12.14.2014

On screw ups, learning and toolboxes.

I screwed something up for work recently and just found out about it this morning. "Screwed up" is a vague term, but suffice it to say that I got some tough feedback and it was merited. Upon realizing my mistake, I instantly wanted to evaporate. Shame, man! Shame. It's a tough beast for perfectionists everywhere.

Instead of evaporating, I took a deep breath and remembered that Chris and Noah had just left for bagels and I had 20 minutes alone. I lit a candle and I closed my eyes and tried to about what it would feel like to forgive myself. I noticed all of these physical symptoms for shame - gut clenched, unable to sit up straight, a weight deep in my belly. I tried to think about them neutrally as interesting phenomena happening to me and I did a few things to try to get my body feeling better and lighter. Then I did a 15 minute meditation.

Here's why I'm writing about this: I have been accidentally screwing things up for my entire life. I'm a human. That's what it is to be a human. But for the first time in my life, I have a tiny toolbox to draw from when I encounter screw ups or shame or anger or frustration. Over the past couple of years, I have collected a few things I can reach for when I feel panicked.

One tool is meditation. One is lighting a candle. One is texting someone safe who loves me (my sister, a good friend) to tell them about it. One is telling Chris about it and getting a hug and positive reassurance in return. One is working through my feelings by writing about it (hi! this is that).

Do you know what gifts these tools are? THEY ARE BETTER THAN EVERY CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOREVER. Because it means that I'm not alone and I'm not out of options - ever.

*

I read a few things by Shonda Rimes this week that blew me away. First, a commencement speech from earlier this year and second, an acceptance speech about women in entertainment. WHOAH. They are good reads. She talks about being a mom and constantly failing at either Halloween costumes or writing a Scandal script. She talks about why we should stop dreaming and start doing.

So I read those and I felt pretty uplifted. And then I was working on the 4 billion holiday cards that I send and I realized as I was writing them that life here is pretty damn good. What am I going to complain about? We're healthy, we're well. We're challenged. I've got a toolbox for shameful moments. My sister lives a couple miles from us. We're going to spend the holidays home in NY with my entire family, a group of humans who represent an embarrassment of riches in our lives.

Yes, there are other troubling things in our lives. Yes, some things aren't going well. Yes, my kid seems to thrive on hurling himself off of dangerous objects lately and we are BFF with the local pediatricians. But am I seriously going to focus on that stuff in our family's annual Christmas card? Is that what I'm going to let represent the entire year of 2014?

That's what Shonda's pieces were for me. Yes, there is so, so much work for our society to do for women and race and it's a helluva mess out there. Yes, working moms miss moments in their childrens' lives. Yes, there is work to be done.

But yes, we are lucky too. As Liz Gilbert said recently, women have many more options than our grandmothers and mothers had - and it is our choice to exercise them or not. And it's so important not to lose sight of these advances, just as it's important not to stop pushing for even more.

*

I miss writing in this space. I'm not going to make any resolutions about it because there are reasons I haven't been here much lately (most notably, time and bandwidth)... but I do miss it. And this morning's screw up has brought me back here, a home of sorts. For that I'm grateful.

Sending you all lots of light and hope and advancement and gratitude. xo

10.13.2014

Motherhood, two years in.

Chris and I saw the movie Boyhood earlier this summer. If you haven't seen it, I really suggest watching it - especially if you're parenting a son these days. It's a beautiful story, finely executed and, of course, it made me anxious about raising a son, the trials and tribulations that await him as he grows into the man he is meant to be.

But the moments that made me anxious weren't what affected me the most. No, those moments just confirmed for me what I know is coming: I will not be able to protect my son from the journey that awaits him.

What affected me the most was a scene involving his mother, depicted by Patricia Arquette. As her son is packing his boxes for college, this strong character breaks down at her kitchen table. I just thought there would be more, she sobs.

I think she's talking about what it means for her last child to leave the house, to no longer be married, to be free of the familiar duties that were ground into her during the child-rearing years. The bottom drops out and she faces the next phase of life as a woman. Which is... WHAT, exactly?

I watched that scene and I cried because I felt her pain and confusion, but something inside me steeled itself as well during those moments. My life, while incredibly enriched by my husband and my child, remains my life. And I see these intense child-rearing years as a phase in my life, certainly the beginning of a new type of life as a mother, but certainly I feel there will be more for me after my children are grown. Of course I do.

