Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Woman in Her Thirties Turns Forty

Well, I think it’s safe to say that my mojo for this blog began its slow death around my 38th birthday. I guess that is to be expected- ten years is a long time to keep a blog going. When I look back on my first posts, back when I was still unpacking wedding gifts in Palo Alto and still adjusting to the culture shock of moving back to the US from China, I hardly recognize that youngster. Much has happened, as it always does.

Isn’t it wonderful?

I had it in my mind that the last six months would be a strong finish. Weekly updates, witticisms, etc. But the truth is that I’m tired, you’re tired, and blogs are becoming a thing of the past. More than that, my kids are getting older. I’m getting very protective of their privacy and mine. I’ve lost that blogging-loving feeling.

In May I turn 40. Will I start a Woman in Her Forties blog? Nah. I hope that’s cool.

I thought about making a list as my closing blog- 30 things a woman in her thirties knows or does or says. On sleepless nights I’ve begun this list, and it always winds up long and pedantic and overly focused on comfortable shoes. The truth is that as far as this blog goes, and this format goes, and this way of communicating goes, I’ve said what I felt was logical and needed to be said. I have been as authentic as I’ve known how to be, and if there’s one thing a woman in her thirties knows it’s that authenticity is the key to all sorts of happiness.

I’m proud of what I’ve written, even the parts that aren’t perfect. And the letters to my kids. I’m so flippin’ glad I did that for them. Anna, Aaron, someday when you read those letters know that I meant each and every word of them and always will, no matter what the next (hopefully many) decades bring.

I’m a woman in my thirties for only a few more weeks, and I can say truthfully that when it comes to the next decade, bring it. There are more stories to tell and much more life to live, and I plan to do just that, just not here.

So stay tuned, all ye women in your whatevers. You are beautiful, life is beautiful, and every day is a gift, so quit it with your wishing and hoping and start doing. I believe in you. Thank you for believing in me, all these wonderful years!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Woman in her Thirties Resolves, 2018

It's halfway through January, but I'm already hard at work on my 2018 resolutions. I always find it interesting how many people hate-- I mean HATE-- New Year's Resolutions (or maybe they are just being melodramatic on Facebook...). Either way, I love making resolutions and I love keeping them and a woman in her thirties does what she loves.

Know what else I love? BEING WARM. January in Minnesota... you kill me. Literally.

After a fairly craptastic December, work-wise, I did a lot of reflecting about my job and how I do it. I won't bore you with the details, but here's the conclusion I came to: as a contracted, self-employed woman at a woman-run start up doing a job no one else in the company does, I have a lot of power when it comes to how I do my job. That is a gift (and also a pressure) of epic proportions. So my first resolution is to work smarter, not harder. I have my entire work-year mapped out, complete with days completely blocked off for me to work on some 'big picture' things that always seem to fall off the radar when you're bogged down in day-to-day stuff. I also have an assistant (yeah!) who is super into doing some stuff that I'm not good at, aka technology.

So I'm feeling pretty excited about this year, work-wise.

Remember how my word of the year last year was 'No'? Well, this year my word is LESS. What do I mean by less? Here's what I mean:

  • Less stuff. Time to do some serious purging, donating, and re-organizing. Nothing is coming in without something going out this year. Less food, less toys, less silly excess. Less, less, STUFF. 
  • Less multi-tasking. You know how, as women, we balance 1000 things at the same time? I am a master at that. I could teach doctorate-level courses on the art of doing 1000 things at the same time. But it really sucks, and it keeps my stress levels in the red zone. So I'm going to be reeeeeally intentional about not multi-tasking. (This is going to be very difficult for me. I know.)
  • Less outrage. You know how we live in some pretty tumultuous times? I've been reflecting on that A LOT lately, with the help of some really enlightening books and several billion Facebook posts from my community at large. I am an empath, I feel things very deeply, and when things are, well, as they are, it greatly disturbs me. It's a hard balance because I want to be informed, but I don't want to be informed by people who are not informed. Does that make sense? So this year, when things happen (as they've happened all damn year) I'm going to channel my inner Atticus and calmly focus on what I can do make the world a little tiny bit better. 
And hey, some big stuff is happening this year. I'm turning 40- YEAH! And L and I are celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary in September. I used to fantasize about what my life would look like at this age, what my kids would look like, what my career would look like, what my marriage would look like, but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would look this awesome. 

