Sunday, January 15, 2017

On to Trump

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Cory Booker caught himself on MSNBC saying how glorious it all was.  Specifically, he said he was "basking in the racial deliciousness" of our first black president.  My husband and I had a good laugh about that.  As ridiculous as the words were, I could relate to the giddiness of this new reality.  A seemingly impossible door was opened for people who look like me, for my future sons who could now reasonably aspire to the presidency.  It was possible.

This week I felt similarly verklempt.  I watched President Obama award Vice President Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, listened to the words these brothers shared and was overcome with the reality that people like me were responsible for this country and now people against me would steer the fate of our county for at least the next four years and probably eight as history shows.  

When I say like me, I don't mean just that Obama was black.  I mean people who can clearly build meaningful human connection, people who are self-made and at least aware of the privilege they hold, people who communicate with such decency and maturity and men who love, honor and respect their wives.  After next Friday, this simply won't be true.

I don't know how to feel about what happens next.  I am afraid of what I don't know and what I don't have. With the sheer volume of information available to me, I feel completely overwhelmed about political goings on.  Every other story outlines a grim and hopeless image - all politicians are in someone's pocket, party lines are too rigid to get anything done and catastrophic decisions are on the horizon. It is in discomfort that we grow and so I debate with myself daily on how I should proceed.

Do I lean in to the information and educate myself about what is happening regardless of how depressing it might feel?  Do I ignore it all in favor of my work, my home, my husband and my boys?  Friends and family and the dozens of daily responsibilities in all of our lives can easily overshadow the work and energy required to be informed.

If it were my boys asking, I would say that although our symbol of hope is moving on, hope is not lost.  I would tell them that they are brilliant and capable and can make a difference in the likely difficult times ahead.  And that while there is a segment of this country that feels we hurt their odds of success and would have legislation passed that endanger our bodies and our rights in numerous ways, there are more allies than our oppononents would have us believe.

Hopefully I can heed my own advice.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Resolutions and Musings, 2017

I really love the start of a new year.  Like most people, it's an opportunity to examine where I am in life and make a plan for how I will improve this next glorious year.  While I have been floundering in the "doing it all" arena for the past few years, I am an overachiever at heart and my New Years resolution quickly goes from one good intention to a robust list of to do's and projects.  Intellectually, I know that setting a few very important goals will get me further than a revolutionary 20 point plan. And you know, when you know better, you should do better so this year, I'm limiting my new year's resolutions to a top 3:

1. Write More - I am a really fantastic writer but like any muscle, my writing skills have atrophied due to non-use (professional communication aside).  Every time I sit down to write, I think, I've got nothing to say.  Who wants to read more about a working mother's search for balance (spoiler alert: it's still a struggle).  But I love to write and I'm proud of this ability.  This year, I want to write about (and to) my boys, about being woke, about professional pursuits and funny stories and the ah-ha moments that come to me during a long hot shower.  I will be better for it and I think those who read what I write will to.

2. Love More - I love my husband, my boys, my parents, my siblings and my besties with every fiber of my being.  I love them all desperately and fiercely.  But I know they don't always feel that love. In my quest to be worthy of them, to make them all proud, I work a lot and when I'm not working, I'm thinking about work or recovering from overworking.  This year i will try to snuggle more, go on adventures together, pick up the phone, make plans and intentionally cultivate those relationships so they know how much they truly mean to me.

3. Move More - As I get older (and heavier), I am absolutely struggling through an energy crisis.  I am just in this constant state of exhaustion and the consequence is that at every opportunity, I sit my behind down on the sofa or in the bed or in a rocker.  I nurse my baby, binge watch my shows and scroll through social media instead of moving around.  I will get up to clean and organize this house I worked so hard for. I will take my boys out on walks and to see new people and places. I will dance when I wake up and before I go to bed.  I hope this is an "if you build it, they will come" scenario.  If I fake it 'til I make it and move instead of sit, perhaps the energy will emerge.

2016 was an incredible year for me.  I completed a full year as a homeowner, welcomed a 2nd beautiful, perfect boy to my clan, learned how special my work is as my boss, colleagues and clients showered me with good vibes and gave me the space I needed in my transition to Mami of two and made some incredible memories.  Hopefully, with these intentions in mind,
2017 will be even more phenomenal.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Let the Reading (for Mami) Begin!

I feel like I have this conversation everytime I meet someone new, from work particularly:

Them - "So, tell me about yourself."

Me - "I've been with the company about a year, I love it for these reasons, I've been successful thus far and am really excited about my future here."

Them - "Do you have a family; what do you do in your spare time."

Me - "I have a five year old (speaks obnoxiously and at length about how cool this little kid is and the excitement of super heroes).  I have this blog I write in (totally overstating how often I post), I try to work out often (again, overstatement)."  ...and change the subject ASAP.

