Surgery and Thoughts on Productivity

I had to have surgery last week. While preparing to be out of office for the day, I set up my work email responder to make sure I directed any urgent inquiries to my business partner. I was amazed to see that I had not set it up since August 2019. In other words, I have not taken a single day off since then. Not even a national holiday.

There are a lot of advantages to owning your own business. But there are also a few significant downsides. Under normal conditions, my profession is filled with more deadlines and urgency than almost any other career, other than firefighting and surgery. (I’ve always found this so stupid, given I’m not out there saving lives. It’s the biggest downside of my profession.) Needless to say, 2020 has not provided normal conditions.  I won’t go into too much detail but: it’s been a very, very difficult time to keep a business afloat, especially one that depends on nonstop strategic brainpower, endurance and sheer freaking will. I take our responsibility to the people who work for us very seriously, and can NOT let them down.

Even with this scary climate, I still find myself beating myself up for not being productive enough. By productive enough, I mean: healthy enough, making the right business decisions, working hard enough, being a great mom and parent, being a good person. I just read an article profiling a prolific, famous author, who credits her success doing all these things to her “upholder” tendencies. She said for years and years, she has woken up early and run at least 8 miles and this is why she can do all she can do, even now during this terrible time.

Let me make this clear: I don’t resent the author. She works hard, and she deserves her success. What I fault is my own tendency to seek out and read these kind of articles.

At the risk of boring you all, I’ll remind you that stoicism is what ends up always keeping me afloat.

Especially now.

So. If you are feeling less than, if you are feeling you’re not doing enough or you’re scared about the future (and who isn’t??) – here’s what I can tell you.

Savor today. Savor this moment. We’re alive! We’re still here.

Spend time with your loved ones (within your household, or pod, or whatever). Watch a fun movie together tonight if you can. Or go to sleep early.

Seek mental health resources, if you need to. This is an unprecedented time of stress, fear and anger.

If you can work out, do so (it makes us all feel better). I can’t work out right now, but I can nurture my body with good food as opposed to bad food. I am trying to be better about that.

Take actions you can to make our world better.

These words, from a wise friend, made me feel better.

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As the World Burns…

What a week, what a month, what a year.

I don’t want to be silent. Stoicism means taking action. And we need to go further right now than the usual voting and calling of our representatives, congresspeople, etc that I usually push. I’m thinking a lot about my grandmother who had very little money, yet sent small and regular sums to the Freedom Riders. I can’t let her down. Not in this moment, and not ever.

  • Think Global. Donate to the NAACP or bail funds.
  • Act Local. I met with the incredible leader of this organization before as an advocate. She does amazing work in my local community. Every locality has at least one Performing Stars. Find yours, and help out.
  • Read Barack Obama’s words of wisdom. I miss him.
  • Watch this. Most mothers will NEVER have these conversations with our sons.
  • Grumpy Rumblings remains a citadel of weekly actions so we don’t EVER forget. 52 weeks a year, this site promotes progressive actions we all can take. Maggie & Nicole don’t let anything slide, and for that they rock.
  • Patronize Black restaurants. Where we live, Anthony’s Cookies are the best and are our regular treat.
  • Buy from cool Black Creators – a thread.  With not much to look forward to, I AM looking forward to the goods I ordered via this thread, especially the calming candle I ordered from this amazing store.

What else? Please add your actions and suggestions below.

One last note: My suggestions DO NOT include bothering Black friends, asking what to do. They have enough to deal with right now and need our support not nagging.

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Random Quarantine Thoughts

An old-fashioned bullet post.

Harry's Bar

  • I’m thinking about making a Bellini this weekend. A few years back, we crossed off one of my life’s bucket list items by going to Harry’s Bar in Venice and sampling this treat. It seemed extravagant at the time, but I’m so very glad we did it anyway. (The kids were given virgin versions, don’t worry.) I’ve thought about our Venice visit a lot during this quarantine. It seems impossible that once we gallivanted around a foreign crowded city, stayed in an AirBnB next to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and flew in a plane with circulated air for 14 hours. What a miracle modern travel was. 😦


  • “This Too Shall Pass.”  History shows humans have dealt with plagues before, and have survived. It’s helpful to remember the larger picture.
  • While I continue to pursue the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred (Level Two is hard! So many planks!) my husband and kids are visiting the local driving range, which is allowed under the current rules. But by appointment only.
  • I’ve been revisiting older movies I enjoyed in the past. In Her Shoes and Father of the Bride have both held up well. Basically, I can only manage entertainment with really low stakes. Whether someone will or won’t get married is about all I can handle right now.
  • But I’m still having a really hard time reading books of any kind. 😦
  • I enjoyed the Fug Girls’ retrospectives of the gowns Elle Fanning and Aishwarya Rai have worn at Cannes. Here are my favorites: Elle, Aishwarya
  • I’ve been wrestling with the dynamics of how individualism in the US goes too far for years. Jonathan Franzen covered this better than most years ago with Freedom. Since COVID-19, I’ve seen individualism arguments run amok on both the left and right. I’ve seen liberal friends go absolutely bananas over the shelter-in-place order restrictions. And I’m also seeing people being shamed by the right who — for many very valid reasons — can’t take care of their health like many of us can. I side more on the Leslie Knope side of the spectrum (I support bans on enormous sodas) as opposed to the Ron Swanson side (see below), in terms of the collective vs. the individual in many circumstances related to health. Very few of us are Gretchen Rubin Upholders — those lucky and rare personalities that have the kind of innate willpower it takes in this world to make the right choices. (Rubin, for example, swore off sugar years ago. I could NEVER do such a thing!) Anyway, this article spells out my concerns better than I could express.