So, 2018 is a year of serious celebration. I think what I've discovered this decade is that celebrations look very different for different people, and I want MY celebrations to be deliberate, intimate, and far-reaching. I couldn't want for more. So my final resolution is to celebrate all I've worked hard for and been blessed with and PAY THAT SH$T FORWARD. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Woman in Her Thirties Looks Back on Those Resolutions

If you've read this blog for awhile (and sheesh, it's been awhile), you know I loooooove me some New Year's Resolutions. I know not everyone does. But I do. And a woman in her thirties knows what works for her and does those things.

This past year I was even more adamant  than ever about keeping my resolutions. That is because every day feels like a new smack in the face of the crazy reality we are living in right now. (Remember when I first started this blog and I called my new city Pleasantville? Oh man, do I have some stories to tell you!) I can't control all of what is happening right now, but I can control my small portion of energy I put out into the world. So here's how it went:

1. My word of the year was no. AND I LOVED IT. 

I said a lot of no this year. It was magical and beautiful and wonderful. I skipped out on a bunch of happy hours (actually, a lot of wine in general- turns out my body really doesn't like wine) and felt ZERO guilt about saying to no heading/chairing/hosting/participating in any number of worthwhile things that were not great uses of my time.

Did I say no to everything? Of course not. I said yes, actually, to a lot of really, really important things, things I feel passionate about and causes I wanted to support. I was not less busy this year, not in the least. I was just busy with other things.

But that is the point of this resolution: 'No' is not my default word. But having this resolution be in the forefront of my mind forced me to be very intentional about the things I said 'Yes' to. I didn't always succeed in this, but then again, there is no end to the amount of decisions a woman in her thirties makes every day.

This resolution will definitely make a reappearance in 2018.

2. See Hamilton

It was everything. 

3. Stop Helping People Who Don't Want Help

God, this was freeing. I found myself at the beginning of the year having to stop myself from offering unsolicited opinions, but by the end of the year it was much easier. I've done a loooooooot of listening this year. I've read a lot of non-fiction, been extremely selective about where I get my news (bye bye, HuffPo!), and not used any energy fighting with people on social media, which for the love of god is getting us nowhere.

There has been plenty of help to give this year, and I've given a lot of it. But (mostly) only where it's been wanted.

4. Write

So, here's the thing. I have written two books this year! Hooray!

Hold up. I finished a novel I had been working on and re-read it. You guys, it's terrible. I hate it. So, in the slush pile it shall remain.

I DID finish a book for work. It's a book on marketing. Don't laugh- I'm actually super proud of it. It will come out at some point in 2018.

I'm also helping to write a book that has been all kinds of fun and an incredible learning experience for me. More on that later.

So you have to trust me on this one-- this resolution did happen, but not in the way I had anticipated. And that is totally cool.

5. Enjoy

Have I mentioned that my kids are the awesomest?   I have really made an effort this year to enjoy our time more. And that's easy to do with these guys:

(photos from Mimsydotes)

The 2018 resolutions are brewing as we speak!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Woman in Her Thirties Turns SEVEN?

Dear Anna,

This week, you are SEVEN YEARS OLD. Ready for this?









When I started writing these birthday letters to you, it was because I didn’t have a way of telling you, not in a way you’d understand, all that was going through my mind at the time. Not anymore. Sometimes, through our conversations, I’m sure your understanding of the world and your place in it surpasses my own.