I know that at some point I was more interesting, did more with myself.  The reality is that I, like most of my contemporaries (working mothers), don't really feel like I have spare time.  The real answer to what I do with my time would sound more like - "When I'm not working, I'm often thinking about work and all of the opportunity I currently have that requires more time to fullfill.  I do my best to spend some QT with my little guy.  And I spend lots of time cooking, cleaning, laundering, logging in to pay our bills and update our budget, and generally trying to ensure my household doesn't fall into dissaray between work travel trips.  I try really hard to, and often fall short of, keeping in touch with a small group of close friends and family who I hope know I love them and am just overcome by "busy-ness."  I am usually ready to go to bed by 9 PM but push through to 10 or 11 PM so my husband and I can get some grown folk time...that's about it."

I am definitely not complaining; I rather enjoy this quiet life of routine.  There's a lot of love and smiles and periodic celebrations.  But even writing this I can recognize the importance of having a bit more just for me.  SO when I was invited last month to join a book club, I excitedly accepted!  This would be perfect - new relationships and connections, time for just me and a monthly accountability to reading a non-work-related book.  This will be great!

Here I am on the eve of our first meeting and I still have some reading to do!  It will get done tonight!  I have something like first day of school jitters, am overthinking what I should make and bring, and am looking forward to having more to say when someone asks what I do with my free time.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Trouble With Being Informed

When my husband and I first got together, we really connected on progressive political discourse.  We watched the news together, read and discussed articles and books together, tuned in to NPR and were obsessed with documentary and independent film.  For me, it was perhaps the first time I was with someone whose priority was not my body and what it could do for him...yes it, not me.  And for him, it was the first time he could discourse with a woman, a woman of color, and feel challenged.  This mutual interest and connection was really at the heart of our relationship for some time.

Then, we got pregnant and had Myki, the beautiful brown boy that is now the center of our lives.  For the last five years, I have mostly shied away from the news, the radio, non-fiction books and documentaries.  I just opted out of this big part of our relationship and connection.  Layered on top of that was a dampening of our physical relationship as I struggled with my new bigger, looser, stretch-mark ridden body and the new function of my breasts with a nursing baby.  Looking back, this was so unfair to my husband, a man who loved me and gave me love and affection unconditionally throughout this time.

What prompts this relationship confession you ask?   I have just recently started watching the news with him again, a conscious decision to proactively do something kind for this man I love so deeply.  In deciding to return to the news, I had to really dig deep and examine what took me away from this interest five years ago.

Fear, despair and pain.  To be informed hurt my feelings too much, it hurt and still hurts me deeply.

If inequality is rising, if the middle class is disappearing, if poor people are dying and no one cares, people are drowning in debt and no one can help, if young boys and men who look like my little boy all grown up can get shot for no reason (or a litany of reasons depending on your perspective), if tea partiers can insult the President of the United States under the guise of patriotism and there's an entire section of America who fears and hates me and people like me....if all of this is true, than how on earth am I supposed to protect and nurture this perfect child.  How am I supposed to raise him up in this country that is historically and systemically designed to keep him down?

There was a time I felt empowered to make the world a better place.  But after having my son, the embodiment of my emotions and sensitivities, the balance between making the world a better place and survival and prosperity for my little family shifted.  I closed ranks and cared less about the world and more about my small world and what I could do to counter the socioeconomic trends of this country, what the numbers said we were supposed to be and achieve.  

There are more issues here than can be discussed in this short piece and being informed is still a challenge for me.  But recently my perspective has shifted...

My relationship is strengthened by critical discourse and the idea that together, we can build a confidant and compassionate man prepared to navigate what awaits him in the world. 

I want to be the kind of person who can discuss and defend my beliefs about what is happening in this country.

I am strong, stronger than the person I've been these last five years hiding away in trash tv and public interest stories.

And to really know and understand the historical, political and social aspects of these sobering realities is perhaps the only way I can ever make any of it better.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Myki Goes to Kindergarten

Alexandria City Public Schools has this wonderful program called K Prep.  It is a week of half days for all of the incoming Kindergarteners to practice taking the bus, acclimate to this new big boy/girl environment and for the teachers to get an idea of what they'll be working with on the First Day of School, September 2nd.

I expected tears (on both ends) and anxiety (on my end) about him stepping up to this next phase of life - real school.  But there was none of that.  Mostly, I felt relief that I had successfully navigated these critical 0-5 years; I felt tremendous pride at this big beautiful boy who excitedly hopped on to the school bus with confidence, who waived me off on that first day and asked the teacher questions from that first moment in the classroom; and I felt incredibly close to my husband, Michael's father, for standing next to me (sometimes ahead of me) in the journey that got us here.