I've been watching and reading lots from Elizabeth Gilbert lately and one of the things that most strikes me is her assertion that women have had SO many fewer years (and role models) for the hero's journey as compared to men. Dudes have been having hero journeys for centuries. Women's history reveals a much, much shorter list of names to inspire ourselves from.

And so on my son's second birthday, here is what I want to say to him:

My darling, my sweet light, Noah. I feel 1000% lucky to be your mama. I love guiding you through life and everything that entails. And, as you have an entire life journey ahead of you, I'm only 33 years through mine! So our paths will continue on together for a while yet, but at a certain point it will be natural for you to find your own way... and it will be natural for me to find new twists and turns as well. I hope that modeling that a woman has a hero's journey too will inspire you and shape your understanding of what's possible for all of the women in your life.



 There's more, ladies. There's always more, no matter what.


Happy birthday to our dear boy. xo

6.19.2014

Big and small.

One day, hopefully when I am very old, I may write a memoir of my life. In this book, I may reduce years and decades and hundreds of thousands of minutes by writing sentences like "We lived in Brooklyn for several years after we got married" or "In the early days, I wasn't quite sure what Plucky was." And maybe that seems kind of sad.

But, actually, anticipating the reduction of episodes of my life relaxes me. One day, "the early days in Berkeley" will be the most boring part of the story. One day, "the toddler years" will be fuzzy and warm, hazy with memory of the smell of baby shampoo. One day, the anxieties of sending my first Plucky proposals will be softened by the charm of having been a rookie.

And so, whatever feels big today will be small tomorrow.

This is true for most things.

*

Last night after taking myself out to dinner, I checked my email on the way to the car and discovered that I just signed a significant deal for my business. I nearly cried. I am just so grateful for the work, for the chance to do what I believe is the reason I exist, for the ability to support my family with it. 

This morning someone asked me where I thought I'd be in 3 years and I said I had no idea, but that I have a goal for 30 years from now. Sometimes we must think large. Sometimes we must carve out an entire universe and get to work creating it. Amid the to-do-list apps, picking Cheerios off the floor and responding to email, we must remember we are BIG. We live long. We can do a lot. 

And so I try not to get distracted too much by the small these days. When I am frazzled at 5pm and wonder how to assess the day's success, I think about 30 years from now and I ask myself if I moved anything towards that goal. And if the answer is yes, I pick up my son at daycare and sit down to dinner, content.

*

Big and small. Mature and immature. Rookie and pro. Stumble and sprint. These are not starting and end points; these are two points on continuums that we bounce along our whole lives. We grow for 18 years and then we're designated adults, but this means almost nothing. 

The point, it seems to me, is to get better at forgiving yourself for sliding back and forth. No one has it nailed. We're all growing. Every single day, every single year, every single chapter in our memoirs reduces the growth but it's there behind everything. 

So keep moving. 

6.15.2014

Happy Father's Day!

Happy day to all the dads out there. Not a lot of time to write here lately, but here are images from our special morning together at the Berkeley Marina. Hope you all had a good one!










5.18.2014

Be like water.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about death. My own, specifically. There were some days a couple of weeks ago that felt so joyful, so strong, that my immediate reaction was to wonder which Prius was going to run me over in a Berkeley crosswalk later that day. Because life can't be so joyful, can it? Because blueberries can't taste THAT redonk and my work with Plucky can't possibly be THAT fulfilling and my son's amazement at a squirrel can't continue forever.

Right?

Then, two days before Mother's Day, I got the news that a friend from High School died of cancer that returned 25 years after he'd fought it when we were kids. His daughter is a couple months older than Noah. He lived a few blocks from us in Brooklyn and we used to run into each other from time to time on the street; we talked about pediatricians and nanny shares and introduced our spouses.

So for two days leading up to Mother's Day I was weepy, just horrified really. The death that comes at a sweet pinnacle of one's life inched closer.

*

I spend more time in nature these days and it provides such perspective. This morning I threw the kid in the car and we spent an hour poking around the Berkeley Botanical Gardens before his nap. There's a little stream that flows from a pond with lily pads and we watched the water move for a little while. Water doesn't double back. It keeps going, flowing, finding spaces and places to occupy. Sometimes it soaks into the ground and other times it evaporates into the air but I find it especially compelling when it pools and waterfalls down a steep hill.

Time to regroup.

Time to freefall.

Time to regroup.

Time to freefall.

