June 7, 2018

A Few Things...

Let's catch up on what I've read lately...

How to Raise a Boy. As always, and now more than ever, I'm conscious of the way we are raising our boys. This is a great article, and this passage particularly resonated:  "... the lessening power of men (straight and white particularly) is an unquestioned societal good. ... The only thing is: There are two future white men who live in my house, and I love them very much." 

Wait Until 8th—A Pledge to Delay Smartphone Usage in Kids. I hate the never-ending battle over technology. I think we're doing okay so far. We go through phases, but in general, our kids are still the "play outside until the sun goes down" types. Aaron has a gizmo gadget, which enables us to keep in touch when necessary. It's not perfect, but it gets the job done, and it's helping us fill the gap for now.

The most reasonable article about nutrition I've ever read. 

It's Hard to Delete Facebook Without an Alternative. After the news about Cambridge Analytica, I watched the whole #deletefacebook movement happen, but I still haven't deleted my account. Because it fills a need - it helps me keep in touch with my far-away family and friends.

Americans Love Seeing Swedish Dads Out With Their Kids. And This is a Problem. I loved this article. What's "normal" here is not normal everywhere. It'd be nice if we could learn from and be influenced by other countries and cultures.

Belly is Back! Fun to hear new music from one of my all-time favorites. Also fun to read about how they decided to get back together.

‘Exile In Guyville’ Decodes Feminism’s Generational Divide. Cool article about Liz Phair and feminism.

The Professor on a Mission to Make Math Lovable. This article is about my nephew-in-law, a ridiculously smart and sweet guy. "...there is so much poetry and philosophy in math, it is really more of a humanities discipline anyway."

NBC News asked men and women in different professions across the U.S. how the #MeToo movement has changed the way they interact with people at work - if at all. This is a sampling of their responses. Many of them are not surprising, but some sure did make me sad. I'm grateful I've worked in open and accepting environments and with really good guys throughout my career, although the culture has definitely changed over the years (and that's a good thing).

In the #MeToo Era, Raising Boys to Be Good Guys. Yep, I read this stuff every day. I am hyper aware of the influences in their lives, from seeing cheerleaders on the sidelines of football and basketball games (I'm grateful that they prefer baseball and soccer), to the types of books they read and movies they watch. It is getting harder, though. But I will make them do their chores (yes lawn mowing, but also dishes and scrubbing toilets and dusting), and I will keep talking to them.

Curiosity and What Equality Really Means, by Atul Gawande. I love reading anything by him, and this commencement speech to the UCLA medical school is no exception.

Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls. As always, I'm intrigued by the differences in how we raise boys vs. girls. As a mother of boys, I want to be conscious of the biases and stereotypes that exist, so I can ensure we aren't demonstrating them at home. And when we do fall into those stereotypical traps, I want to recognize it and talk about it.

To end on a light note, here are a few recipes I want to bookmark. The Best Lemon Bars. I'd also like to try some new veggie burger recipes this summer. I'm going to start with either this, or this, or this. And I made this Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula Salad last week, and it's great. So light and refreshing - perfect for a cookout. Aaron enjoyed it and requested that I make it again.

June 6, 2018

The Spring Spiral

Every now and then, I fall into a spiral of chaos and inertia. I become unproductive, disorganized, and I struggle to prioritize and focus. I often don't know what causes it, and it is always challenging to find my way back. 

I've been in one of these states lately. There are many contributing factors, no doubt. Spring is such a busy time of year, especially for parents of school-aged children. Baseball and soccer practices and games, piano recitals, school chorus and drama performances, parent/teacher conferences, end-of-year parties and portfolio/field days, and the list goes on. Then of course there's work. I've been in a challenging role, and I'm in discussions regarding a transition. 

That all feels like a list of excuses, though, and really, I don't know what it is. What I've realized in the past is this: gratitude and presence is usually the way out. If I can organize myself around this seemingly small task - expressing gratitude each day - then I can do anything. It reminds me of that Navy Seal Commander who said we could change the world if we just made our bed every morning. I get that. 

So even though blogging is dead, and nobody reads any more, I'm going to get back to my little blog. Even if I'm the only one reading it. 

I've been spending a lot of time watching these guys. This fabulous group of boys is a ton of fun to watch.