As I reflect on the last week and prepare myself for the real deal in two weeks, I think of all the things I want Michael to know as he begins his formal education:

  • You you can do this.  You are smart, kind and interesting and interested in everything.
  • Not everyone will like you, and that is ok. You will find some very special friends in the next twelve years and a handful of very close friends will always outweigh a crowd of cool kids.
  • No matter what anyone says, being smart is cool.  Don't ever be afraid to participate in class, raise your hand when you know the answer and ask questions when you need help. 
  • If something is really hard, it just means you need to keep working at it.  Everything won't come naturally.  But accomplishing something after a struggle is often much more satisfying than accomplishment without effort.  Don't give up, keep pushing and you will figure it out.
  • Daddy and I are here to help you.  Just ask us. 
  • Daddy and I are proud of you, no matter what.
Here's to a fabulous school year for you all!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I was being a grumpy pants tonight; just wound tight, high-strung and obsessing over all I need to do tonight and into an early business flight tomorrow.  I snapped at Myki and his Dad and then doubled back with apologetic hugs.

"I just love you Myki, I'm sorry I was impatient."

"It's ok Mami, you just made bad choices."

Giggles, "Its true, I just love you Myki."

"There is no time I don't love you Mami."

Yes, that conversation occurred.  So blessed with this intuitive child and his very understanding father who doesn't bat an eye at my crazies.

Also, look how cute they are!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Rediscovering YouTube

One of the most beautiful blessings of parenthood is the privilege of rediscovering things through the eyes of your child.  I have layed on my back 100 times on the beach or at a park and looked into the sky, the brilliant sun, trees and birds calming my nerves or giving me the mental space to ponder.  But the first time I layed a three-month old Myki on a blanket and he was totally mesmerized by the canopy of trees above him, well that dwarfed any good feeling the sky had ever given me.  It was amazing - his searching eyes and the expression of pure wonder that only young children have.

This week Myki's latest discovery, my latest rediscovery, was YouTube.  Now, I know that this seems silly when compared to the beautiful scene I just described.  But, this YouTube thing has actually been pretty awesome and significant.  I've written before about how much easier it was for me to mother an infant than a willfull (wonder where he got that from?) and exceptionally large toddler.  I work really hardat  finding ways to connect to bridge that gap, build a bridge between us.  Most recently, he is not a toddler, but a full grown child...a real boy!  I have always tried to speak to him like an adult, no baby talk, and he has always had a lot of words in his mouth as my mother-in-law likes to say.  

He tells me stories, recounts the plots to his favorite movies and TV shows and asks many a question I don't know the answer to.  He also has quite a lot of energy and my husband I work hard to direct that energy towards positive things.  We got him a piano for Christmas - a musical outlet.  And he has costumes, Legos, workbooks and science kits.  Much of the time though, utilizing these things becomes a barter for TV - do this activity and you can watch one show.  

So YouTube has become our constructive screen time outlet to discovering new music and eclectic dancing.  Myki loves the BeyoncĂ© tap dance medley, beatboxing Chello player, "Cups" rendition by four YouTube channel holding artists I've never heard of, and the Alex Boye versions of "Let it Go," and "Royals." And don't get me started on all the Celebrity Sesame Street songs!  We had a dance party two nights in a row to those!  

As a 29 year old, I've had a computer my whole life - from dos and Pac-Man on floppy disk to what we use today. As such, there is much about the internet and our current access that I take for granted and other things I shy away from despite my technical savvy.  Thanks to Myki, I now know YouTube is amazing and full of things to discover.  I've subscribed to a dozen channels and am even finding things for myself - there is so much talent out there.  Old dog, new tricks.

What is your favorite YouTube video? Anything your kids particularly love? Do tell so Myki and I can watch it, and hopefully dance to it'd sing along!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Value of Perspective

The value of perspective cannot be overstated.  Most situations are far from crisis if you can make some mental space for perspective.  That's not to say that true crisis and challenge doesn't exist, but for every problem there is a solution and time heals many wounds.  In this case, time results in vast progress.

I have been rather obsessed with my family's finances the past four and half years.  After having my son, it just wasn't acceptable to be worrying about gas and grocories, but we were.  And despite our income more than doubling since he was born in 2009, I still spend a good portion of my mental energy worrying about money - student loans, college funds, vacation funds, car payments, taxes, daycare, medical, visiting extended family, work clothes, school clothes - this is what happens in my brain each time I take out my wallet.  

Today, we are planning to go to a birthday party about 90 minutes away.  As we discussed what time we should leave my husband paused.  "Do you remember when we didn't accept invitations because we couldn't afford the gas?" "Yes," I said, "and even when we had gas, we wouldn't go because we couldn't afford the birthday child's present."  

BAM!  Huge dose of perspective!  We have come so far.  