I think that's the cycle I'm in right now. Hell, that's probably the cycle we're all in. I listen to Pharrell and Katy Perry while I cook Noah oatmeal in the mornings and I feel like we can do anything. And then later I stumble on this gem when washing dishes and suddenly I'm sobbing over the sink.

Time to regroup.

Time to freefall.

A few weeks ago, a friend confessed that turning 40 has turned him into a sap. He tears up at the slightest thing.

I'm not even 40. So what does it mean when you're 33 and already everything, the pristine goodness of the world and the ugly unfairness, reduces you to your own salt water?

*

I love our life in Berkeley. I feel faceless in Berkeley. I haven't seen flowers like these ever before in my life. Other than my husband, I don't have almost anyone to hug me. The blueberries are incredible but they are $7.98 a pound and I spent $40 on fruit last week, which is (clearly) unsustainable. They collect compost here. We have hundreds of fruit flies inhabiting our kitchen from the compost. My son's daycare spends more time outside. My son's daycare spends less time on arts & crafts. I have more time to cook here. I'm still a crappy cook, though.

"How was the move?" people ask. "How's Berkeley?" And I don't know how to answer. The physical move happened, but the emotional move is still happening. It occurs to me that maybe some people settle someplace for the rest of their lives because they get tired of the cost of transitional periods, the cost of settling in, the months it takes to find routines and make friends and hang paintings. 

 In the meantime, we regroup. And then we freefall. And I try not to think about my death so much. I remember that Brene Brown says that, in moments of imagining the worst (because you feel such joy), you should reject the fear and instead feel gratitude. 

So I'm grateful. For the new opportunities, for the sunshine, for the redwoods and the flowers. For my family and the number of people who love us back home and for my life, that for now continues on, my own swift adventure down a steep hill.

5.16.2014

Some days are great and some days are...

... like today. It's only 10:30am. I know there's a lot of day left. (Ohhh, how I know.) But it's a tough day today so far. We are all so tired.

I don't get a lot of time to myself these days, which explains my absence on the blog. When Noah takes a nap, I generally try to shower or send work emails or drink a cup of coffee. The pain these days (for me, anyway) comes from having ideas and big dreams and the motivation to do them... but a lack of time. Sometimes this is about work stuff, but just as often it's about going to a new place or reading a new book or running again.

I just don't know how to rejigger our schedules to make time for these things.

Then I think, "well that's just this period of our lives, we have to sacrifice our individual interests for our family at the moment" and then I think about maybe one day having a second kid and I realize this period might be longer than I'm promising myself. And that feels pretty tough.

There are fulfilling days in parenthood, but there are also many days that feel like compromising potential. I hope that doesn't sound rude. Obviously I adore my son. But I, too, am a person on a journey.

I look for ways to slow down. Sometimes we look at flowers together, or dig with small sticks and pebbles. These moments are important, the slowing and the being present. I feel we're doing more of this in California, most definitely inspired by the nature around us.

But what if sometimes going fast isn't the worst thing? What if the thrill of conceiving of a project and fulfilling it is *also* being present? Because I think it's an important part of what I love about the world.

I don't have an ending. I have to go make a long to-do list, which may make me feel better. In the meantime, I send you blips from our radar. We're alive and we're making it, but today we're tired. And I hope you - all of you - are making it too. xx

5.06.2014

Announcing a new mom project



Every once in a while I find a moment of culmination in my life, an opportunity or a conversation or a project that brings a bunch of random threads together and says "yep. THIS is where things have been leading."

Today I'm so excited to announce the latest of these moments... performance reviews for moms!

I had this idea a while back, probably while unloading the dishwasher. (This seems to be my most grumbly chore.) While I do get a lot of appreciation from my work life, I thought about how being a mom - the HARDEST JOB EVER - is the silent full time job in my life. And one of the things that has always fueled me in my career has been the feedback, the moments of appreciation and a desire to keep doing what's great and grow ambitiously from what's lackluster.

Then I thought about some mom friends of mine who are at home full time, who aren't getting the opportunity for positive feedback from another job. And I kinda wanted to send them all a thank you card, no joke, each one saying something like "thanks for wiping the counter when no one sees it" or "thanks for scooping the litterbox, even if the cat doesn't thank you," or "thanks for putting the books back on the shelf even though 14 seconds later they'll be out again."

