my neck to see people as they reach to final crest of this slope. I’m looking for a pink jacket and blue pants and no matter how hard I try, distinguishing one child from the next is pretty much impossible. Everyone looks the same from far away. I have been waiting for about ten minutes or so and with every passing second, my heart beats faster. It is both breathtaking and horrifying watching people fly past me as they end their run.
Eventually I think I find their little figures mixed in with the throng of people pouring over the ridge and there they are: two girls with their father huddle together before coming down the last stretch, ending their descent. My heart races as I see my kiddos on skis glide down the side of the mountain, picking up speed and sliding faster and faster towards the lift line. My eyes lock on one girl and then the other, and as their figures grow into view I am amazed.
I am breathless. I watch them expertly maneuver the last stretch of their run. I can hardly believe how quickly their little bodies move. Skiing is one thing I can’t do, so I am determined that they will. Here they are, two strong little girls. No pushing necessary.
I am smiling. My smile covers my entire face. As they slow down to meet me, I gush over how amazing they looked and how strong they are and how proud I am and I ask if they’re ready to come in. They’ve been out far longer than I expected with their father. And they offer the only reply two strong little girls give when their mother tries to pull them in,
“One more run, mommy. One more run.”
No catch. Just release.
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March 2018, check.

March was supposed to be redemption month. It came in like a lion indeed with a bout of stomach sickness for me just after I recovered from the flu. And then life felt like a sprint until it didn’t, as March eased out, like a lamb, as promised.

I was able to get a few things done:

  • Exercise (make room for one non-WIP workout per week): 17 WIP workouts so even though I was sick, that’s not bad.
  • Allowance for the kids: We fell off the wagon a little but were saved by birthday money and tooth fairy visits.
  • Read 30 books this year: Read 3 books this month! All three were incredible!
    • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
    • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Write regularly: Cranked out a blog post that helped ease some sadness for me.
  • 1 hike per month, preferably with the kids: It was cold. No hiking for us yet.
  • 1 date night: We did have two nights out with friends. I’d like to count that since nights out are hard to come by.
  • Donate blood 6 times: 2nd donation of the year logged on March 24th!
  • Volunteer once a month: We volunteered at our first rescue event early in the month. It was amazing!
  • Self care (once per quarter): Crickets.
  • Experiment with podcasting: Still in a holding pattern on new and experimental but we did get some new content recorded.
  • Find new opportunities to speak in front of an audience: Crickets. I have some ideas for next speaking opportunities so I’m hoping April will be my month.
  • Capture my “best thing all week” every week all year long (52 total): Twlve week, 11 best things recorded.
  • Financial planning for the household: Crickets.
  • Get our unfinished rooms completed: Finally finally picked up the yogibo and got the furniture assembled. The basement room is done! Next up: the porch.
  • Crochet regularly: Working on a scarf for Sadie and it might be done before the winter is over.

Other March highlights:

  • Getting over the stomach nonsense
  • Throwing birthday bash for my now 9 year old, including a party full of girl AND a trip to the aerial ropes course
  • Bought some incredible flowers at the annual Elizabeth Park Greenhouse Sale
  • Got lots of family time with my sister and her family and with my married family
  • Attended the Girl Scout VIP Dance as a family where we cut many a rug
  • Hosted old friends and met their new baby
  • Testified expertly at a public hearing for work
  • Celebrated Passover with family on both sides

 

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Facing facts

There are facts in life. Irrefutable facts that no amount of argument or debate will ever change. Sometimes facts can be comforting when there is a dispute to settle or uncertainty in the future. I am certainly a dreamer, but I am also a realist. Realists prefer facts most of the time. Except when we don’t. Some facts gut me every time.

Exhibit A: 

People die.

When they’re gone, they are never coming back. 

They may find ways to intervene in your universe, but when people die, you keep living.

Facts.

In the living part, though, there are still times, little slivers of existence where the facts feel inconceivable. And it won’t matter if the facts were just established five minutes ago or five years ago or five centuries ago. It feels unreal to think that certain facts are true. And in the moment when I remind myself about their truth, I am sometimes crushed by the weight of those facts.

My mom died. It has been eleven years and she is still gone. Her birthday just passed and she would have been 71, but she’s not here.

Facts.