May 10, 2018

Recently Read

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas.
The main character is a sixteen-year-old girl. She lives in a poor and rough neighborhood but attends a prep school in a more affluent suburb. She witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend by a white police officer. I loved this book. It is a YA book that is well-written, fast-paced, and thought-provoking. It provides different perspectives, and it challenges the reader to put themselves in the shoes of the characters.

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward.
"Sorrow is food swallowed too quickly, caught in the throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe." The descriptive and beautiful language of this book instantly drew me in. It is beautifully and elegantly written. It sometimes feels like reading a song or a poem. It's a character-driven story about an African-American family in Mississippi, and it's also a story about ghosts. It's mystical, and it will hit you in the heart - there were parts that literally made me ache.

The Humans, by Matt Haig.
I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book at first. I read it at the recommendation of a friend, who said the payoff was worth it, and she was right. The story is unique - the main character is a math professor who solves the secret of prime numbers, an enormous mathematical discovery that would change life on earth, leading to technological advancements and even solving the problems of illness and death. Unfortunately for him, aliens have learned of his discovery, and they send one of their own to kill him, assume his identity, and ensure that his information was not shared with anyone. The story opens as the alien has entered the body of the math professor and has to learn how to navigate life as a human. The first half of the book is focused on his observations of humans and human life. As he becomes emotionally attached to his human life, his reflects become deeper and more interesting. It culminates in a letter of advice he leaves for his son. They're all wonderful, but here are a few to entice you to pick up this highly entertaining book:

    • Don’t worry about your abilities. You have the ability to love. That is enough.
    • Peanut butter sandwiches go perfectly well with a glass of white wine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
    • Read poetry. Especially poetry by Emily Dickinson. It might save you. Anne Sexton knows the mind, Walt Whitman knows grass, but Emily Dickinson knows everything.
    • If you think something is ugly, look harder. Ugliness is just a failure of seeing.
    • If there is a sunset, stop and look at it. Knowledge is finite. Wonder is infinite.

    April 23, 2018

    Costa Rica

    Arenal Volcano

    Costa Rica is amazing. It's the perfect place for a family vacation, when your kids are old enough to enjoy very active outdoor activities. My Nathan chose Costa Rica as a destination after learning about it at school. He said that he really wanted to go see animals in a rain forest. What a fabulous idea! So we did!

    Costa Rica can be a bit intimidating, because there's so much to do and see! I did some research, talked to people who had been there, and quickly became overwhelmed. I didn't want to spend too much time traveling between locations, especially since my family is plagued by motion sickness. I wanted to see and experience the country, but I also wanted the vacation to feel like a vacation.

    As we try to do with each of our trips, we prioritized by identifying activities that were most important for each of us. Nathan wanted to see animals in the rain forest. Aaron was most excited about river tubing. Kevin wanted to not go zip-lining. I really wanted to try surfing. 

    We found our balance by spending four days at a resort in the rain forest, near the Arenal volcano; and four days at the beach. And it was fabulous. There is a lot we didn't see, but I loved this trip so much. We have all declared it our best trip ever - even better than Disneyworld! I told the boys that perhaps we'll go back in a few years, once they've learned some Spanish. 

    Some highlights below...

    We toured a wildlife sanctuary with a fabulous guide, who told us the personal stories of each of the animals. I was proud that my boys knew almost as much as he did about the animals - yay for Wild Kratts!

    Rock climbing was hard and really fun!

    The boys spent a lot of time at the end of the river, swimming and playing in the strong current. River tubing was so much fun that we did it twice! Another highlight was a night walk we took through the forest - a guide walked us through the forest at night, and we found frogs and spiders and listened to the sounds of the howler monkeys nearby. Sooooo cool.

    The hanging bridges were a highlight for sure. With a guide, we saw a lot of really cool animals, and the bridges themselves were very neat. 

    La Fortuna Waterfall was lovely. Unfortunately, we walked the 500 steps down to it after spending the morning at the hanging bridges, and Nathan was wiped! A tired Nathan is not a happy Nathan. I especially loved the lunch that we earned that day. We ate at a wonderful local restaurant with our guide and driver, and saw sloths in the trees while we ate!

    Our resort had many hot springs (from warm to really hot), and there was a water slide too. We spent some time here each day.

    After spending a day at the hotel pool, we spent a day at a nearby beach. There was a really nice restaurant right on the beach, and we rented bodyboards and played all day. Here, Nathan is watching a group of guys play soccer on the beach. A beautiful day!