Since I work in technology, I meet a lot of technologists. (Ha.) I met Craig Bryant at a conference in Portland about 5 weeks ago and he runs a product called Kin, which is HR software for small businesses. We talked about being parents and HR and humans and decided to collaborate on a project for Mother's Day. So The Department of Family Appreciation was born!

Go check it out. Fill out a review for your mom or your wife or your friend/sister/aunt/niece who is a mom and who could use some positive vibes to keep her going all year long. It's free. And it's one small way we can assure that lots of moms wake up on Sunday morning with a big pile of gratitude in their inboxes...

Which, I think, is how we make the world a little bit better. xx

4.23.2014

Berkeley, day 5


"Text me when you get off the bus," I tell Chris and when I get his text I put our shoes on. I grab a ball and Noah and I putter around the flowers and small yard (that belongs to the downstairs neighbor who doesn't seem to live here) to wait.

This evening I caught a picture of Chris coming up the walk while Noah played. There were a lot of good moments today, but that one was a highlight. 

In the garden I spotted hydrangeas and roses, lettuce and ivy. When they talk about San Francisco as a foggy place, they cannot mean Berkeley. So far Berkeley has been sun and flowers and delight. I know it's early days, but Chris said it best earlier.

"I feel like we just got a life upgrade."

Indeed.

4.20.2014

Our first CA days

We are here - happy, excited and loving the sunshine. We're also without furniture or internet and are in a hotel these first few days, so I'll share more images than words til things get up and running... What a ride. This feels good.



















4.18.2014

Goodbye, New York: 1 day left



This morning I realized that the hotel I booked for Brooklyn tonight was actually booked for March 18 instead of April 18. It was a little bit straw-that-broke-the-camel's back, so I cried. I feel like I'm Project Managing a project without a ticketing system these days and the sheer volume of details required to get through this phase is staggering. 

It reminds me of wedding planning. Blech.

I'd like to say I'm nostalgic and cuddly about New York, but I think I'm pretty much over it. Or maybe I'm over moving. That's probably more right.

I can't wait to get to California, where no one ever messes up the date of your hotel room and no cats ever need to fly on planes and no babies ever screw up their nap schedules. A girl can dream...

The other night Chris and I talked for a while on the couch about the move. I think it's easy to gloss over the opportunity to be proud. We got jobs. We made money. We bought our baby food and clothes and prepped his suitcases. We got our cats their vaccines and soft carriers and have reserved taxis to shuttle us to and from airports. A van is driving our stuff across the country right this moment. 

When someone asks how we got to California, the answer on some level must be that we put one foot ahead of the other and did it ourselves. I am amazed that we are adults sometimes, that despite the incredible support of family and friends, WE are making our own lives happen.

We're grown-ups. We decided what to do. And now we're doing it. Thanks, New York, for being the place where we learned and practiced that spirit. We won't soon forget it.

See you on the other coast, friends.

Xx

4.16.2014

Goodbye, New York: 3 days left

Moving day. Tonight we sleep at my parents'. My mom picked Noah up this morning so he's out of the mess of boxes.

Last night we read our Kindles via book lights and went to bed at 8:30.

The cats are locked in the bathroom til the movers leave and then they have run of the empty place for a few days.

Everyone is hanging in. xx


4.11.2014

Goodbye, New York: 8 days left


Besides the fact that Plucky is going well and I feel it's my life's work, I am so grateful to have started it last year. When I imagine what could have been - quitting my old job NOW, looking for a new job in San Francisco, balancing motherhood with job search and the early, daunting days of proving oneself- I am so damn happy to be in the thick of Plucky instead.

I can work from anywhere. 

My days are more a collage than ever, wireframes at 6am, making oatmeal for Noah at 8, business calls and packing boxes and signing contracts and taking the cats to the vet. Dinner with a friend. It's truly a modern schedule.

Like every parent I go through periods of feeling that something is awry, but these past few weeks have felt as balanced as they might ever be. Feeling lucky.

4.08.2014

Goodbye, New York: 12 days left


Here's what I'm looking forward to: sun and making a new living space and the slower pace dictated by not knowing many people out there yet.

We had a going away party on Saturday and my heart was SWOLLEN by the end of the night, full of love and kind words and amazed by the life we built here. Instead of feeling sad about leaving all those people, I really feel excited that we draw those types of souls to us. I have faith that we will create an equally supportive community wherever we go.

I'm okay. I feel pretty good about how this is shaping up. 

