Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Name that Weird Feeling

It's been a long day, friends. I'm at work between clients just now; and this has been the most peaceful part of my day so far. Otherwise it's been lots of packing and hauling and being really, really angry at the Comcast people. It's amazing how much power over us some companies wield, like those who provide internet and phone service, such that with a simple error on their part they can completely ruin the better part of an important afternoon for us (their customers) and not so much as bother to apologize. Why should they? Where else am I going to go? Another company with equally bad customer service and fewer options?

Don't worry, I'm not going into details here. Saving that for the angry letter I will either decide not to write, or fume over for hours only to have it tossed in the recycle bin by someone's assistant. Maybe if I'm crazy enough when I write it, it'll get posted in the Comcast break room, where the employees will come to laugh at it and eat donuts while some other poor sucker is "holding for one moment."

While I work on my phantom letter to the Comcast executives, I am also trying to focus on all the excitement I should be feeling right now about the new house. Have you ever noticed that there are certain occasions in life where things go really well and you get exactly what you want, and yet you feel that somehow your level of thrilled-ness seems to fall short of what is expected at the moment? When everyone can't stop saying "Aren't you just so excited?" and you find yourself thinking, "Yes, but....."

"Yes, but actually, I'm worried about all the things that can go wrong," or, "Yes, but the excitement is being overshadowed by the enormity of the logistics/responsibility," or, "Did you know you have to go through LABOR to have a baby? It sounds really painful and it's scaring the crap out of me!"

This is one of those moments for me. I was totally psyched about the house when we made the offer, and once we had it under contract I floated around for a few days, pretty giddy. But I didn't want to get too overly excited until closing, aware that things can always go wrong and not wanting to set myself up for utter disappointment. And since closing actually occurred yesterday, I've been so darn distracted by everything that has to be done immediately that it's been hard to stop and celebrate.

We will, of course, celebrate upon move-in; and I know I'll be as happy as I have been expecting to be in our new home. But I always feel a little weird/guilty when people ask me how excited I am, or tell me how excited they are for me, and... well, it's hard to tap into that emotion at that moment. This was also true toward the end of pregnancy, when everyone around me was anticipating the joy and I was primarily preoccupied with worry. It's sort of a temporary dissociation from happiness. Has anyone else had this experience? If so, maybe we should come up with a name for it!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Closing out Closing Day

Quick blog tonight - first, I just really want to say "thanks" to everyone for the good vibes, phone calls, texts, etc. It's been a long but satisfying day. And we have a house! And a condo! And four days to move!!

The closing went relatively smoothly today, at least compared to how badly things can go in this market.  There was a delay of almost two hours due to some administrative wrangling that had to happen last-minute; we got to experience first-hand how lenders are now being nit-picky down to the very last penny of the deal. The long wait added to everyone's nerves, and I suspect some keyed-up emotions on the part of the seller, who understandably had some mixed feelings about letting go of her home, which had once belonged to her late mother. It also led to some awkward conversations between the seven of us (two buyers, one seller, seller's significant other, two agents, one lawyer); as we tried to hold our anxieties in check and make conversation to fill the time. 

What an odd relationship at its culmination. Buyers and sellers start out with sort of a coy flirtation when they first make contact -- usually via fax machine with an agent interceding on both ends. Each side wants something the other side is offering, but are trying not to seem too eager. Come to think of it, it's kind of like a first date....

As negotiations build, however, it becomes less a romance and more of an adversarial relationship: each trying to hold on to as much of their money as possible while negotiating the transfer of a home from one to the other. There are formal offers flying back and forth, accompanied by quiet side arguments over the condition of carpets, the value of the HVAC system, etc. Threats to walk away from the deal, both veiled and open, can be used to exert power and keep the other side in line. Decisions at this point seem to be made about 30% with a calculator and 70% with emotions.

Eventually, if the relationship survives all this push and pull, and lots more paperwork, you meet. Often for the first and last time. How strange this interaction is, sitting across from one another, exchanging the ownership of a home -- a place that holds years of memories on one side of the table and hopes for the future on the other. While one side is signing their life away and trying to imagine how they'll arrange the furniture, the other side is experiencing the mixed feelings of relief and sadness, and trying to convey something important about the home or the neighborhood to these complete strangers who are, let's face it, barely listening.

Add in two hours of red tape delay, and it's like sitting in forced conversation with a stranger on an airplane -- only that stranger is pretty sure you robbed her of a few thousand dollars and won't fully appreciate all the work she put into re-tiling her kitchen. Let's just say by the end, we were all worn pretty thin and running out of things to talk about.

But the fascinating process is behind us now, at least this time around, and we have to go about the work of turning our lives completely upside down for the next week or so. Bear with me, friends. I'll try to keep my commitment to myself to blog consistently without having all four of the next entries read "Back hurts, exhausted, going to bed. Talk amongst yourselves." :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Little Too Much Getting it Right

I've blogged before about my (selective) perfectionism, and how it can sometimes hold me back from getting things done. Needing to get things juuuuust right can really be paralyzing sometimes, because all the work it takes to do something perfectly can seem really overwhelming at the beginning of the task. Please don't get the wrong idea about me, I'm not a neat-freak or anything -- heck no -- but there are certain things that I just can't seem to stop tinkering with until they're done in some sort of optimal way.

Writing is a great example. It's hard to start even something simple like this blog without feeling like I know where it's going, and that where it's going is going to be good. The problem with that mindset, of course, is that sometimes you have to get started before you know where something is going to go.

Moving seems to highlight this problem for me. The early stages of packing are pretty easy because I can sort of plan ahead and put things together in a way that makes sense. As I mentioned in a recent blog, I've moved about 16 times as an adult, so I've learned that packing semi-intelligently to start with makes things much easier on the unpacking side. But after a certain point, when the house is filling up with boxes, time and space are limited and it's no longer possible to match up everything by room, level of importance AND box size required.

At this particular point in the process, the smart thing to do is just to get things boxed and ready to go quickly, and maybe sacrifice the perfect system I started out using in favor of... well, getting it done. But it's hard to give up on your ideal way of doing things, even for practicality's sake. So I spend less time efficiently packing, and more time staring haplessly around the various rooms, trying to figure out how to combine one thing from each of seven rooms into a workable box that will even sort of make sense when I unpack it on the other end.

Technology isn't always helpful for this particular brand of perfectionism. E-mail gives me way too long to edit communications before sending them, which means something that might've been a 3-minute voice message, or even a 10-minute live conversation, can actually take half an hour or far longer to write, read, edit, re-read, etc.

