Monday, November 16, 2015


My babygirl turned 18 on Saturday. 

It was a near perfect day for her. She woke up to French toast and then ran her final cross country race on a beautiful day. She didn't set a personal record, but she did run this challenging course in under 24.5 minutes. While at the race, her boyfriend decorated her bedroom, so she arrived to pink and blue streamers. She was thrilled at the surprise. 

The highlight for any girl is the party. Mamma cleaned for hours, then set a gorgeous table for seven young ladies. They dined on what girls that age like best (pasta) and talked almost non-stop. Best of all... Since I cooked, cleared, did dishes and took care of the details, while they dined, I got to be in the kitchen with them, listening to their chatter. It reminded me of countless hours of carpooling, when I got the scoop on what really goes on in their heads.

That's a secret in parenting. Kids talk in the car, so once they get their licences, moms lose insight into their lives.  On Saturday I got a tiny peek into that window.

I felt so fortunate. C and her friends are such lovelies. Each with their own unique ways about them.
As I write this on the train, I'm desperate to hold on. It's almost visceral, this feeling that time with my children is slipping through my fingers.

A year from now, perhaps, these girls will gather once again in my kitchen, home for Thanksgiving.
I'm so happy that these girls are growing into wonderful women, and C is incredibly fortunate to have these girls in her life. I can't stop wondering where they will be next year. I'm reflecting on who they were not very long ago when they were in elementary school, and I'm already missing my daughter and her friends.

Yet, somehow I can't stop thinking of my own 18th birthday, especially when everything is about Paris. Some 27 years ago, I was on my own adventure... I turned 18 in Venice - should have been picture perfect. Turned out that it was "a hard luck day" chasing a Hard Rock Cafe that didn't exist in Venice (but you could buy a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt, which I thought was very exclusive... and I let it ruin what could have been a perfect day). Seeing the images from Paris, I remember how I had just visited Paris the previous week - on Bastille Day, 1988. (Sigh) In the summer before the Pan Am plane exploded over Lockerby, I never once thought about terrorism (robbery, losing my passport, getting injured, running out of money, what if my boyfriend broke up with me... these things worried me. Fundamentalists blowing up a concert hall? Never occurred to me). 

My parents only worry that summer was if I'd come home after 6 weeks... Our would I run of with a boy. I guess I feel the same way. Once she leaves, will she return? If I always came home, (and I was much less responsible than she is), I have every reason to believe she will, too.

She hasn't even left on her own life's adventures, but I already want to bring her home. That's not very fair since my parents were always willing to let me go wherever I wanted. I always came home, always checked in. I still check in daily with my father - even if it's only a quick "how are you." Dad calls them "routine calls."

I used to think my mom and dad would let me go because they didn't love me as much as more protective parents loved their kids. Turns out, they did - and possibly, they loved me more because they trusted me!   

As for my babygirl - I'm going to enjoy every second I can with her. It's the least I can do to show her that I love her. Enjoy her while she - and her friends - are here. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

May I Offer a Little Advice?

Yesterday I spoke with a friend. Her family member is ill (which I learned from Facebook) so I wanted to check in. Turns out she has a lot on her plate, plus her boyfriend broke up with her.

Lunch with friends: chocolate fondue - Not exactly a salad
My harsh response began with the letter F and ended with HIM!  I repeated this seven times. Every time she began a rebuttal with, "but...." so I proceeded to list ways that she is fantastic and she deserves better.

I need to do the same for myself. Take responsibility and focus on being happier and healthier. If you are reading this, you should know that you deserve the same.

For me specifically, this means focusing on my health and on the people who matter to me and taking the same advice I give my loved ones:
  • "Dad, you should go to sleep earlier." 
  • "Husband, turn off the TV and get fresh air."
  • "C, be more empathetic - remember not everyone is as fortunate as you."
  • "N, clean your room!"
These are things I should say more to myself:

  • No, I don't need the instant gratification of seven cookies... or thirds on dinner. 
  • Yes, even if it is only a mile or two, I should go for a run or a walk. 
  • Avoid things - or people - that tempt you into doing things you shouldn't do. 
  • Plan better and stick with it.
Most of all - don't take on unnecessary stress.  Pinterest makes all of these items look easy. None of them are - for me.

Case and point: Many years ago when my kids were both in elementary school, I was about to go to kickboxing. The phone rang - I should have just let it ring, prioritizing my exercise. But, no, I saw it was a class mom and I answered the phone to be polite. It was about something that seemed so very important at the time but from my 2015 lens is silly. The school delayed a first grade concert for a third time because of weather, so they finally called it off. The parent on the other end of the phone was incensed and lured me into the mix. So I listened to her rant, then I tried to take action, even though my own son was relieved because he doesn't like performing.  If he was happy that they canceled it, what made me get involved?