4.04.2014

Goodbye, New York: 16 days left

We have a giant to-do list and every night after dinner, after Noah is in bed, we do a couple things. Tonight we cleaned out the bedroom and the front closet. We found bridesmaid dresses that don't fit and old sneakers and a thousand papers to shred.

I met someone last week who builds kids apps for the iPad. He gave me a few recommendations (and some free download codes!) and we need to get them set up for the long flight in the next two weeks. I also ordered some time-consuming-distraction stuff on Amazon that arrived tonight:


The pressure and lack of weeks is starting to make itself known. Now I turn down NY gigs or lunch dates or coffee breaks for late April. Now, as we make piles of things to donate, we are shedding old ways and belongings. 

It feels like mentally, if not yet physically, packing.

Last night I had drinks with industry colleagues in the East Village and as I rode a taxi home I wondered if it was the last time I'd be there. I snapped this shot as we rolled towards the Brooklyn Bridge, for one moment very aware of what I have today that I won't have tomorrow... the tiny corners of NYC:


4.01.2014

Goodbye, New York: 18 days left

This morning my left eye was crusted shut when I woke up, so I read email for 5 minutes out of one eye before I made it to the bathroom to confirm pink eye.

Son of a b.

Noah also woke up to pink eye (two of them), and so instead of a very productive day, we had a weird day of doctors and naps and spending close to 1000 hours at CVS waiting for our respective eye drops.

The great thing is that I really love my kid these days. I made the executive rule that anyone who has pink eye gets ice cream, so that's what we did this afternoon. Here is someone sneaking a scoop during our selfie:


Then, later, I thought I'd try the Ergo as a backpack. We were so tired of leaving the apartment to do errands, but Noah was calm and curious the whole time back there. We got our drops and then I bought one of those roasting chickens at the supermarket for dinner, the kind that smell so good in the store you can barely wait until dinner so you sneak a piece and then the cats are begging on the countertop. Scoundrels.


It was a really good day.

3.31.2014

Goodbye, New York: 19 days left

Goodbye, March. Goodbye, winter. Goodbye snow and snowboots. (But hello still scarves and warm coats and rain boots, because Berkeley isn't San Diego).

We have to get rid of our plants. Can't import them to California. Can't fly with them or send them with movers. For a while I resisted this. My Nana's violets! Our wedding hoya. My Plucky plant and Noah's birth plant, among others.


But slowly I've realized that it's alright because there will be more plants out there to buy and nurture and help grow. I'll find good homes for our special greenery and then I'll let it go because my Nana's violets aren't my Nana. Our wedding hoya isn't our marriage. My business is built on more than its flora symbol and my son grows like a weed anyway, so who needs a birth plant?



Last week in Portland I needed to reground myself so I rented a zipcar and drove out to the woods. Those are the kinds of plants I need now... the native kinds that pump giant amounts of oxygen back into the atmosphere. I think California has plenty.

I am so looking forward to nature in our lives. xx

3.25.2014

Goodbye, New York: 25 days left

I landed in Portland an hour ago. I'm here for a conference for the rest of the week and, for the record, I still love this damn city so much.

Tonight I'm hitting the hay at our old stomping grounds, everyone's favorite Ace. Can hardly wait for Powell's and Stumptown in the morning. 



3.24.2014

Goodbye New York: 26 days left

I'm writing this on my phone, in bed, where I have been since 9:30pm. That could have easily been 9pm.

We are early risers now.

And there is something wonderful about embracing that fact and making it part of the rhythm of our days instead of apologizing for it or running ourselves into the ground in order to appear differently to others.

This is why Berkeley feels a better fit than San Francisco. This is why NYC was burned out for us, the pace and the zip car stress of returning it on time and the lack of space to store Christmas decorations. We are ready for a different, slower, more spread-out life.

We are ready for it.

3.23.2014

Goodbye, New York: 27 days left

Me and the new mama!

Because I grew up an hour from NYC and went to college 2 hours from here, a lot of people I went to school with live nearby. I've been so lucky to live near some of my best girlfriends from college; over the past six years we've gone to a million restaurants, hosted bachelorette parties and 30th birthday parties and baby showers and gone to alumni happy hours together.

Today I drove to New Jersey to meet the new son of a great friend and to brunch with my girlfriends for the last time before we leave. I learned two important things:

1. I will always, always get lost driving out of the Holland Tunnel.
2. New babies are SO SMALL! My guy is officially not a baby anymore.