And lately some voicemail services actually create the same dynamic, offering a really short amount of time to leave a message, but with the option to "erase and re-record," if you are not satisfied with the message you submit. This is a killer for me, both because I like to get things right and because I'm long-winded. Today I re-recorded a message for a potential contractor four times, just to get out all the information in a succinct enough way. Quick! Someone save me from myself!

On that note, before I spend too much time obsessively editing this blog long past my bedtime, I'm going to close out. We're totally psyched about closing on the house tomorrow. Send good vibes, my friends!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Unfinished Business of Peas and Eggplant

In the process of packing today, I pulled some things out of a junk drawer I hadn't thought about in a while: six little blue and green ceramic vegetables. Two pea pods, two string beans and two eggplants. Anyone who has been in our house knows that I often have things stashed in unexpected places, but these little forgotten pieces gave me a moment's pause in the business of filling boxes.

These little ornaments have special meaning to me because they belonged to my friend Laura, who passed away five years ago. Her boyfriend gave them to me after her memorial service, and I was really touched that he and her family thought enough of me to offer me a little memento from among her possessions. I've never really known, however, what to do with them.

The ornaments are molded into the vegetable shapes on one side and flat on the other side, presumably designed to be glued or caulked to tile or some other surface. When they came to me, Laura's boyfriend explained that he knew she had plans for them in her kitchen, but didn't know exactly what. I accepted them gratefully even though I didn't have the first clue, either.

So they've sat in the junk drawer (at least they're in the right room!), waiting patiently for me to decide how to use them. When I pulled them out tonight, I thought about how Laura and I both have had unfulfilled intentions around these little objects. It got me wondering what other plans in her life were left incomplete when she died [though I will say she lived such a full life in her short 41 years, it's hard to imagine she had a long list of regrets]. Naturally I also started thinking about all the hopes and plans I have for my own life, and what would be left unfinished if my time on earth is suddenly cut short.

It's so easy to look at the calendar and assume that tomorrow will look more or less like yesterday, and that we have as much time as we think we need to accomplish the tasks of our lives. But whether it's a plan to write a novel, make a career change, travel the world, or just take a walk with someone you love.... time is always limited. And once that time is up, it's up -- with only our legacy left behind to speak of our intentions.

That legacy is not held in the assets to be distributed; but in the hearts we touch, the lives we change, the difference in the world because we were here. I'm lucky to be surrounded by memories of some wonderful people, who have taught me to be a better person in so many ways; and that is a small part of their legacy. But it can't end with me, either; and it's up to me to transform those ideas and qualities and pass them on -- to my kids and to others with whom I come in contact. I am also charged -- as I believe we all are -- to leave the world better than I found it in some small way. 

It reminds me of this:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. (The Talmud)

Our time is limited, our responsibilities are great. Am I healing the world with my life, or adding to its grief? Am I doing my part or abandoning the work? Every action taken, every moment spent, contributes to my legacy in some way - whether tiny or enormous.  It's nice to be reminded of that, even while cleaning out the junk drawer. Maybe I really should try to find a more prominent place for those ceramic veggies!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Stages of Weight Loss - #3 (Inspiration)

At this point in the weight loss cycle, I've been through denial, more or less hit bottom (or top, if you're looking at a graph of pounds) and started the rebound. One or two small successes generally get me on the road and then that warm, fuzzy inspired feeling takes hold.

This is the jazzed up phase. Generally during this period I get motivated and do one or more of the following: join a gym, sign up for some sort of workout class, join Weight Watchers, work out some sort of accountability system with a friend, and/or spend hours creating a complicated spreadsheet to track calories, exercise and pounds. This latter item, by the way, will be used exactly twice.

When I see people jogging on the side of the road, I feel a nice little nudge that it's time for me to get my shoes on and get moving, too [as opposed to the previous stage, when I feel the desire to hurl a can of double chocolate frosting out the window at them]. I invest in new workout clothes, new shoes, sports bras, etc. I stock up on audio books for the long afternoons walking or jogging.

When I do exercise, I feel the endorphin rush. After exercise, I delight in my sore muscles. I track my Weight Watchers points religiously and am not too hard on myself when I go over the allotment. Each day I find it's a little easier to make healthy choices and pass up on all those vices that were weighing me down during the denial phase.

When I'm inspired, I do not focus on the negatives of being overweight. I don't beat myself up for being fat, or lie awake at night listening to the clogs build in my arteries. Instead, I focus on remembering times when I was healthier, I think about weight loss achievements from the past, I take a look at the race number from a couple of years ago with my fastest 5K time (36 minutes and change -- all downhill, but who cares?). 

This is probably how I ought to be all the time -- positively motivated, gentle on my flaws, always moving, making healthy choices.... If I could spend more time in this stage in general, I think I would be healthier both physically and emotionally. Wouldn't we all?

Stayed tuned for the next stage in a few days. Don't know about you, but I am PSYCHED!

[Cue the Rocky theme song....]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Art and Reality

A couple of weeks ago, there was quite a bit of hubbub in the literary world around Jonathan Franzen being crowned the 'Great American Novelist' by Time magazine, as well as being given two impossible-to-get New York Times book reviews before his new book Freedom even hit the shelves. There has been sort of a critic-war about whether Franzen has really earned such lauds or not. There's also been a sub-debate, led primarily by commercial fiction writers Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, about which authors receive critical acclaim and which ones don't.

The thrust of this argument (or public whining, depending on your perspective) is not that Franzen’s work is not worth reading or even worth acclaim, but that the excess of praise dumped on him around his latest novel represents the imbalance between “high literature,” and what real people actually read (and buy) -- especially genre fiction, like romance, science fiction, horror or "chick lit."

There's also a feminist thread to the discussion, to quote Weiner in the Huffington Post, "I think it's a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it's literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it's romance, or a beach book - in short, it's something unworthy of a serious critic's attention."

I have mixed feelings on this issue. On the one hand, in my English major days, I definitely would've felt more comfortable to be spotted at the coffee shop with Absolom! Absolom! than Bridget Jones' Diary. [Incidentally, two of my favorites during that era]. The same literature-snobbery holds true in reverse, though, because I would've felt the same way about Virginia Woolf or Flannery O'Conner versus Stephen King.

Women authors do seem to be underrepresented in the Great Canon of Literature, as we are underrepresented elsewhere. Troubling, for sure.

But there's also the genre question, and the issue of popular culture as opposed to "high culture." The books that tend to fall under the not-so-flattering label of 'chick-lit,' or women's fiction, are definitely commercially-oriented books. I know if I pick up Good in Bed or Something Borrowed, I'm in for an entertaining and relatable story that will make me think and feel, perhaps even laugh and cry; but will not leave me re-reading or reaching for the dictionary to get through a couple of pages. Those books are enjoyable, but don't stretch and challenge my brain the way Mrs. Dalloway did.