Many times I looked back at that moment as a pivotal - but very telling - mistake. A blip in my lifetime that symbolizes so much.

Last night I saw a teacher from Van Holten school. I was running, but stopped to say hello because we are friends. She informed me that Bridgewater teachers are working without a contract. I stayed and listened, but ran home. I as I ran, I realized that I had let go of so much anxiety by not following school politics anymore. Of course, this "anxiety hole" has been replaced by other stresses: work, college planning and many others. It was so freeing knowing that I wouldn't be getting involved this time.

Maybe I'm learning. But I can do more: I can be negative about changes at work, about my commute, about my messy house, or I can be positive spin or make a smart change. No one is going to do that for me.

The Borg. Image from:
I share this, not because I want to take on the task of fixing other people's problems, but to let you know that you are not alone. You too may use this advice. You too have choices. Things that are bad for me often have an unbreakable pull - like a magnetic field, a black hole or the re-tractor beam in a Star Wars film. I give in because I'm powerless. I eat the chocolate, savoring it's dark taste, taking a second bite, and before I know it I've eaten it all. I buy another pair of shoes despite the fact that I more shoes than space, watch another episode of Grey's Anatomy - or worse - drink another glass of wine (after my second or third), I get lured into someone's drama that isn't my business. You do these sorts of things, too.

What are your strategies to resist? They may not work for me, but I'd love to hear them as I develop my own. Just remembering that we live on earth - with a certain amount of free will. This is not the Borg. Don't get assimilated.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday's Creative Spirit

Oatmeal - It's What's for Breakfast
I used to blog a lot. Lately I've come back to it. It feels good to use my creative juices and share ideas, thoughts and beliefs. And to multitask. I'm writing this in my living room between trips to the kitchen - and the front porch, where Diego is soaking in the vitamin D.

I'm writing this on a beautiful - in fact, almost perfect - Sunday morning. My family is all upstairs sleeping despite the sounds of mixing, chopping and pre-heating, with beep-beeps chirping from my oven. I am trying a recipe I found on pinterest. This is the second time in a week that I'm creating something inspired by this online bulletin board. Where was pinterest when I was a stay-at-home Mom with time to cook, bake and otherwise create? Ah, progress. When I retired there will be an app or other yet-to-be-dreamed solution to make a commute more fun.

Last Sunday was almost perfect - the only thing missing was my family. I woke on Long Beach Island and started the day with beach yoga. There's no beach yoga right now - but there is coffee. The kind I make for myself - hot, fresh, with a hint of cinnamon and cardamom, which give it a taste of fall. Tomorrow morning I'll pour myself the leftovers over ice as I run to the train. I'm already looking forward to it (the coffee more than the train).

Baby's Ready for Bonding with Daddy
Lately when I do blog - or speak to people in person - it tends to be a venting session on what is stressful in my life. But have I focused on what's going well? Not lately. It might not be in my nature - as Gloria and George's daughter, stress and drama may be embedded in my DNA - but I am focusing more on simplifying. As I mentioned, I had signed up for the Wineglass Marathon in October, but I decided to defer. Now when I see the countdown - currently 34 Days, 23 Hours, 23 Minutes and 9 seconds (when I checked a few seconds ago) - I don't get panicked. I don't get excited either. It's ok. 2016 here I come! That's not necessarily "going well" but running for the love of it, without the pressure of a deadline, is a step in the right direction. I've also rediscovered the fact that I have an hour for lunch. Almost every day last week I spent time taking advantage of Lower Manhattan. Running along the Hudson, biking near Battery Park and walking from City Hall almost to the West Village.

But back to Sunday. It's now 9 am. I've taken my "To Go Baked Oatmeal" out of the oven, impatiently waiting for it to cool. When I tested the concoction before placing it into the oven. I found it to be too sweet - so if you are copying me, I'd suggest cutting the brown sugar by at least half - I ran out of brown sugar and only used 3/4 cup. The apple sauce and fruit give it plenty of sweetness. I also used coconut oil instead of the canola (?) in the recipe. Finally, since I had it out, I added a pinch of cardamom. To counteract the sweetness, I'm planning to "serve it" (to myself) with plain yogurt. The aroma is lovely. Can I actually wait until it cools enough to prevent third degree burns on my tongue??