One saving grace of moving to California is that so many people want to visit. Girlfriends definitely included!

3.22.2014

Goodbye, New York: 28 days left



Let's focus on the real reason we're leaving NYC: the only chance I have of getting my family on a reality TV show is to move to California.

Keeping up with the Eptings, coming soon.

(For real, though, I already can't wait for my family to visit.)



3.21.2014

Goodbye, New York: 29 days left

New York, 2008

The only way I know to truly time travel is to visit places I knew earlier in my life. Allentown, PA is 18-22 years old, notebooks and candy runs to Wegmans and such youth, despite what the law says. France will always mean mid-20s to me, kissing strangers and wine and chasing the last metro home.

But New York is where I really became an adult. And in the future when I time travel back here, the muscle-memory of Manhattan will transport me back to the days when I was finally gainfully employed and going somewhere.

Brooklyn, by the by, is where I became a wife and mother. Brooklyn will forever carry the feel of a family of three - all the love and the grit of it.

I've turned a corner. Tonight, for the first time, I see this move as a flag staked for this precious moment in time when we were young and our son was just a baby boy and we were doing the best we could with what we had.

I'm glad to be closing the chapter on Brooklyn now, before it takes on the memory of an older Noah. In this way, we stop time. Noah will always be 18 months in Brooklyn. All it will take to bring us back is a walk down Court Street, remembering the parks and the benches we stopped at, the playdates and the pediatrician appointments.

The reality of this age won't last for long, but our memories of it are carved here, on the streets and in the bricks of the neighborhood, forever.

3.20.2014

Goodbye, New York: 30 days left

Goodbye Book Court, where I bought hundreds of dollars of books, some as gifts and many for myself. I've spent so many hours hanging out there, reading on the couches, poking through books about history and psychology and flipping through new fiction. And, lately, the children's section.

What is it about a neighborhood bookstore that rings so strongly of community? When we think about public spaces, libraries and bookstores are crucial to making a place feel like home to me.




And then further down Court Street, Cafe Pedlar. Last summer Chris watched Noah every Sunday morning so I could take my journal to this cafe, sit and think. Was I crazy to quit my job? What was my purpose in life? What was the point of me?

This is the place I read an amazing piece of writing that called me to start Plucky. It's also where Noah and I hung out, eating muffins and spotting dogs last summer. I'm excited to find a new place in Berkeley for people watching and maybe even Stumptown.



3.19.2014

Goodbye, New York: 31 days left

Today marks one month til we leave New York. I've been having trouble finding closure on leaving. Marking off to-do list items has left me head-down, with not much awareness of how much our life is about to change.

Then I remembered how much more in-tune I felt with having a baby once I started the Dear Tiny blog. I've decided to post a photo on this blog each day leading up to our departure, a way of saying thanks and goodbye to a city that has given me a career, husband, son and two cats. (Among a million other things).

After all, this blog was originally started to say goodbye to NYC. My very first post in May 2006 was about leaving Central Park on my way to grad school in Paris. That feels like a really long time ago.

Today I say goodbye to the Statue of Liberty, who you can see from our balcony, and our view of Brooklyn. (See her? In the middle there? Wayyyy back?). In the six years I've lived in Brooklyn, I never visited the Statue of Liberty even though I see her every day. Crazy, right?

That's just how life is.





3.04.2014

On preservation.

In preparing for this move, I've had to make lots of decisions lately. Obviously there are huge (ginormous!) decisions about where to live and what car we should buy and all that jazz. But I'm talking more about the infinitesimal decisions about our stuff. Objects. Belongings. And what, exactly, is worth carting across the country.

A while back I designated a small drawer in Noah's dresser where I shoved all of the holiday cards he received, baby cards, baptism notes, you name it. He gets a daily sheet from daycare that lists out some things he did that day and when there's a particularly salacious one (i.e. TODAY NOAH BIT SOMEONE), I shove that in the drawer too. And now with this impending move, it has come time to scrapbook this stuff or get rid of it.

This morning while he played in the living room, I stood at the kitchen counter with it all in front of me. What was the goal? To keep every single piece of communication? To represent an array of the people in his life who send him notes? To document his first 12 months? 24 months?

I admit, I felt a little daunted. I mean, what does one even do with the umbilical cord stub that is currently in a ziplock baggie? (THROW IT OUT. I know.)