Today's life lesson - celebrate progress (and the fabulous husband who teaches you said lesson)!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Insights from a Business Traveler

I'm going to be totally honest here.  I am pretty detail-oriented when it comes to my work but for most other things, I'm firm on the big picture and kind of flying by the seat of my pants for the details.  One example of this - travel.  I used to think I was good at traveling.  Turns out, doing something a whole bunch does not necessarily make you good at it.  Or perhaps I just haven't completed the requisite 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell's research shows is needed to really be an expert at anything.  And being rather out of practice definitely makes you worse.  Consequently, I have learned quite a bit in the last six months of bimonthly business travel - particularly that there is some value in the details!

My 5 Travel Lessons Learned (or at least, Business Travel lessons learned)

1. The luggage you think you need is probably not really what you need.  

Case in point, the very snazzy Samsonite carry-on size garment bag I insisted upon.  Turns out it doesn't accommodate all of books and brochures I often have with me on work trips.  It is also too wide for the airplane aisle and because it has two wheels vs four, it can be a rather heavy strain on my wrist when it's full.  My Vera Bradley weekender is also beautiful, but when full, it weights more than my four year old, which unfortunately, is the maximum capacity I am able to carry.  

What I really need is a standard carry-on spinner and a rolling laptop case that fits snuggle on top.  After $200 in luggage purchase, now I know.

2. Just because your company always covers a car rental, doesn't mean you always need one.

The parking in some cities is absolutely ludicrous. Navigating a new city is often a waste of time. And most major cities and the downtown areas where business meetings might be are full of taxis.  I often fear not having a car will limit me in some ways but, it doesn't always make a whole bunch of sense.

3. Packing your workout clothes does not mean you will definitely work out.

I often make excuses for why I can't work out or eat well for that matter.  Who can make time for that with drop off and pick up and a family to cook and care for?  My meetings never exceed past a business day, leaving time for working out and finding a healthy dinner.  And yet, I don't always do that.  I have learned that I need to do more than just pack my workout clothes.  I need to schedule working out just as I would schedule a meeting and I need to do some advanced planning around good food options that are also good for me.

4. You can very easily be somewhere for work and not get to have any fun.

Even when I build in some leisure time, I often piddle it away answering emails from my room.  I have been to ten cities in the last six months and can't say I've seen very much.  But I've had some intentional moments in a great local restaurant or in front of a postcard-worthy view.  Some advanced planning in this regard goes a long way - is there a free hotel shuttle to a landmark or a particular type of local fare that just can't be missed? How far is all of that from the hotel or the last meeting of the day?  I had the best breakfast of my life in Denver and the best hotel view I could imagine in San Diego when I put a bit more thought into where I was actually going.

5. Interesting people are everywhere!

This one isn't about planning or details, just a surprise I've experienced.  I don't talk to strangers.  I barely smile at people in public and do my best not to make eye contact.  But I've sat next to some chatty Kathies in my travels, stood on-line with people who aren't obsessed with their smartphones and gotten some great tips and guidance when asking for help.  While small talk is still not my favorite pastime, there is some value to hearing people's stories and sharing a bit of your own as you go.

Happy Travels everyone!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Anatomy of a Freak Out

Do you ever just freak out? I have something like a bimonthly panic attack around my life and responsibilities.  I have just overcome one such moment and was lying in bed thinking about how I have made this better over the years.

It usually begins with a to do list.  Not your standard list of picking up the dry cleaning and the groceries, but the more serious stuff.  Do your taxes, make an appointment for all that dental work you and your spouse need, figure out how much is in the HSA to pay for it and make sure Myki's name is in the lottery for exceptional kindergarten programs next year.  That critical to do list carries over a few weeks without totally getting done. And as I pull together the energy to make a plan and tick things off the list, complications arise.  Turns out we won't be getting a refund this year but actually owe some money.  The dental work needs to be broken down into five appointments - and yes, each one will hurt.  You need to show up at the school board offices to get in the lottery but dentist appointments and business travel get in the way.  And work - business trips, meetings, deadlines and goals each bring a drop of added pressure.  My overachieving nature multiplies each drop by 50 and I am crumbling under the resulting deluge of partially self-imposed, partially real requirements.  

With this heightened anxiety, I snap at my husband who snaps right back.  I lose patience with my son, who sticks out his upper lip in protest followed by huge crocodile tears.  I stew in my guilt and retreat to the shower.  I take this opportunity to talk myself down and build a plan...a new list.

Slowly, I emerge from the panic and return to action, ticking things off the list again.  This cycle of panic and overwhelmedness is not new to me. In thinking it through though, it has gotten profoundly better.  There are hot showers and aromatherapy baths to retreat too, family board games and movie nights to reconnect with and professional accomplishments to celebrate.  Losing sight of any of this is what causes the panic.

It's better now.  I can do this and more.  The knowledge that I have been trusted to raise this boy, care for this man, and do this work and the reality that I have to date, been successful at all three is medicine enough.  This sense of self is the key to battling the beast of panic that persistently knocks at my door.