Is that a bad thing? Of course not. I love commercial fiction, and these days I read that far more often than I read Literature. It's a matter of energy and concentration - and the purpose that books serve in my life right now. When I work on the novel I have playing in my head, it's certainly closer to being an enjoyable beach book than something college kids will discuss in depth over lattes and cigarettes. Wearing berets - let's give them berets.

Art Credit: Georges Seurat, Photo Credit: Yours Truly
There are parallels in every aspect of culture - Britney Spears vs. Beethoven, Jersey Shore vs. Nova... Some things get ratings and some things get thoughtful critical acclaim. A few things get both. But often it's the distinctiveness of a work of art labored over by genius until it is truly, truly exceptional -- that makes something stand out from the crowd in the art world. It's what delineates the innovation of pointillist Georges Seurat from those horrifying pictures of babies in flower costumes. And though it makes me cringe personally, I'm guessing that there are more of you reading this who have something in your home created by Anne Geddes (the weird baby picture lady) than by Seurat. And that's okay.

Now I'm not saying that Franzen is or isn't worthy of the acclaim he's receiving (I haven't read Freedom, and it's been a decade since I finished The Corrections). His disdain for the mainstream -- mostly female -- audience of Oprah who provided him with most of his commercial success around that latter title is wildly arrogant for sure, but no one said you had to be a nice person to create art. 

So what makes art worthwhile? A completely unique artistic perspective? Years of schooling? Binge drinking? Good reviews by people with years of schooling? Commercial success? Popularity among lots and lots of average people? Challenging social norms? Shedding light on injustice? Making people laugh? Creating a world of teenage wizardry, vampires or werewolves?

Yes. (Except maybe the binge drinking part). (And maybe one or two of the vampire books).

Art that is creative and innovative, makes people think, finds a new means of expression, and changes the landscape of our intellectual world is definitely worthwhile. Art that is simple, accessible and entertains is also definitely worthwhile. The best art, in my humble opinion, does both: inspires us in a new way while connecting to the universal emotions and experiences to which we can all relate. In my experience, books that manage both things find their way to both critical acclaim and popular success. Those would be the classics - new and old.

Photo Credit: Dan Winters for TIME
When it comes to the current debate, I agree that the disparity between men and women authors when it comes to critical attention and acclaim is something we should all explore. I'd love to see Anne Tyler or Carol Shields looking all serious and artsy on the cover of Time. And I wish there were a better moniker for contemporary women's fiction than "chick lit."

But I also feel that great writing tends to speak for itself: whether it inspires people to scoop it up off the shelf as soon as it's landed there, or has all the little literazzi at New York Times falling all over themselves to interview you. (I also think it's important to note that the folks at the NYT and other reviewing outlets tend to write what they think will resonate with their readers -- not exactly Jane Average).

If such a review does inspire people to check out a book for themselves, great. But most often I think people decide what to read based on more organic methods anyway: browsing through our favorite section of the bookstore, listening to what our friends recommend and why. The nice thing is, we don't all have to agree on what is either critically magnificent or casually enjoyable or both. We can watch, read, admire and listen to whatever we want; despite what the "Literature Experts" tell us is valid or redeeming.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go work on affixing a Don DeLillo cover to a romance novel.

[Edit to add: A picture of A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Suerat) that I quite nerdily snapped at the Art Institute of Chicago in June, and Franzen looking novelicious on the cover of Time. In case you are wondering, "nerdily" and "novelicious" are unlikely to appear in the Great American Novel.]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Looking for a New Familiar

Moving day is (hopefully) just a few days a way, and I am scuttling around like... like a scuttle-bug, trying to make all the various pieces of the process fit together: preparing for closing, repairs in both places, packing, etc. Some days are like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and other days are like putting together a jigsaw puzzle blindfolded while swinging on a pendulum over a sea of molten lava.

In any case, it's all leaving very little time and room for processing the emotional aspects of leaving our home and moving to a new one. But after lots of running around for the new house the other day I was getting off the interstate near our condo and I realized how automatic and familiar that drive home has become. It occurred to me that this is the longest I've lived in the same place since I left home for college.

In fact, if you count two places where I lived for eight weeks each [Jesus College, Oxford; and San Francisco], this is my seventeenth move since age 17. That means I've moved an average of once a year during my adult life, and when you add in 6 months backpacking in Europe -- a time during which I 'moved' almost daily -- it seems that my life has been fairly nomadic overall.

But we've been here for five years. Five times the average. And even though the last two years have been full of wishing for more counter space, a yard and room for storage; now that we are actually packing up to leave, I realize how hard it's going to be to leave. I've spent most of my life feeling more comfortable moving than standing still, and yet this time around I'm nervous about the process of uprooting.

And, maybe the planting, too. Of course I'm so excited about the awesome house, and everything that comes with it -- it's something we have wanted for a long time. A couple of weeks ago a colleague of mine asked if this was our "forever house," and my first response was "yeah, it certainly could be." Because I really do love the house.

But maybe it's just the idea of being someplace forever..... for someone who's spent literally half her life looking around the next corner, scoping out new opportunities, spending weekends house-hunting from the curb.... well, a "forever house," is kind of an adjustment. I was driving around on my lunch break a few days later and passed a couple of houses for sale; instinctively, I slowed down and found myself thinking about property prices before I realized that I don't need to do that anymore. It's exciting, a bit unnerving, wonderful, and hard all at once.

The whole experience is a good reminder for me that even positive changes are challenging and scary sometimes. I think it's helpful if I keep that in mind with my clients, my hubby and my friends. And of course, myself!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dear Microsoft: Please bite me. Love & Kisses, Manda

Here's one of the annoying things about life in the 21st Century: Over-designed technology that actually gets in the way more than it helps.

Take Microsoft Word as my current, though not singular, example. The other day I was out and about with time on my hands but no internet access, so I decided to do a rough draft for a blog in MS Word. This morning, I decided to cut and paste the text of said blog into this site so that I can do a few more edits and - hopefully - click "publish" a little later this week, once I've made it passing readable.

So I did a quick copy and paste, the same seamless motion I've been doing on a near-daily basis for over a decade and a half, and tried to quickly save the blog so that I can get on with my busy day and return to the post later in the week.

But the blog won't save. "Form errors." Hmm.

I deleted the text, went back to the document, and saved it in a text-only version. Closed, reopened the text version, cut and paste what I hoped was really just text, and tried again. Form errors again. So I went to the "Edit HTML" tab in Blogger, and deleted the (no-kidding) HUNDREDS of lines of Microsoft gibberish that automatically attached itself to my text BOTH times I tried to paste it, and was finally left with the basic text I expected.