I've been reading lots of books on Feng Shui lately, about how objects should bring energy to a space and not deplete it. Is there a framed photo that reminds you (sadly) of your grandma every time you look at it? Get rid of it! Instead choose an object that reminds you of her positively (maybe her old perfume bottle, perhaps) and throw out the rest. The books I'm reading make a lot of sense about the way clutter builds and slows down our ability to move freely in our homes. When you keep something out of guilt, you have a bad feeling every time you walk past it - which could be many times a day. That means you're re-feeling the bad over and over. You better believe that has an impact on your mental state!

I think about what the world will be like when Noah is old enough to care about his baby book. He will have access to thousands of digital photos of himself. He will never have enough time to read all of the Instagram and Facebook and blog entries that his parents wrote about him... and so, when he is faced with that volume of information, I can only assume one thing: some of the whole will be enough. Even glancing through some photos will reveal how young his parents were when he was small. A few notes from grandparents and aunts and uncles will reinforce what he knows to be true (that he is very loved). But 99% of the objects and memorabilia in his life are not worth physically preserving.

I know this can be true because we preserve events and love and people and presences silently, in ourselves, anyway. It's mental DNA. I call my uncle when I don't know how to fix my toilet - not because he sent me Thanksgiving cards every year, but because the relationship that was built via those frequent communications allows me to feel comfortable picking up the phone. It's the energy underneath the objects that count, not the objects themselves.

When I was a sophomore in college, I went to Ireland with a literature class. Several months after returning home, I heard that one of the girls on the trip had recently gone through a really tough time - her parents' house had caught fire and burned down. Nothing was left, no photos or baby blankets, no wedding candlesticks or souvenirs from Ireland. Several of us printed photos from the trip and pulled something from our own Ireland souvenir stash to give to her. She was very grateful.

Dealing with the stuff I own is easier when I remember this story. It could all go up in flames, every single object that we own. And yet we will still be who we are.

I'll hold onto what serves us about Noah's first few years - the love, the memories - and keep a few key things, enough to fill a baby book perhaps. But the rest is going. As my Feng Shui books say - moving out what you don't need makes space for new, great things to come in. I can definitely get behind that.

2.17.2014

Monday morning reminder.

We have limited years on this planet. Every minute counts. If you are living the wrong life, there is only one way forward... and it is scary and dark, it may cost a lot of money and undoubtedly it will be uncomfortable.

Lately I've been noticing how many people in my life should probably be diagnosed with depression. I have no other word for it. I feel compelled this morning to say that momentum is no excuse for laying down and letting life happen to you. The most alive I've ever felt were times when I looked the impossible in the face and said "HERE WE GO."

Here's a line from one of my favorite meditations:

“Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. I let go of grievances and choose miracles.”

Choose miracles, friends.

Choose. Miracles.

2.07.2014

How to get used to a new idea.

When Chris called me about San Francisco, I couldn't stop thinking about this pail and shovel set my sister bought for Noah for Christmas. She'd asked me what he needed; I told her we didn't have any fun outdoor yard toys and that we were really looking forward to getting him a little sandbox for our backyard in Portland. So suddenly when Portland was looking like San Francisco, I thought a lot about that pail and what could have been.

Parenting is difficult for me because sometimes I feel like I'm trying to replicate the best parts of my youth for my son in an entirely different environment. Maybe you feel the same way. When you raise children differently than you were raised, it really is like speaking a foreign language. It's clunky and stressful and the nostalgic moments are few and far between. We didn't have space in this Brooklyn apartment for a Christmas tree the past two years and while we made do with paper decorations, it felt like bullshit Christmas. Real Christmas is like how things are at my parents' house, with a tree and cookies and a big table for family to gather for a meal.

So for the first few days that I was processing this move, I was mad and sad and bad. I don't feel bad admitting that here because I'm in a different head space today, and I think it's important to say it. In those early days I was desperate to read blogs and experiences in which people were raising children in small spaces, so I spent a ton of time Street Viewing SF from afar and digging around in archives.

Then two things happened to change my perspective.

The first is that my friend Kelley offered to babysit Noah on my birthday for a few hours so I could go to the Tenement Museum (which I'd been dying to investigate!). I took the first tour they had, which focused on the shops that existed in the first floor of the tenements. We started in what used to be a German pub and I listened to the stories of the family who ran the pub, as well as those who came on Sundays for dinner and drinks.

"Back then, the apartments were so small that people didn't have living rooms or salons," the tour guide explained. "So they would meet up in these pubs and use them as their living rooms. German expats would play board games and participate in societies and read the newspaper together."