You are so bright, so articulate, so kind. You want to be a scientist (!) and revel in all things cheetah print. You are a full-fledged member of the swim team and master (sorta) backstroker. Princesses were SOO last year, along with dresses and “girly stuff” in general. Your reading homework every night is always non-fiction books you’ve chosen. The weather. Manatees. The Rainforest. "Why is everything in nature endangered??" you asked this morning. Sigh. But the truth is, I’m learning a lot, right along with you. It’s awesome.

Beyond awesome.

The bad news is that I’m thirty-nine. That means, by the time another birthday letter time rolls round, this blog will be defunct. (Maybe that is good news!) So, in case this is my last public birthday letter to you, I’m going to give you a few words of what I like to think are wisdom, for you to take or leave, from age seven to age seventy.

1. You own your story. 

Because I am your mother, I’m going to use words like “perfect” and “super genius” to describe you. While that will always be true for me, to others you’re going to be something different. In fact, you’re getting to an age where people are going to be very free with their opinions about you, and those opinions are going to have the power to shape how you see yourself. If people have opinions about you that are favorable, great! But don’t fixate on those, and don’t let them define the decisions you make. Same goes for people’s negative opinions about you. You decide your story in this world, no one else.

2. Anne Frank was right. 

The line from Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl that will always stay with me is, “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are good at heart.” Bubba, this world is full of terrible people. I hate that this is true. But it is more full, it is OVERFLOWING, actually, with good people. Kind people. Supportive people. You will always have the choice between being paralyzed by fear or taking a risk, and you will always have the choice to live thinking the world is out to get you or that people are worth loving and even trusting. I really hope you’ll choose the latter.

3. Your body is a gift. And it’s YOURS. 

Someday in the not so far future we are going to have a talk about what it means to be a woman. While my sole purpose in life is to keep you from any harm whatsoever, I know I can’t always do that. So I need you to know that you are a gift. Everything about you is a gift. You own who receives the gift of you. No one else. You.

4. You can’t have it all. 

If there is one thing I hate, it’s the idea that a woman must be, do, and achieve everything. Let me be the first to break it to you: that’s not how life works. You can be, do, and achieve many things, but not everything. So choose what you want, and make that stuff happen for you. And please, please, turn off any noise that is telling you you aren’t enough of one thing or another. You are enough. Your life is enough. Your strengths are enough. Your choices are enough.

Bus stop selfie with your biggest fan.

Ugh, how do you end a letter to your favorite little girl, your most precious gift, your beautiful little sidekick whom you simultaneously want to wrap in your arms forever and at the same time set her free to forge her own path?

The only answer I can come up with is that you don’t. End the letter, I mean. This is an ongoing conversation, one we’ll have countless times and in many ways, because if I have done my job right you will understand that I am always here for you, in every single way, for always. Not just when things are easy. Not just in a time of crisis. But always.

And always. Forever.

Happy Birthday, my big (but always my little) girl.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Woman in her Thirties Gets Lice

Is your head itching yet?

Mine too.

Before I tell the story, let me preface by saying this past month has been a month of some hard-core adulting. For the past year I've felt really blocked creatively, depressed by the state of the world, and feeling like my voice is... well... dumb. Not anymore. Spending a month dealing with the woman-in-her-thirties realities of life has unlocked a lot of stories that need to be told.

And here is one of them.

Last week, as Anna and I sat at the table with her reading homework, I took a good look at her hair. The only reason I did that was because I'd just had a conversation about how lucky we'd been to avoid lice in our house. If not for that off-handed conversation, I might not have looked. But I did look.


You can fill in the rest of the blanks. There was swearing, accompanied by a mad dash to Walgreens for a lice removal kit. Hours of shampooing and combing. Then checks of all the remaining members of our house. 

I also considered burning our house down, obviously. 

The next day, I went to The Lice Lady. Yes, that is an actual (thriving) business here. I wanted to be 100% sure that the rest of us were lice-free. 


Not lice-free. 

You know how I was talking about the hard-core adulting going on in my life right now? Well, nothing like a case of head lice to make you feel like you're seven years old again. 