    As I said, surfing was my priority, and it did not disappoint! I had always wanted to try surfing but never had. I didn't have any expectations about it or about how the boys would enjoy it - it was my choice, not theirs. Thankfully, it was fantastic! We had two instructors for the four of us and an entire beach to ourselves. So much fun!

    I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to visit this beautiful country!

    March 9, 2018

    Recently Read

    I have some catching up to do on books, too. Here are a few I've read recently. More to come, as I've gotten off to a quick start this year.

    Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng.
    This started out slowly, and although it was okay, and the writing is good, I couldn't tell where it was headed. But then! It got interesting. The first half of the book is detail and character-heavy, as the authors sets the scene. The second half is plot-heavy and quickly becomes a page-turner. The story centers around two families, and the characters are all very different and written in wonderful detail. You really feel like you get to know all of them. It was fascinating to think about situations from various perspectives, and it's made all the more powerful by not forcing the reader to choose sides.

    Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout.
    This book feels like a character study. If you enjoy people-watching, and imagining what their lives are like and what they're thinking, then you'll love this. If you enjoyed My Name is Lucy Barton and want to know what happens when she returns home to visit her siblings, then you'll love this. Personally, while I enjoyed the writing and the interesting characters, I wanted something more to happen. And when it didn't, I was okay when it ended.

    The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah.
    I loved this book. It starts in 1974, when Leni is a 13-year-old girl. Her father has returned from Vietnam a changed and unstable man. Along with Leni's mom, they move around the country, searching for stability and a place to belong. They move to Alaska to live off the grid and make their way in the wild, settling in a small and very tight-knit community of homesteaders. It's a beautiful and gripping story that kept me up way too late, because I simply didn't want to put it down.

    March 8, 2018

    Little Things...

    It's cold and gray and we just made it through another snowstorm. I figured this was a good time for a positive post about some of the beautiful things in my life. 

    My boys are old enough to shovel by themselves! The driveway and sidewalks were cleared before I even took a shower this morning. That is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

    Unfortunately, schools were closed today. But! Nathan recently learned how to play Monopoly, and he really wanted to teach Aaron, who had never played. They spent almost three hours playing Monopoly this morning. They had fun, with no fights, and no whining at the end; and I was able to get some work done. Amazing.

    The book I'm reading right now is great. I keep staying up too late, but I love getting sucked into a good one. It's super weird and interesting and different, and that's perfect for right now. I also love that I can continue to read by flashlight when the power goes out. 

    And another bonus - the power is back on! How easily we take it for granted. Heat, hot water, a cold fridge, phones, TV, etc. Maybe it's good to have the reminder every now and then of just how good we have it. 

    February 27, 2018

    Taking Stock

    It's been a while since I've done one of these. Let's catch up...

    Feeling - Motivated. I'm starting a new project at work, and although I don't handle change well, I'm determined to stay ahead of that anxious feeling this time. 
    Watching - Superhero movies. We saw Black Panther last week, and watched Thor: Ragnarok this past weekend. Loved them both. (P.S. - I told the boys I want to be Hela for Halloween. Cate Blanchett is fabulous.)
    Wearing - Sweaters and boots, boots and sweaters. It's winter. It's been a long, weird, wet winter, too, which has felt more like a very long spring. And I hate spring. I am certainly craving the warmer days.
    Appreciating - Bad Yogi studio. I really like Erin's yoga classes, and they enable me to do yoga more at home. The classes are of various lengths, so I can choose what fits my schedule. I did a full hour on Sunday morning, but only had time for 20 minutes on Monday. More yoga makes for a happy Mary.
    Eating - Lots and lots of veggies. Roasted. In Salads. Soups. I'm doing a good job getting my daily servings of veggies. (Which justifies my nightly dessert.) 

    Reading - Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone. I adored The Nightingale, so I picked this one up right away. I'm about halfway through now, and it's keeping me up too late at night, because I don't want to put it down. 
    Listening - Brandi Carlile, First Aid Kit, Glen Hansard, and Brian Fallon. I adore First Aid Kit. I'm watching the announcements for the Newport Folk Festival, and that's the name I want to see more than any other. 
    Wanting - More time outside. The cold and dreary (but not cold enough for skiing) weather has been difficult. I need to get outside, take more walks, or hikes, something.
    Anticipating - A trip to Costa Rica for Spring Break. Is it here yet?
    Planning - Our trip to Barcelona in August, with a few days in London on the way home. 