Something clicked for me when she said this. I'd always felt slightly guilty for heading out to the local cafe when I wanted to read or blog or whatnot (cheaper to brew coffee at home and all that...), but now I realize that Chris and I have been using public spaces to compliment our small living space. Noah and I practically lived at the park last summer, a fine substitute for a back yard. And our frequent visits to the bookstores down the street are solid alternate versions to a library or study or office at home.

I felt a little better.

Then, during our long flight to California last Friday night, I watched about 6 billion episodes of House Hunters. They told stories of a bunch of Americans who were transferred abroad for jobs: to Portugal, to Berlin, to the south of France. I watched Texans encounter tiny German fridges and Californians consider dishwasherless kitchens. I knew what that felt like; I've been an expat many times. And when I realized that, I remembered that I took on my French apartments with a very different set of expectations. Rather than compare them to my living spaces back home, I was always excited and intrigued by the newness and ready to embrace the way they did things locally.

So! What if I thought of our sejour in San Francisco as if I were an expat? Instead of expecting to recognize myself on the streets of Berkeley or Oakland, what if I approached it as a foreign place, prepared to find the best aspects of the area. I imagined myself as an old woman saying things like "when we lived in San Francisco those few years, we didn't have the money for a yard but we did visit the Exploratorium every week!"

This made me feel a lot better.

So now that's my approach. It's possible that we'll get out there and never want to leave, but it's also possible that we will touch down for a few years and then find another place to call home. What I find increasingly true about unexpected change is that I need to allow myself time to process it and time to bounce back. Visiting the city last week sure helped, but time has helped too.

2.04.2014

Go west, pre-middle-aged woman.*

We were moving to Portland, Oregon. Having told ourselves for the past several years that NYC was too busy, too expensive, too stressful, too far from nature, we finally made the call last summer. Portland in 2014; it was happening.

We told our families in the fall and contacted movers for estimates. I quit my NY-based job and could take Plucky anywhere; Chris had a few options to entertain in terms of working remotely. I wrote the news in almost every Christmas card I sent. We had done our homework. That's what I'm getting at.

And then, sometimes when you least expect it, a curveball hits.

Three weeks ago Chris was flown out to San Francisco to interview for his dream job. Neither of us put too much stock in the scenario because it was so competitive and also I have really been working on not worrying about THINGS THAT ARE NOT YET REAL (personal growth shout-out!). So when he called me after the interview and told me he had an offer to work onsite in SF, I really was in shock. San Francisco? CALIFORNIA? Everything, from less financial stress to having a yard with a sandbox disintegrated during the few days before my birthday and I found myself facing 33 years old in a very uncertain place.



Reddit flew us out this past weekend so that we could take a look at the area. I'd been to SF before and could not imagine foggy, chilly days in July. I barely remembered any nature and hated the idea of living in a shoebox apartment with our growing toddler. But something in me has been softening, so much so that we arrived in Oakland on Friday night prepared to look for the best during our weekend adventure.



And I have to report back that we don't feel like we're going to be "making do" in the Bay area. We fell in love with Berkeley, watched the Super Bowl at a high school friend's house with his toddler and drove through stunning nature. Yesterday our flight home was canceled and we were rebooked on the red eye, so we took off for the beach, walking and driving along the coast, memories of our honeymoon road trip at every turn. It was a wonderful weekend and we have decided to say yes to a new adventure, so... we're moving to San Francisco!



Yesterday as my Instagram feed was filled with snowy photos back home, I sat in the sun while Chris had meetings. I read my travel guidebook, got excited about learning about the history of the city, and really let the sun warm me up. It felt good. It felt totally unexpected, but like a twist in the plot you never knew you wanted.



It's truly taken me a few weeks to feel good about this change, but now I really do. I've so longed to write about making this decision, but for obvious reasons relating to Chris' job (and future job), it wasn't possible. Now I can't wait to ask all of you what YOU think of San Francisco!? Do you know someone who has a place to rent in Berkeley? What books should I be reading?

And where should we go exploring with the littlest member of the family? Other than clown school, because, hello:



Thanks for your support and wise words during this time. We'll be moving mid-April and will be soaking up NYC until then! xox

(*Title inspired by SBJ's blog post a few years ago about moving to the west coast for a while. That post has been a huge inspiration to me since I read it, particularly the part about slowing down time by trying new living environments...)