Shower Gift
Yesterday was also a chance to test my creativity under pressure. Weeks ago I was invited to a colleague's baby shower. At 45 it isn't often that my friends are having babies - luckily most of my colleagues are a bit younger.  I don't know the mother-to-be very well, but from my few encounters I think we'd be good friends given the opportunity. S is warm and intelligent and artistic. G (my colleague) has the nickname Webbie around the office - although Wiki would work, too. He knows so much, and probably 30 times a day I find myself interrupting him with a, "G---?" Not only does he give me an answer, he jumps out of his seat and comes over to my cube to provide assistance. Often he ends with, "Let me try to do it (for you)." Taking from my to do list and adding to his own is really kind. It sometimes means that he'll stay late to finish something that was on my plate. So I am grateful for the opportunity to do something nice for him and his growing family.

Anyway, I knit the football hat - also found on Pinterest - for G and S's shower baby shower. The hat was finished on Tuesday, save for the lines. Those proved a challenge - and give it a homemade look, instead of the "did you buy this??" I was hoping for. The pressure was on - let's just say I couldn't actually wrap the gift until I got to New York because I was sewing in the ends on the train, even as the train pulled tunnel into Penn Station. Last minute... indeed. But I love it. So much, that I've cast on a similar hat - in the same yarn. Instead of a football, it's got hearts. This time, it's for a friend (who actually is my age) having a baby next month. Anyone else having a baby? I'll happily make another.

But for now it's a beautiful Sunday and I'm going to milk every second of it. This time, with my family. They are stirring now. Guess that means it's time for me to get dressed and seize the day!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

Option One: Rutgers Prep
It's never easy for me to make a decision - I'm always second-guessing myself. Even "do you want fries with that?" gives me pause. Fries: the evil of all food. No nutritional value, no actual potatoes, lots of salt - even sugar (probably) and God only knows what they fry them in. But...

Fries - YUM, YUM, YUM!

The ultimate in "no means yes". I say no, the kids say yes and I steal some anyway, much to their chagrin - "If you wanted fries, you should have ordered your own!" True, dat!

But, it was the right decision to say no.

Looking back on the last 25 years you might think I confidently made a series of quick decisions leading to drastic changes. Some were. Let's get married. Ok, we survived a couple of years of marriage. Let's have a baby... Ok. We did that. Let's quit our jobs and move abroad....

Option Two- stay in district with kids he knows
Many of the biggest decisions, though, came from mitigating factors and happened to me more than me choosing them: moving for T's job across the country, then for another, on the other side of the ocean (which is how we ended in 08807).

For years I've pondered the choices I'm making regarding my kids' education. How many emails have I sent to teachers and administrators trying to make improvements to what seemed to me like cracks in the system? How can I facilitate them to get the most out of their education?

With my daughter we made the decision to pull her out of pubic school to put her in private after an administrator convinced me that BRRSD didn't consider her worthy. If her own guidance counselor (who would be writing her college recommendation) was willing to tell a 15 year old (in front of her mother) that she wasn't needing to worry about taking the right classes, why keep her at that high school? ("It doesn't matter what classes she takes, she's not looking at competitive colleges, anyway.") I was livid. I drove straight from the high school parking lot and never looked back. A relatively easy decision.

Originally the thought of private school originated with our son. He really is smart, but just hasn't ever thrived in school. If there is something a parent can do to lower the wide gap between his aptitude and his output, I've tried it. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent speaking with teachers, leaving with tears of frustration. (If you read the archives of this blog, you'll get an idea). 

Now that we have finally made the decision to send him - and a small fortune - to private school, I find myself constantly second guessing. There was no final straw. Just two forks in a road. We picked the more expensive one.

Was this a mistake? A year from now, will I sit on the same 6:24 am train and wonder if it would prepare him better to attend a high school with 3,000 students or 400? Will increased debt give me sleepless nights and accita?

I guess part of many people's mid life crises includes wondering if choices you made 20-25 years prior were right. It seems implausible that my kids will look back and ask "why did they send me there?" But will I continue to second guess myself?

With a bit of luck, they'll see choosing private as I see many of my big choices: the best I could make with the information I had. At any rate, it's too late now. That's the thing about big decisions. For better or worse, you live with them.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Morning musings

The sun rises as commuters head to "the city that never sleeps"
Guess what happened? One of my friends read that I'd blogged and she sent me a card. She sat down (presumably) at the table in her bright and welcoming kitchen and took pen to paper, wrote an update of what she's up to and sent it in the mail. And guess what else? When I received it, I was thrilled!! I felt loved. Tangible proof that a friend was thinking of me.

Recently, I knit an infinity scarf for a friend who is facing so many daunting challenges that I've almost lost count.  Parkinson's Disease tops the list. Last week she mentioned on Facebook that she'd lost control of her hands. I hope that there's more than a little karma here. 