Now I realize that this only added about seven minutes to my life and for me, a relatively computer-savvy person in her mid-30's, it was a simple fix. But this sort of thing was never a problem until I started using the most "advanced" copy of MS Word (which of course isn't even the most advanced copy anymore - I think mine is the 2007 version). In the past, when you needed to cut and paste text, you just did it, and it worked. That was nice.

And it's not just this most recent issue or this version of Word. Every time there's a new iteration of software that's "easier" to use, I find that there is less and less control over all the little automated things that Word wants to do for you. Why all the sudden do all paragraphs have to be 1.5-spaced unless you manually go in, every time, and fix it? Why can't I decide what I want to indent and by how much? Have you ever tried to un-indent a numbered list, draw a long line for writing in text or -- Heaven forbid! -- delete a blank page in MS Word? Aaaack!

I realize how much I sound like my Grandfather when he used to complain about the price of cigarettes when I say this, but it "used to be" that with a little bit of knowledge and intuition, you could move around in Word really easily and get it to do pretty much whatever you needed it to do. At one time in my life I was close to an expert-level user of MS Word, and I even helped teach classes on how to use it to my teacher colleagues five years ago. So if anyone can figure it out, it should be me, right? Wrong!

Nowadays it seems like if I don't want to do exactly what the software designers thought I might want to do with their software, it's going to add an extra 20% to 40% of time and hassle to the project while I experiment with trial and error or research solutions online. The "easier-to-use" versions of the software are increasingly automated and there is seldom any easy or intuitive way to "undo" the automation. That's fine if you're using Word for the first time and don't want to have any control: which probably means you're either six years old or from another planet.

And more versions of more products with more features and more stumbling blocks means the solutions are harder to find, even online. Most of the time the "help" offered by Microsoft answers only the most basic questions -- as though "how do I create a new document?" is really a commonly asked question. Really? By the way, good luck finding the "help" button in Word, anyway...

What's even more frustrating about this whole situation is that -- unlike a stodgy old coot who keeps her antique typewriter and correction fluid, thank you very much -- I'm not really free to stick to the old familiar versions of Word, even if I want to. They become obsolete and incompatible with what everyone else in the world is using, limiting my ability to share documents via e-mail, etc. Plus, as soon as the computer on which the software is loaded has lived it's short little life, I'm forced to upgrade whether I want to or not.

This is a love-hate relationship I think we often have with technology. To keep up with standard levels of communication, to maintain even minimal levels of professional competence, we have to adopt new and widely used technologies and then adapt to the differences in using them. In some ways, the changes can improve our experiences by offering new features, etc.; but often the arrogance (or maybe just hurry to the market) of those who develop the tools does not give enough power or control to the end user.

It seems that authors of many technologies fail to consider the possibility that the person on the purchasing end of their product might have a different idea about how it would be most useful; or at the very least want to be able to simplify or minimize the features presented.

I'm sure my technorati friends will have some interesting views on this that I will be fascinated to hear, and I'd also love suggestions if anyone knows of a good MS Word substitute that actually works. Otherwise, I guess this 'old coot' is going to need some tutoring, or at the very least a dartboard with a picture of Bill Gates on it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Stages of Weight Loss - #2 (Sad, Sad Realization)

After the epic battle (or at least, slightly elevated conversation) between my Ego and Superego, the denial stage of weight loss grinds to an unhappy halt. No longer can I ignore the upward creeping of the scale, and the rationalizations begin to wear so thin that I can see through them clear to the nearest Dunkin Donuts.

At this stage of the game, I know -- on some level -- that my lack of exercise is as much a matter of priorities as it is a shortage of time; I begin understand that there is a connection between eating unhealthy food on the run and the crappy way I feel. And in the most recent example, I reluctantly acknowledge that at some point "pregnancy weight" is really just "weight."

This should be the part where I take the bull by the horns, jump on an invigorating weight loss and diet program, and start turning over that big, puffy new leaf. That's what logic would dictate. I know people who can react to weight gain this way, and they always impress me with their commitment and energy.

I, on the other hand, am going to need a little time (and a box of Oreos) to think things over.

Maybe this is a universal thing or just me, but the realization that my weight is up much further than I'd like is typically demoralizing rather than invigorating. I know I should take it as a challenge, an opportunity to prove that I have control over my life and my body, and an invitation to show what I'm made of (besides fat cells). But really what I most want to do is sit around on the couch with a tub of Ben & Jerry's and feel sorry for myself for a while.

During this phase, I feel angry with myself for not noticing sooner that my eating and lack of exercise were so far off track. I also, incidentally, feel angry with all the skinny, fit people I see around me. Stupid skinny people. Grrrr.

There's also sort of a sad frustration going on, remembering times when I felt, ate and exercised better. Trying on the jeans that fit perfectly (and generated compliments) last year, but which now won't even come close to buttoning. Sometimes all the negative feedback I receive from myself and the world in this stage is so discouraging, I'm tempted to give up on myself entirely. It doesn't help that what I most often do when I feel discouraged is eat. I can't lose weight anyway, so I might as well order the french fries. And maybe dessert....

This stage doesn't usually last very long, which is fortunate, because it's miserable and arguably more calorie-laden than the denial phase. But, after a week or so of this self-indulgent self-pity, I usually find a way to rebound. Sometimes I get a grip on my own with lots of inner coaching and loving myself enough to take good care of me. Other times, I have a couple of really busy back-to-back days with no time to eat obsessively or a special opportunity to get lots of exercise all at once (like a hiking trip with friends).

Either way, something changes, and I feel some tiny measure of success. There's nothing like a little success to rally your spirits and turn dismay into measured optimism. It's like kicking off the bottom of the swimming pool and starting the slow journey upward....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Night's Alright for Writin'

Well, it's been a busy and exhausting but fulfilling weekend. I really enjoyed Yom Kippur services this year, not to mention our family's now-traditional Italian feast before the fast began with Kol Nidre Friday night. And sometime before the headache kicked in, I did notice (with surprise that shouldn't be surprising, because it's what I always seem to feel), that I really did feel spiritually cleansed and refreshed on the Day of Atonement.

So that means today is the first day of working really hard not to make the same mistakes over again. Guess it's time for new mistakes!

We had a busy day today and spent some quality time this evening with my Dad - celebrating his birthday (he's 62 today if anyone who knows him wants to wish him a happy happy). It's so fun to watch My Little Man interact with his grandfather... I get to see a different side of both of them.

When the cake was eaten and Dad went on his way, we spent a couple of hours packing boxes. T-minus 10 days until we move, and I find myself in total disbelief about how much stuff we have accumulated here in five years. My spirit may be cleansed, but my house has a long way to go!