I don’t dwell in the bargaining phase of grief, wondering what could have been, wishing it would have been different. I might have a moment here or there where I see friends with their parents and wonder what life would be like if she was alive. But I rarely beg the universe for consideration of facts. It hurts too much. There is no alternate universe, only this one. Wishing is like suffering. So I don’t typically choose wishing. I choose facts.

But periodically, and when I am least expecting it, I rattle the facts. I tip them on their side and consider them from another angle. I think about that alternate universe where things may have been different. And in those moments, I feel completely lost.

This weekend, one of those moments popped up. It was a wildly, unremarkable Saturday. We had a litany of little things to accomplish: donate blood, pick up a birthday present, trip to the public library, pick up things for a trip we’re taking, birthday party, visit from family, meals. We tackled the list together as we tend to do, rolling from one spot to another. There was no space to think, really. So I didn’t.

We didn’t stop to take a breath until mid-afternoon when we got home. We were unloading and straightening and puttering around the house since we have been out of the house all day. I brought oodles of flowers into the house last week knowing spring was on its way. And here they had all bloomed in force. They needed water and as I drenched their little pots, suddenly the afternoon weighed down on me. 

It was any other Saturday, sure, but it was also my mother’s birthday. 

I knew it from the start of the day but kept it to myself. Running around, I’d hardly considered the date. But seeing the flowers all in bloom, listening to my girls in the next room, settling into the couch next to them as they colored and read books, I wanted to cry.

I looked at them and surveyed the room and thought to myself, “You will never get to see this.”

Facts.

I didn’t think, “I wish you could have known them.” It hurts too much to think that sentence. Even as I type it, I hate it.

And then, close behind, another thought cropped up, “You never get to see me be their mother. You never get to meet my family.”

Facts.

I change rooms. Being near the girls makes the pain of the moment more palpable. I find my husband in the sunniest spot and I rest my head on his shoulder and explain what’s happening. I don’t normally think this way. I feel like I have a good handle on where I stand with my mother. I feel lucky to feel settled with our relationship. My husband listened and mmm-hmmed in response.

Giving voice to those thoughts scares me. If I question those facts, I feel like I have to go back over lots of other facts. And maybe do some hoping and wishing. Wishing makes me feel like I have to question everything.

But there’s no time to think these thoughts out loud because the girls are upon us in an instant. I wipe away the tears welled in my eyes and start reading the first chapter of a new book to my youngest as she climbs over my body and rests her head on my collarbone. Her sister sits beside me. I am in the nook of the couch nearest to the three people who matter more than everything. Nothing can make me worry in this moment.

Facts.

So I don’t worry or wish. I concentrate on where I am. I read the new story and out of the corner of my eye I watch my husband work the Sunday crossword and I exhale.

She can’t see me now. She can’t know me now. 

But I know me. 

That has to be enough.

No, it is enough.

Facts.

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February 2018, check

February was a complete wash. I got the flu. It took me out for over two weeks. It started out unassumingly enough with a snow day. Before the snow started, I had been at the gym and I’d noticed a tickle in my throat. It didn’t seem to be anything much until three hours later, snow began falling outdoors and I was shivering under two blankets. Five days with a fever and five more days of getting my strength back.

So you can understand how it was kind of a wash:

  • Exercise (make room for one non-WIP workout per week): Shut up. I actually managed 9 workouts. I also slept a TON.
  • Allowance for the kids: Mostly. I think I missed one week. Getting into a groove.
  • Read 30 books this year: Read 1 book this month.
    • Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
  • Write regularly: Nope.
  • 1 hike per month, preferably with the kids: I was sleeping.
  • 1 date night: Indian dinner out!!
  • Donate blood 6 times: Not this month. Next month.
  • Volunteer once a month: We checked out the dog rescue organization’s volunteer event and got familiar with what we would be doing. It was awesome!
  • Self care (once per quarter): Crickets.
  • Experiment with podcasting: Posted a minipod and recorded two new episodes with Matt. Nothing new or experimental right now.
  • Find new opportunities to speak in front of an audience: Crickets.
  • Capture my “best thing all week” every week all year long (52 total): Eight weeks, 8 best things recorded.
  • Financial planning for the household: Flu.
  • Get our unfinished rooms completed: Got seating and table/chairs for the basement! Not quite all assembled but pretty darn close.
  • Crochet regularly: Working on a scarf for Sadie and it might be done before the winter is over.