I've become a head lice expert now, something I never wanted to be an expert in, but it turns out lice is really not that big of a deal. You get treated, you wash your sheets. Ain't no thang. 

But here's the part of the story that should be told. Almost everyone I have told about dealing with head lice has said, 'Oh yes, we've had it too.' But it's quiet, like you're revealing some sort of state secret. 'Don't worry,' Anna's teacher told me. 'We won't tell the kids that she had it.'

This was in stark contradiction to how I was handling the situation. I told anyone who would listen about the lice. I complained loudly, and often. 

'I HAVE A LIST OF THINGS I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR," I yelled when I arrived for my lice treatment. They put me into a room with a curtain for privacy. 'YOU KNOW WHAT IS ON THE TOP OF THAT LIST? LICE!'

It wasn't until I ran into a person I knew, another parent from Anna's class, who was getting her lice treatment at the same time as me, when I realized I was not handling this in the normal way. She was horrified to see me, and promised up and down not to tell anyone that we were there together. 

'Oh,' I suddenly understood. 'I'm not supposed to be talking about this?'

I've told this story several times in the last few days, and I always get a laugh. 'You're my soul sister!' People say. 

But am I? 

I don't know what it is, but for some reason we are afraid to talk to each other about real life. And sometimes the people who SAY they are honest and genuine are the worst offenders. We say we are great when we are not great. We assume no one wants to listen to us, so we don't give them a chance to listen. We don't ask for help because we're under some false impression that quietly suffering is a noble thing. We confuse a social media rant with actually doing something about the things that matter to us. 

Most of the people reading this blog are people I would consider friends. And friends, getting to hang with me means getting reality. I pooped while giving birth to Anna. I am an introvert and need my quiet alone time. I'm dealing with some really hard family stuff right now and sometimes I just need someone to listen to how difficult it is. 


And I am still, without a doubt, the luckiest woman in her thirties in the world. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Woman in Her Thirties and the Heroes We All Need

Have you guys seen The Great British Baking Show? If not, it's on Netflix. And you're going to need to watch it.

Let me be clear about a few things before I start talking about this important piece of television. The first is that I don't have time for television. Neither do you, I'm guessing. We are back to school, the newest members of the swim and hockey teams, oh, and did I mention work and all the other millions of things we have going on? Every single day is a race to the finish, and every morning we wake up and start a new race all over again.

Who has time to watch TV? WHO?

After a particularly taxing day recently, I decided that instead of 'winding down' with a scroll through the news and reading about how things are... well... very... you know... I decided I would give The Great British Baking Show a try.

This is the show the world needs right now. Here's why:

Everyone is kind. 
I completely realize I sound like a Pollyanna hippie when I say this, but I simply don't understand why people are so friggin mean to each other. Maybe the mean parts of The Great British Baking Show are edited out; maybe Mary really is a horrible human being who is secretly making fun of each contestant on the show, but I doubt it. The Great British Baking Show is a competition, and yet everyone, even the people in competition with each other, still finds a way to get along and not call each other horrible names.  See, people? It's possible.

There is no unnecessary drama. 
We need to talk about how news nowadays has been sensationalized to to soap-opera proportions. Don't get me wrong-- I love a good drama, and I love getting all the feelz. But a Kardashian announcing a pregnancy is not 'Breaking News'. In fact, it's not important in the least. Maybe we should also apply that philosophy to some other famous people, too. The Great British Baking Show doesn't have ridiculously dramatic music; the hosts don't pit people against each other and try to get them to talk sh*t. It's strictly a fact-based presentation of how each competitor has performed. How refreshing!

There is civil discussion of complicated issues. 
I'm a woman in her (very) late thirties now, so I know a few things. One thing I know for sure is that very few issues have black and white solutions. Let's take Mary's Cherry Cake, which was part of the competition in the first or second show:

Each contestant had to recreate this masterpiece, using the same ingredients and minimal directions. Each came up with varying versions, each with their own problems and successes. It took a lot of discussion of technique and evaluations of the final product to come up with the winner, and even that one had its flaws. If Mary's Cherry Cake requires this much bi-partisan discussion, I think it's safe to say that a zinger on Twitter is not going to solve the problem of, oh I don't know, immigration reform.