But for now, I am escaping the dust and winding down, with a cat happily curled up next to me. She'd be hurt if she knew this, but after weeks of planning this move, it only just occurred to me today that we also have to coordinate moving her, too. I had pictured her enjoying the new house, rolling around on the back patio, and I'd given some thought to the location of the litterbox, but.... I hadn't thought about the actual move. We don't even have a cat carrier (I threw her old one out shortly after we moved here).

Ah, well, one more thing for the list; and I know it will all fall into place, cat and all. And let's just keep the fact that she temporarily slipped my mind between us, shall we?

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Stages of Weight Loss - #1 (Denial)

Today's blog is inspired by the fact that -- as of this morning -- I am 11 pounds down since the beginning of summer and only 6.5 to go before I hit my pre-pregnancy weight. Anyway, it got me thinking about how many times I've ridden the weight loss roller coaster over the last 20+ years, and the idea that I tend to experience iterations of the same stages each time.

I've decided to devote a blog to each stage.... starting today with:

This is that phase of the weight cycle in which the scale is slowly, steadily creeping upward, but I refuse to acknowledge it. I love this stage. During this stage I eat whatever I want, because I am willfully blind to the consequences (except the occasional post-pizza heartburn). Denial is bliss, and don't let any self-serving mental health professional convince you otherwise.

Well, except that your clothes start to get tight. And things sag where they shouldn't. And you notice that you can wolf down a plate of chili-cheese fries faster than any of your guy friends. And you don't feel quite as good physically as usual, nor quite so confident when you get dressed in the morning. And maybe someone asks you when your baby is due, and you sit in the car and cry for half an hour because you're not pregnant.

This is about the time when a part of me, the part Dr. Freud would've labeled the Super Ego, decides it's time to step in. But denial isn't going anywhere easily. It's way too comfy in this squishy body. So the Id - the part of me that loves ignorant bliss and jelly donuts - recruits the ego to help maintain our position. The conversation goes something like this.

SUPER EGO: Listen, I couldn't help but notice that when we got on the scale this morning....
EGO (defensive): Oh, come on, you can't believe everything that scale says! And haven't you heard that weight is just a number?
SUPER EGO: That's true, it is just a number. And that number is up by at least ten pounds.
EGO: The scale needs batteries. Plus it gets wet sometimes when we get out of the shower. It could totally impact the digital reading!
SUPER EGO: I have other evidence.... Our pants are getting really tight. We've been wearing jackets to work even when it's 80 degrees out.
EGO: I'll have you know jackets are in. Besides, we had that really salty meal earlier this week...
SUPER EGO: Which one? The potato skins or the bleu cheese burger?
EGO: Er... both, I guess. Anyway, it's probably just water weight. You know, bloating.
SUPER EGO: Ten pounds of water weight? From a salty meal?
EGO: And it could also be that we're building muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat, you know.
SUPER EGO: Muscle? From....?
EGO: Well, the groceries were really heavy the other day and I did yoga, let's see, what's the date today?
SUPER EGO: Yoga was two weeks ago. And it was once.
EGO: Um.... [fumbling, turns to ID for backup] A little help here?
ID: Jelly donuts! Tell her about the jelly donuts!

The blog will be on hiatus tonight and tomorrow while I'm fasting for Yom Kippur (rather than for weight loss). I wish my Jewish friends a wonderful Yom Tov!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Random Answer

I had sort of a nonstop, stressful day today, one that left very little space for contemplation and creativity. We're in the process of preparing to move, closing on a new home in a couple of weeks and getting our current space ready to rent out to someone else; and today was one of those days with lots of meetings,  phone calls, faxing, and e-mailing trying to make all the pieces of the process work together.

So I'm worn out and brain-dead, and definitely in a state that would not normally be conducive to blogging. I guess this is one of those days for stretching the limits.

But I can't do it on my own. So in search of inspiration, I did a little random googling, and then started googling "random" just for fun, too. I found something called a random question generator on a website geared toward sparking creativity.

Here was the question: Can I transpose positives and negatives?


After packing until nearly midnight last night, it was totally exhilarating to be awakened at 5:00 a.m. by my ready-to-play toddler. I often laze around until as late as 6:45, so the opportunity to greet the morning extra-early was really special. The fact that he wanted to be right under my feet or in my arms the entire time was nice, too, because I always want to be close to him. Every second.

Having a nonstop day today made me feel important and needed. It's nice to know that I'm such a pivotal part in our family and so helpful to my husband. It was really great that I had no time to waste on any frivolous activities, and that the near-constant flow of phone calls, emails, etc. really kept me on track. It was a nice bonus, however, that my phone completely malfunctioned mid-afternoon so that I couldn't spend too much time on that important call on my drive home.

The frequent, ear-piercing shrieks emitting from my child's mouth from 3:45 until 7:30 were so nice to have in the background as I tried to help a friend with a problem via IM while scrambling to make appointments with plumbers and carpet vendors and gathering sensitive information from potential tenants, while showing the condo to another potential tenant and realtor, chicken nuggets on the floor and all. It's really great that they got to experience me in my full humanity, rather than seeing me as too professional and cold.  Sometimes hearing yourself think can be so overrated!

You  know, it's funny, even trying to exaggerate this exercise and even with the true stressors listed... I have to admit that some of the positive 'spin' really is just as true, at least upon reflection. Okay, maybe without the shrieking in the background while I'm on phone, but still.

Trying to artificially turn the negatives into positives in response to the random question made me realize how easy that really was. Many people don't have the opportunity to move right now at all, much less to a house they're totally excited about. The logistical juggling that comes along with that is a short-term stressor; and in a month, I'll look back happy and relieved that everything has worked out for the best.

And it doesn't take long of complaining about my noisy, needy, early riser before I can also hear his deep belly laughs and feel his sweet tired baby hugs. And I am reminded, as I am every day, how difficult it was to get him here with our fertility challenges. I can still vividly remember those painful and frustrating moments when we weren't sure he was even possible. That fact makes it hard for me to even consider taking the positives of my day - the little things that made me smile - and turning them on their heads. But turning negative into positive? Yeah, I can do that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Mid-30's Blog

I had surreal experience the other day. There I was, driving down the road toward the Marietta Square, when something caught my eye. It was one of those promotional signs people put in their yards in support of an election candidate. Not unusual, except that I recognized the name. Not from commercials or the newspaper [I mean, let's face it, I don't exactly keep my finger on the pulse of local politics]. But from middle school.