Other February highlights:

  • Getting over the flu
  • Hosted husband’s college friends for a visit (that was supposed to happen earlier this month and we managed to reschedule)
  • Led the baking of 300 hamentaschen for Purim

March is redemption month. In like a lion….

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January 2018, check.

I LOVE the start of the year. January felt like an extremely long month. Everyone in my world agreed that when January 31st hit the calendar it felt like a year had passed. The combination of cold and snow delays and stuff, well, it made us tired out.

In life, though, things are good. Solidly good.

  • Exercise (make room for one non-WIP workout per week): 15 workouts plus one yoga class. An super active and productive month!
  • Allowance for the kids: Yes! Thanks to an abundance of single bills, we’re back on track. And this time, they seem motivated to save for something and are starting to see when they could use their own money for something they want in the short term. I don’t want to get too excited, yet.
  • Read 30 books this year: Read 2 books this month!
  • Write regularly: 1-2 blog posts per month plus external projects
    • Downtime
    • What’s It Really Like? Remember all of that writing I did for myself last year–it’s all coming due! Here’s the first in a series from Beyond the Professoriate
  • 1 hike per month, preferably with the kids: too cold for hiking this month.
  • 1 date night: We did it! One night out together for dinner and bookstore!
  • Donate blood 6 times: 1st blood donation complete!
  • Volunteer once a month: We attended the kickoff of an incredible woman running for state office and I met with her about helping her campaign. I also attended volunteer orientation so that my youngest and I can volunteer with a dog rescue organization. So far, so good.
  • Self care (once per quarter): Crickets.
  • Experiment with podcasting: It was a busy life month and we recorded two great Boy vs. Girl episodes together. I have been working on my first minipod of 2018 but it’s not yet complete. And I didn’t make any progress looking at new equipment. I DID have a new podcast idea. Stay tuned….
  • Find new opportunities to speak in front of an audience: Crickets.
  • Capture my “best thing all week” every week all year long (52 total): Four weeks, 4 best things recorded.
  • Financial planning for the household: I spent a good portion of January marshaling spending information to understand how to start savings. Two meetings with financial planners in February to keep the momentum going.
  • Get our unfinished rooms completed: Made our scouting trip to Ikea and decided on the things we need. Just have to return with the car and no kids to haul everything home. Once that’s settled it’s on to our office.
  • Crochet regularly: A few baby hats complete this month!

Other January highlights:

  • Kicked year off with fondue and friends
  • Hosted my nephews for the weekend and helped get them skiing with their uncle
  • Went to our first UConn game as a family
  • Launched a new workshop at work and seeing lots of potential for it

A long January and squarely into February.

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Downtime

Confession: I allow myself little time alone. It’s not because I can’t handle time by myself. I am an extrovert’s extrovert but even I need moments to myself. It’s not that I can’t face the idea of being with my own thoughts; I wrangle my thoughts minute to minute every day. I just can’t handle the idea of time alone because there are so many things I want to be doing. 

Time alone is often the result of something falling through and rather than enjoy the temporary idleness, I immediately fill the space with something in the queue of things to think or do or make or write. I can’t help myself.

This morning, after hosting my nephews, my plan was to send my girls to religious school, send the nephews home with my husband who was going out for the day and to exercise, shower quickly and race through the day. I made the grocery list and prepped the veggies to cook later and put away the dishes on the counter while the kids ate the breakfast I prepped last night. And even as I write this, I’m exhausted by my own inability to relax on a lazy Sunday morning. 

But, my stomach is upset. I don’t feel like exercising. I just don’t want to. So I bagged it and hung with my nephews for a little while longer and then they departed and Easy Listening Radio is playing in the kitchen and the dishwasher is running and I nuked my coffee and sat down at the kitchen table unable to focus my thoughts. I’m alone for two hours. I hadn’t planned on this. 

And my first instinct is to break things out of the cabinets and tackle the one thing I meant to make all week (granola). And then I unwrap the Sunday paper and see the article above the fold in the New York Times Real Estate section is about preschool and I want to read it. And I stare paralyzed at the clutter on the counters and the remnants of entertaining four kids last night and I want to fly from one spot to another tidying up. The gravitational pull of my bed is strong, though. And the thought of a hot shower totally uninterrupted also sounds like the right way to start this Sunday.

And so I did the most logical thing. 

I sat down and wrote my way out of this momentary confusion. And now I’ll spell check and publish and likely take a nap.

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