    Thinking - I don't spend enough time with my friends. And friends are important.  
    Realizing - I turn 44 next month. 44. But then again, Cate Blanchett is 48, and she did this, so...
    Loving- This weird phase of life, where I get to experience baseball games and superhero movies with my boys while I come to terms (or not) with my own age. 

    February 23, 2018

    A Few Things...

    This picture reflects my mood today. Pensive. I just want to lie upside down in a wingback chair and feel my feelings. I really want the black cat to watch me from above, too.

    Here are just a few of the articles I've bookmarked (somewhat) recently...

    How I Stopped Checking My Phone And Started Using It With Intention. I do some of these already, but I could do more. It's a continuous process, to check in on how I'm doing. I downloaded the "In the Moment" app, but I honestly think that just gave me one more thing to check on my phone! I know others who have found it helpful, though. For me, the "rubber band on the phone" reminder helps, along with no notifications, and keeping the phone charging after I get home and go to bed. (Here's another good one on the same topic.)

    Family Dinner, Redefined.  Lots of tips about how to handle the family dinner. This week in particular, I've been having the feeling of dread when I realize that I need to decide what to have for dinner again. (Must we eat dinner every day?!?) I definitely need to get back in the habit of planning for the week, but I like some of these other tips and reminders too.

    Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls. As a mom of boys, I am endlessly interested in this topic of how we parent boys and girls differently, whether it's conscious or not.

    The Problem with Seeking the Best for Your Kids. I think about this all. the. time. We ended up in a community with good schools, but not because that's what we were seeking. We mostly moved to the suburbs, because I need space! I wanted my boys to be able to run outside and play. We got that, and we also got good public schools. But I think often about what I could do to support Boston public schools without actually moving there, and what my boys are missing by not being exposed to a more diverse education.

    Women Aren't Nags—We're Just Fed Up.  A harsh title, perhaps, but valid. I've posted something similar before, but I still relate and think it's good to talk about and ensure understanding.

    The Final Interview with Sturgill Simpson, According to Sturgill Simpson. This one's just for fun. I find Sturgill Simpson to be highly entertaining.

    The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto. Since reading this, I think about how I greet my kids every time I see them. I think I naturally lit up anyway, but I'm very conscious of it now.

    Adam Rippon's One Technique For Staying Calm Under Pressure. I am loving Adam Rippon. He and Leslie Jones can do commentary every time as far as I'm concerned. These are great tips for staying calm. Perspective and gratitude go a long way.

    The Boys Are Not All Right. The Parkland school shooting is taking up a lot of mental space these days. I listened to the news with sadness as I heard about the victims and the heroes. I watch with awe and admiration the students who are fighting to be heard. I become angry and frustrated listening to everybody fight about it, as though this is all hypothetical and there aren't real children dying. I've read a lot about it, but this article provides a different focus, instead looking at the possible reasons why boys are almost always the ones doing the shooting.

    February 22, 2018

    A Little Nostalgia on a Winter's Day...

    I'm not typically prone to nostalgia - I try to focus on the present. I enjoy thinking about the past, reminiscing, but I don't long to go backwards. However, I recognize that my perspective and this tendency to look back continues to increase as I get older. It's a strange thing, this whole business of aging. I notice the passing of time so acutely now. Each passing of a week, a month, a season. The start of another school year, another Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Then the long, cold, dreary January. 

    I've never truly felt the optimism of January and the start of the new year. It does feel clean and simple and quiet, especially after the excesses of December; but it also feels like a bit of a let-down, and I'm never quite sure what to do with myself. I exercise, eat healthy, get outside as much as possible, and wait for it to end. 

    This feeling has extended long into February this year. Possibly because we typically take a vacation in February, and we didn't take one this year. And so my waiting continues. It's been another weird winter in New England, without a lot of snow to entertain us and keep us outside. We did get some skiing in over the weekend, and I was reminded how much it improves my outlook on winter. Skiing and yoga and good books. 

    Work has been good. Challenging and interesting and forcing me to think about the things I want to focus on. I am starting a new project, and as I've discussed at length before, I am not comfortable with change. Consulting is a strange business for someone who readily admits that, but I have made a tentative peace with being uncomfortable. The accomplishments and successes along the way motivate me, as does the opportunity to surround myself with smart and ambitious and interesting people. 

    And so I work, and read, and do my yoga, and my mind wanders to previous winters, especially as I think about my boys and our experiences together. 

    Nostalgia creeps in most, I think, when life is quiet. 


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