That's right, someone I went to middle school with is running for state public office. [Obviously my inclusion of the link is not an endorsement of this person, unless you want to base your voting decisions on my very scattered memories from Mrs. Perenic's homeroom.]

It's kind of weird to see someone who I remember primarily as a quiet, lanky baseball player from middle school (and if memory serves, the BFF of a guy who I had a painfully hopeless crush on throughout 7th grade) as a grown-up, full-fledged candidate for state court judge. What?

No, no, judges are old -- certainly those with enough clout and experience to be running for state office. I mean, you couldn't reasonably expect to be at that point in your career until at least....

Thirty five.

And then it hits me. Again. I'm turning thirty-five this year, along with my peers. And I'd already acknowledged that I'm officially "baseball old," but this is sort of a new threshold into beginning middle age. Some kid who I sat near during sex ed and US History now has his name on signs in perfectly respectable front yards in very established Marietta, Georgia.

It does sort of make me pause and wonder about where I am as I approach 35, and where I thought I'd be, and so on. It's actually hard to wrap my head around it, mostly because I don't really feel "grown up" yet, much less like my life could be almost half over (based on the averages). Seventh grade doesn't seem all that long ago, and yet, here we are...

Of course I believe that age is just a number, that our potential is largely the same at 35 and 45 as it was at 25, and maybe even 15. But I also think it's important to stop and take stock once in a while and see if we're living the lives we want, every day. Have I achieved what I wanted? If not, why not? Am I the kind of person that the 15 year old me and the 75 year old me would both be proud of? What do I want to do differently between now and 40? Or 80?

Sometimes it takes something to get our attention and force us to pause and evaluate the path of our lives -- like a milestone birthday. Or a sign on the side of the road....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Something Kinda Cool About a Hot Topic

I'm not a political blogger, but I couldn't help but notice something in the wake of the last week's firestorm over a tiny Florida church's plan to burn the Quran, the sacred book of Islam. Like many people in this country who would like to see an end to hate and religious persecution, I breathed a sigh of relief when the church changed its plans on Saturday. I won't say more about the church's agenda because I don't think they deserve another ounce of our collective attention.

What I do think is fascinating is how a tiny church of 50 misguided people (or perhaps it was just one very loud misguided person) garnered so much national and international attention, and arguably could've endangered the lives of U.S. service men and women around the world, not to mention adding fuel to the fire of extremism both here at home and on foreign soils. There were worldwide protests, including a demonstration in Afghanistan where two people died..... and nothing happened to him.

Other churches nearby read from the Quran to demonstrate that religions have more in common than in conflict. Interfaith councils, Islamic advocacy groups, and other proponents of peace and respect spoke out against this man and his horrible idea. Secretary of State Clinton, General David Petraus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and even President Obama himself pleaded both publicly and directly with the pastor of this church not to carry out his reckless and disrespectful plan.

But never, not once, was the pastor of that little church arrested. No one put a lock on the door of his church or tried to stop its congregation from assembling. This man's family did not disappear in the middle of the night, taken away by secret police; nor were journalists (foolish though they might be) prohibited from telling his story or taking his picture. And even though I and others might have wished desperately that someone would shove a sock in that idiot's mouth last week, no one did.

Can you think of another nation on earth where someone who is essentially creating a potential threat to national security would simply be asked nicely to stop by top military authorities, and the leader of our country himself? Is there any other country in the world where we are all free to experience such tension between the right to free speech and the right to free practice of religion?

This incident and the cultural context in which it occurred bring up painful and complex questions for us as a nation. How do we balance freedom against fear, and respect for differing opinions and faiths against what some of us might perceive as the collective good? There are no easy answers. But I can say for sure I'm glad to live in a country where we are free to ask the questions.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Preschool Blog

First I want to say thanks for all the supportive feedback on my 30/30 experiment. I've already received some great ideas for blogs, and please keep them coming!

A couple of the suggestions I've received are for blogs are about how my life and perspective have changed as the mother of a one-year-old (interestingly enough, both these suggestions came from single male friends). Obviously, this is a topic near and dear to my heart and understanding....

The one I'd like to tackle first is about putting MLM in preschool. Our little nut (seen here during one of his new favorite activities, "helping" Mommy sweep) started attending a part-time preschool program almost a month ago. And honestly, it didn't happen the way I expected.

My original plan as a somewhat-stay-at-home-mom was to ease MLM into a preschool environment, starting with one morning a week and then expanding gradually from there. We had a wonderful nanny who stayed with him one full day each week while I worked, and I thought a little socialization with his peers in addition to time with her would be the most comfortable thing for all of us. I'd even toured a little mother's morning out program and put down a deposit.

But our wonderful nanny had a change of plans beyond her control, and found her way into another job that offered her more hours than we could give her. We were sad to see her go, but of course we had to understand!

Suddenly we were faced with a daycare dilemma. Keep our plans for one morning a week and start the search over for a new nanny as fabulous as the one we felt so lucky to have before? Revamp my entire professional life? Neither of those seemed practical, especially since the monkey has been showing lots of signs that he's ready for more social time with other kids....

So we went on the hunt for flexible full-day preschool programs, and ended up finding one that was a perfect fit. MLM goes two full days a week and I have a day of office work and a day of errands/paperwork during the week (plus I work on a weekend day while Daddy gets some guy time with him). It's a wonderful program and the teachers are fantastic. The whole setup is working really well for all of us.

But all of that doesn't cover the emotional roller coaster. I know from talking to other moms that whether you have a child in daycare full-time, a child who stays with a relative, in-home care with a nanny, or a child who's home all the time with an occasional morning out.... there are always challenges. We feel guilty when we leave our kids with someone else, or we keep them with us and feel guilty that we sometimes wish they were with someone else. We wonder if they're getting enough quality time with us, enough stimulation and socialization with other kids, the right learning opportunities, etc., etc. etc.

As always, our myriad choices are a mixed blessing. Moms and dads today have so many choices for how to raise and care for their children, and with all those options come countless ways to second guess yourself. I am no exception.

When I drop MLM off in the morning, he still cries and sometimes screams, reaching for me, trying to get back into my arms. The magnitude of this separation reaction seems directly related to how tired he is that morning. Sometimes he's easily distracted by a classroom activity, other times he's still screaming as I walk down the hall.

From a psychology point of view, I know that this is normal separation behavior and that it's healthy for both of us to go through this process. From a reasonable point of view, I know that when I call the classroom a few minutes later, they'll tell me he stopped crying two minutes after I left. But from a mommy point of view, it hurts my heart to see my precious little boy reaching for me in tears, and it's all I can do to will my legs out the door to the car.