Active listening. 
Though every contestant on The Great British Baking Show is an expert baker and the judges are legitimately famous for their craft, I have yet to see anyone on that show plug their ears, say their way is the only way, and not be willing to listen to other people's ideas and concerns. Here's an example of what happens on this show:

Notice how they are looking at the person talking and listening to what they are saying. They might think this guy is totally out of his mind doing what he's doing, but they are still giving him the decency of listening to him and letting him speak. And when they have questions, they ask them of the person. They don't gossip or roll their eyes or make assumptions. They just ask questions when they have them, and get the answer from the person who can give the answer. I mean, what a concept!

There is a conscious moving forward.
Of course, The Great British Baking Show is a competition. People are eliminated each show, and while that is a necessary sadness, there is also support and hope for this person's future. No gloom and doom, no screams of the apocalypse. This is, in fact, the system. Concessions need to be made for the greater good. And at the end of the day, if the person eliminated is someone the judges or the audience truly believes in as a baker, we have the choice to support them in other ways. You picking up what I'm putting down, here? A person doesn't need to win The Great British Baking Show to make a positive impact in this world. And we, the audience, can choose to support that person in their loss and elevate their... baking... in other, maybe even more impactful ways.

This is, you know, life. We can move forward with hope. We really, really can.

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Woman in her Thirties, Post Summer

No, blog, I have not abandoned you. I know it seems like I have (and in the home stretch, no less!). Believe me, I've had no less than ten posts brewing in the last few months:

A Woman in her Thirties Goes Vegan
A Woman in her Thirties Finally Gets her Husband to go to Yoga
A Woman in her Thirties and the Fast-Paced Game of Mini-Golf

But I keep going back to a conversation I had with a woman I taught with in China. She was from Europe and had lived in Asia many years, and when I told her I liked to write she smiled and said, 'Write quickly, then. If you live in China for a year you can write a book, but if you live in China for two years you can't write anything at all.'

I think I finally know what she meant by that. There is a lot going on in the world right now. A lot of despair and sadness. Was all that despair and sadness there before? Sure. But call me privileged or call me naive or call me whatever you want, but it feels more palpable now. I struggle to comprehend a lot of things, and while I'm reading and listening and focusing and trying to understand what seems fairly clear cut to me in many instances, I remain like the person I was after three years overseas: Void of anything substantial to write.

I want to write about how my kids are starting 1st grade and Pre-K, and I'm biased as hell but I think they are pretty much the greatest little people ever.

I want to write about the awesome people I'm working with, and all I'm learning from them.

I want to write about how nervous I am for our fall schedule to begin this week. We are exceedingly overbooked, even more than usual, and everyone keeps telling me to get used to it, but I'm really, really not looking forward to being so busy. 

I want to write about what we're struggling with this summer, what we're doing to fix those things, and what we're not doing to fix those things, and how being a parent means that every damn day you're negotiating who these little people are with who you are, and that requires a great deal of self-reflection and humility and patience. 

I want to write about this TEDx talk, and how the absolute truth of it makes me feel both inspired and terrified at the same time. 

I want to write about our summer. Our trips to California and up north. The joys of swimming and building elaborate LEGO cities and paying way too much to go on little adventures around the cities and neglecting our piano practice. 

But I don't know where to begin. Because while all these things are true, my voice feels small and unimportant right now. The entire premise of my second book was that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I guess that is where I'm residing. Frozen, figuring out how to be part of some bigger solution. 

At any rate, dear blog, I have not abandoned you. I'm thirty-nine now, in the final year of this little writing adventure, and while I'm grateful for all the ways you've helped me process the last (seriously awesome) decade, my relationship to you and to all my writing has changed. 

Stay tuned. There's more, I'm just not sure yet what that means.