From time to time I feel overwhelmed. This morning is one of the times when I feel the angst growing in my breast. It feels like a hint of bronchitis, except unlike with illness, if I breathe deeply, the air flows unimpeded. It might be lack of sleep. Diego (our mutt) had me up at 2 am. He was constipated... And still is, despite a middle of the night walk. 

I was planning to get up at 4 am to enjoy the meteor shower. Up anyway, Diego and I waited impatiently for the elusive streaks in the sky. Alas, even with most of the area sleeping, light pollution prevented us from the show we should have seen. I think I saw one, but maybe it was my brain tricking me? Elusive light. It happens so quickly that you "just know" that you've seen it. "Did you see that?" At one point, I asked Diego. With no reply we returned to bed. 

So I head to work with too little sleep and thoughts of an insurmountable to do list. Perhaps instead of using such a negative term, I should remember that my friends care. Whether I complete my work or not, they still feel the same way. 

Perspective. Whether you're looking at an envelope with handwriting you're straining to recognize, out a window with a landscape constantly moving - as I see now on the approach to Newark - or across a sky filled with stars, planets, planes and satellites, keep in mind that you have the power to impact how others see things and what they feel. And you even have a power to change how you see things.

Yes, Diego. I think that was a falling star.

Reached Newark. Have a great day!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

5 Opportunities in Summer 2015

Quality, Not Quantity - A Quick Ride Along the Hudson at Lunchtime
In the past four months, I have started seven blog posts... and completed none. I'm a little disappointed with myself. In light of this I'm going to challenge myself to write and post an interesting blog by the time the train I'm riding arrives in Somerville. We are somewhere between Union and Cranford.

My world seems to be in a state of flux on almost all fronts. Some aspects of my life might be different in a year, others definitely will.

Next August, I can assume, my daughter will be preparing to leave for college. Life will surely change without my lovely girl.

The company where I work is also undergoing changes. As is often the case, this had meant new challenges and an increased workload. This week I spent at least 5 hours learning new skills. In addition I am collaborating with a team called a "center of excellence." It is unclear how I fit in with this group of (mostly) designers, but I enjoy seeing how creative my "new" are. It's invigorating. The "head"'of this center holds a weekly meeting where each of us has to present our 3 main tasks for the week, one challenge and one opportunity.  That's the plan for tonight's blog.

In light of all the changes, I'll skip outlining challenges as there are many ahead. My tasks hold little interest to my readers, either. Instead, let's focus on the fun part. The opportunities.
Here are my top five opportunities:

  1. Train for a marathon. I'm up to 15 miles and the race is on October 5. Stay tuned...
  2. Turn the dining room into a library. We don't use the dining area for much other than storage.
  3. Go to the beach. I've only been once this summer and M invited me. Time to get that on the calendar.
  4. Focus on the positive: healthier eating, relaxation techniques, good movies/books, knitting, whatever... Low stress: I never regret going for a walk.
  5. See friends. I have so many meaningful people in my life whom I rarely see. This summer has been exceptional for reconnecting with loved ones - starting when my father turned 90. I want to keep this trend rolling.
There you have it. Five things I have the opportunity to accomplish this summer. What's on your list?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Winter Rut

I'm just going to have to admit it. My commute is getting to me. Life seems to have turned into an endless train ride broken up by work and " nighttime naps at home". I truly wonder if my kids are getting fed leftovers. No, not day-old meatloaf, but the sloppy seconds of Mom's attention. Even in my mid 40s I still need the positive feedback of my dad, my boss, my in-laws, friends and lots of people. So, why shouldn't my teenagers?

Perhaps worse than "neglecting" my kids, I'm not making good choices for myself. Yesterday's lunch was healthy, but pretty much everything else I ate gave the instant gratification to the tongue, followed by feeling bloated and guilty. (I don't regret the raspberry bar for my lunch-dessert, calories be damned!).

Haven't run in more than a week.  Haven't folded laundry in even longer. Haven't seen most of my friends in many weeks. Didn't even call MR on her birthday. 

Clean clothes are a necessity, but for me fresh air, exercise and friendship matter even more.

So just know that while I ride NJ Transit's Raritan Valley line, I'm thinking of you. Long walks, warm skies and the constant chatter... interrupting one another when we are talking so fast that our minds can't keep up, and we suddenly remember a tangent, or have a strong opinion. That's my favorite kind of vitamin.

I know Spring is coming. Longer days, warmer air. Happier times.

They're heading your way, too. That makes me happy.

And to my kids: I'm so proud of how well you're handling everything... but please be better about letting the dog out!

You can dress me up like a working woman, and put me on the train with (what looks like) every tired IT guy on Wall St, but in my core, I'm still the same nagging Mom. And I feel better now...