That feeling passes once I'm outside, of course. I take a deep breath of fresh air and turn my focus to everything else requiring my attention that day. I often feel a little sense of relief that I get to be just me for a few minutes, driving a car alone, listening to the radio. Sometimes that relief is accompanied by a twinge of guilt for feeling so relieved, but that doesn't last long. Then I'm off to my day, and only occasionally does it happen that I look in the rear-view mirror and find myself mildly shocked to see the empty car seat there, and my heart experiences a little surge of longing for its noisy little occupant.

Some days this is the last time I see MLM until the following morning [his Dad picks him up and he's in bed when I leave work]. That's hard, but I'm busy enough and tired enough that the next morning tends to come pretty quickly. Other days, I pick MLM up in the afternoon, and I get to experience the flip side of this challenge... one of the best moments of the week. I come to the classroom or the playground, look around until I spot him playing somewhere, and then wait for it.

There's this split-second where he looks at me blankly, trying to decipher my face and put me in context of the world he's been in all day. And then, recognition dawns. A smile spreads across my little boy's face and he stretches his arms out wide, both for balance and for hugging, and then toddles toward me in pure delight. I scoop him up in my arms and we hug one another tight; his head resting on my shoulder in comfort and affection.

This is the best part of my week, and I tune out everything else for that moment just to cherish it. This is the moment where we are returned safely to one another, back from our separate adventures of the day. The moment in which he understands truly and deeply that I will always return for him, and in which I am reassured that -- no matter how much time we spend apart -- that my role as Mommy will always be mine alone in the heart of my little boy.

Separation is hard. But without it, we could never experience the joy of coming home.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Very Old Story, and My Personal Tribute to Morgan Spurlock

There is an ancient story I've heard told and retold in different forms for years, with the original dating back to Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet. Or possibly even before that. This is a slightly modernized version I heard from my wonderful teacher, the great Coleman Barks. Stop me if you've heard it.

A man is riding a train when the conductor approaches him, asking for his ticket. The flustered man looks all around -- in his bags, his pants pocket, underneath the seat -- but he can't find his ticket anywhere. He looks up at the conductor, embarrassed.

The conductor says to the man, "What about your right breast pocket? You haven't checked there."

The man replies, "I can't look there."

"Why not?" Asks the conductor, "You've looked everywhere else."

"Exactly," replies the man. "If it's not there, I will have no hope."


Friends, I have set some pretty aggressive writing goals lately. I don't know if you'll ever see the results of those aggressive goals, but you're going to see some of the process anyway. I'm promising myself consistent, disciplined hard work on some writing projects for the next six months, trying to overcome the casual relationship I've had with writing for the last.... oh, 25 years or so.

See, writing has always been my proverbial right breast pocket. I have wanted to write and enjoyed writing since I "published" a poem about a fire drill in second grade in our elementary school's version of a lit mag. I followed writing through my college English major, and have dabbled in it periodically ever since. Through all my tumultuous relationships and life and career changes, writing has been my constant friend and companion, a cache of possibilities always honored but never fully explored.

I've always held something back. Namely, the time, discipline and dedication it requires to really "make a go" of becoming an author (paid or otherwise). There have been a million "reasons" for this, mostly very sensible-sounding excuses related to paying rent and such. As long as I was putting my full-time energies into my real-life careers, which I've found mostly enjoyable and fulfilling, then writing could continue to be a distant dream, something I could picture doing once I'd retired to that beach house with an old typewriter and a soft yellow room where the tattered curtains blow gently in the ocean air.

Truth be told, my unwillingness to really try writing, on a big scale, has been all about fear. What if I'm no good? What if I finally sit down to do this thing and it turns out that I'm not the talented author my second-grade teacher was sure I would turn out to be, but just another hack with a blog and a dream? The potential wasted time and energy don't mean too much to me; but the loss of my "shadow career" as a writer, learning that my right breast pocket really is empty.... well, that would be pretty darn devastating. So I've avoided a little and distracted myself a lot, and kept writing as sort of an ace in the hole -- protection against any of life's failures because it is what I'm really supposed to be.

But lately I've been realizing that the train ticket is no good until you cash it in, and now that I'm barreling down hard on 35, I'm a little nervous that my tombstone will read "Nice lady. Once hoped to be a writer." That prospect is way scarier than being a mediocre or failed writer.

I've also been watching lots of friends taking big risks recently, following dreams most people might dismiss, opening themselves up to the world in a way that is scary just to watch, quietly making every moment count. They're inspiring, damn them!

So I guess it's time.

The blogging has been good, of course -- both personally and professionally -- but now I'm ready to raise the stakes. So, on the theory that when it comes to writing quantity begets quality, I'm committing to 30 blogs in 30 days in this space, hoping that the exercise will help me to steamroll over my inner critic and get the creative juices flowing for my offline endeavors.

A month of daily blogging could be a total Crapfest - and that's okay. But maybe to hedge against that possibility, I'm hoping to get some suggestions from all four of my readers (that's you) to get me started. Feel free to leave a comment with a blog title, subject, first sentence, whatever... and let's see if I can wrap my keyboard around it. Some days my blogging time is going to be super-limited, so I'm disclaiming all typos, grammatical errors and ridiculous endings now.



PS - For the pop culture impaired, this is who Morgan Spurlock is.

PPS - Am I really doing this? What am I thinking??

One Sorry Blog

Rosh Hashanah has passed, Yom Kippur is on its way... It's time for the Apology Blog. I just read my blog from two years ago, and I could almost cut and paste, because I'm having many of the same feelings today. And I noticed that many of the wrongs to which I referred are pretty similar today, too -- so I guess some areas of my behaviors still need improvement. ;)

Gossip is still one of my major weaknesses. I think I've made improvements since 2008, but it's still one of those wrong things to do that just feels.... so right. In part, I come about this trait honestly. To this day I remember my mother quoting someone (Dolly Parton?), saying, "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me." But it's also just because gossip is so delicious. It has lots of what those in the psychology world call "secondary reinforcers," which are side benefits that make habits hard to break.

Not only does the gossiper get to air his or her hurt/angry feelings, but most of us know that putting other people down often makes us feel a little better about ourselves (even for just a fleeting moment). Sometimes that little ego boost can be downright irresistible. And since gossip takes a minimum of two participants, it can also be a longed-for connection with other people. Who among us has not bonded with one person at the expense of someone else? It's selfish and wrong, but let's face it, it can be appealing -- especially when we're looking for common ground with a fellow purveyor of gossip. I think this is why gossip is such an easy sin to commit, and maybe why the Yom Kippur liturgy mentions it at least four times. [Insert sheepish grin here].

So, I'm sorry if I've gossiped about you (whether you knew it or not), and I'm sorry if I've enticed you into gossiping yourself by being a partner in crime.

And I'm sorry for all the times I've been late to meetings with you this year. I'm sorry for forgetting something important to you, for neglecting our relationship, and overlooking something about which you needed to talk.

I'm sorry for the times when you were talking, and instead of really listening, I was thinking about my own problems or planning what I was going to say in response.

I'm sorry I knowingly let your phone call go to voicemail because I thought I was too busy to talk, or too tired, or just caught up in my own little world. And I'm sorry for the exponentially greater number of times I missed your call because I'd turned my phone off and forgot to turn it back on or left it in another room, outside in the car, or under a pile of dirty laundry.

To the crazy lady who chewed me out at Costco a few weeks ago: I truthfully didn't intend to steal your parking place, but you're right -- I wasn't being polite and (when in doubt) I should have let you have the space. I could've apologized afterward, but your anger embarrassed me and I became defensive instead. I'm sorry.

To everyone I have hurt, intentionally or otherwise, and to everyone I have disappointed in so many ways this year, please know that my behaviors have not always been in line with my true feelings and accept my heartfelt apologies. I've said this before, but I mean it again, and I'm officially inviting anyone to whom I owe an apology or corrected behavior -- please let me know and let's talk about it.

This year, I also want to make amends to myself. To me: I'm sorry that I haven't let your dreams come to the forefront often enough. I'm sorry that I have let my worries about perfection and the expectations of others guide my actions rather than honoring you. Too often, I've given time to mindless TV, low-priority tasks and unimportant time-fillers. I've allowed my confidence to falter and measured myself against others, rather than nourishing my own dreams and giving them the time and energy they deserve. I owe you (me) more than that, and I'm sorry. I will try to make amends this year, by reminding myself more frequently and holding myself more accountable to... well, me.

I'm sure there are many more apologies to be made, to myself and to everyone else. But there's only so much one blog and one woman can do. And apologies are also about forgiveness -- forgiving those who have wronged me and forgiving myself for things I'm working on and things that are still outside my awareness. My flaws and limitations are all part of what makes me beautifully broken, a work in progress... human.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Days of Awe; Plus a New Look for a New Year

It's the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. So we are two days into 5771, as well as the High Holidays, otherwise known as Yamim Noraim (the Days of Awe). I love this time of year. The ten days from the start of Rosh Hashanah to the end of Yom Kippur are a time for reflection, time with family, and spiritual invigoration.

Unlike the secular/gregorian new year, the high holidays are not marked by fireworks and an excess of champagne, or by a Ryan Seacrest special [though it would be pretty funny to imagine that one].  Instead, we spend lots of time having meals with family, attending long temple services, and enjoying beautiful symbols of the season -- like pomegranate for fertility and good deeds, the round challah to represent the natural cycle of each year and each life, apples and honey for a sweet new year.

This is a time for both reaching out and turning inward. Connecting with family and friends. Reflecting back on the previous year and looking forward to the year ahead. During this time we are asked to account for our mistakes from the past year, make amends when possible and move forward on a better path. These are not really new year's resolutions -- at least, not in the dieting and budget-balancing sense -- but a more subtle and spiritual realignment of priorities. I feel compelled at the high holidays to really think about my role in the world and how I could improve my performance in that role. Well, not compelled, really. Inspired.

This introspection and self-correction culminates during the fast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On that day, we have the opportunity to leave behind worldly concerns -- like food and hygiene -- and instead focus on holding ourselves accountable for all our transgressions. [More on that later.] I also believe it's a time for forgiveness and letting go of wrongs that have been done to us, even those for which we've received no apology. Way, way, way easier said than done -- but I am going to try.

Reflecting back on the past year, I see lots of blessings and a few challenges. There are achievements and some "growth opportunities" as well. For one thing, I know that there are many areas of my life that need deepening, rather than spreading out. A little more tortoise and a little less hare. And definitely less crazed headless chicken. A little more simplicity of habit, and complexity of thought. Fewer commitments, but more deeply committed. At least it sounds good in theory.

Our rabbis also talked this week about giving life to your dreams, and having the courage to pray for others' needs before your own -- even for something you want and need yourself. Right now I'm interpreting the former to mean giving time, energy and a sense of confidence to some dreams I have allowed to go on the back burner. And the latter, well -- it's simple enough, except for the execution. There's work to be done here, for sure.

My first task, however, is to work on holding myself accountable for the past year and making amends. And you know I'll be blogging about that, too.


Meanwhile, you might notice that I've also simplified the design of this blog. It's been three years, and it was time for an update. I hope the change makes it easier to read.

I hope everyone will enjoy a happy, healthy and sweet new year. L'Shanah Tovah.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Farewell, Long Weekend

I love Labor Day weekend. This is true in general; but this particular weekend was so very nice that I really hate to see it go. MDH and I were married on a Labor Day weekend four years ago, and we've found that it's a very convenient anniversary weekend for getting away to somewhere exotic and romantic.... Or for staying home and actually finishing the laundry for once.

Usually Labor Day and/or our anniversary totally planned - trips, dinners, nights out, etc. This year, we had no babysitter lined up and almost no plans for how the weekend would unfold, and it turned out to be the best possible approach. It just kind of.... flowed. Somehow we managed to work in a meal with my Dad, four separate & wonderful meals with some of our closest friends, a bit of hiking, a bit of shopping, a few productive hours of working around the house, a couple of good-bad movies on TV, naps, cleaning, laundry, errands, board games, college football (naturally) and even the kids' Shabbat service at our synagogue.... all without ever once feeling rushed or over-scheduled. It was awesome.

Sometimes, instead of trying to take advantage of every "free" minute, it's good to just go with the flow and follow the weekend where it takes you. It's been a long time since I felt like I could face a stretch of even a few hours with a "Sure, whatever..." attitude; and I have to tell you I loved every minute of it. Maybe I should try to take this approach more often, just following the day wherever it goes and letting my expectations take a backseat. Maybe tomorrow I'll toss out the day planner and just move through the day, accepting each moment as a gift with no guarantees for the future.

Yes, I'm tossing the day planner right now. Just going to glance at it for tomorrow's client schedule (obviously that's essential for showing up on time). Hmm... tomorrow is a little busy. 

Still, there has to be some way of carrying forward this wonderful concept of going with the flow, just allowing the day to carry me where it will. Maybe I'll go with the flow on Wednesday? Well, on second thought, I'm looking at Wednesday and there is a meeting I need to coordinate around, and a couple of pretty essential things happening in the afternoon, and of course the high holidays start in the evening.... (A bit premature, perhaps, for throwing out the planner.)

So if I actually write "Go With The Flow," in big red letters in my planner for next Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m., does that negate the point? ;)