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Sorry, Ron. But I disagree!

  • I’ll end on a more positive note. My kids are writing letters to seniors who are alone and isolated during this time. It’s nice to see them contributing in this way. If you’re interested in doing the same, go here.




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Staying Fit During Covid-19

Like many, I have put on a few pounds like this shelter-in-place began.


We’ve been walking our dog Sally every day, often hiking up the big hills in our neighborhood. These walks usually hit 1.5 or 2 miles. But, I’ve also been cooking and eating more. The fun cocktails I’ve been making aren’t helping either. (We only make and consume one per evening, but there’s lots of sugar in Pina Coladas and Daiquiris. Boo.)

Pina Colada 2

I decided to add a strength training workout to the mix, after reading this post from of a blogger who streaked for 21 days, using an at-home video series. I used to work out at Orange Theory Fitness or the gym, so we don’t have any equipment here and I wanted to get started right away. This left me with not a ton of choices.

After listening to The Dream podcast, I have a fundamental distrust of MLM schemes, so I ruled out the very popular Beachbody video. I looked at our On Demand choices, and noticed I could purchase Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred for $5.99, which seemed like a deal. Having never watched The Biggest Loser, I didn’t much about Jillian other than what my daughter said. (“She’s very 2010.”) I started the program, and I love it. I’m currently on Day 9, and I have seen real benefits. I have more energy. My anxiety level has gone down, which is awesome. Note: I don’t have weights, so I am using soup cans that weigh 3 pounds each.

(I’ve since read that Jillian Michaels is problematic, which is a real bummer. Maybe they will tackle her someday on “Your Fave is Problematic”.) 

What I like most about this workout is that it’s only 20 minutes long. Admittedly, that 20 minutes is gruuuueeeelllling (particularly the push-ups!) but there is a modified version of almost every exercise you can follow, if you are getting sore. I also feel like Michaels tries to protect users from injury by emphasizing and demonstrating the correct form herself, particularly focusing on people not straining their backs and ankles. Caveat: I’m still in Workout One, which lasts 10 days, so not sure if the rest will promise the same level of safety. I also like that Michaels is around my age. As opposed to a 25 year old who can bounce around like Tigger with no aches and pains, lol.

What Else?

  • My husband and I held a socially distanced cocktail hour with two friends on our patio. We sat far apart (about 13 feet at least) in the outdoors in a particularly well-ventilated area, and chatted in-person for about an hour. It was LOVELY.
  • We’re watching The Last Dance, and I am thoroughly enjoying it, even though I’m not a huge basketball fan. Part of the appeal is returning to the 1990s when anything seemed possible, and we didn’t have to worry about a pandemic or the economy collapsing. Michael Jordan was such an incredible athlete and is a fascinating personality.

I am planning to finish the 30 Day Shred, but if anyone has any other ideas for an exercise routine afterward that requires no equipment, I would appreciate it! 






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What Will I Remember About COVID-19?

Loribeth posted her own answers to some great journaling prompts about life in the time of COVID-19. It’s easy for this time to become a blur of working, cooking, cleaning and feeling like every day is the same. So I liked this idea of these prompts, and I am shamelessly copying it.

When was the moment you knew this was serious. Where were you, and what happened?

I had to track this story for work, so I knew that the virus was likely to spread and become a worldwide pandemic when Wuhan was shut down by the Chinese government on January 23, 2020. I hoped that the lockdown — which kept expanding throughout China — would contain the virus. But the experts I was following on Twitter (like Scott Gottlieb and Helen Branswell) were pretty pessimistic.

Looking back now, is there one particular news article or story that stands out to you?

The moment it became real for me was when I saw the infamous tweet that went viral on January 25, which was widely dismissed and criticized at the time (and has since been deleted). But in retrospect, Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding was incredibly prescient and, mostly, correct if also controversial.

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What was the first meme that caused you to laugh out loud?

“Boman got dressed…here.”

What have you observed in your community that has been heart-warming?

Lots of neighbors have put teddy bears in the windows for kids to find in their daily walks, and have posted signs thanking the essential workers.

What has been the biggest change to your everyday routine?

Since I worked from home before this, the biggest changes have been 1) Not driving kids around to their activities 2) Everyone else being home and 3) SOOO much more cooking and cleaning than before.

How has family life been altered in your home?

The twins have much more screen time than before. This is because of schoolwork, but we also let them do a lot more online collaborative activities with friends like Minecraft gaming and House Party groups watching Netflix shows like “Outer Banks.” We’ve been much more lax about what the kids can and can’t watch, as well.

What have you learned to do because of this pandemic?

Uhhh…not much? I’ve re-learned how to deep-clean the kitchen and bathrooms, and I am cooking a lot more. But I haven’t learned how to play an instrument, or anything like that.

What change has created the most disappointment for you?

I have been disappointed that people I know who are very privileged are breaking the rules, while also complaining over the lack of freedoms. Also, I can’t deal with friends  indulging in the Sweden debate. Sweden is in a totally different situation than the US. Their citizens are healthier, enjoy access to universal healthcare and suffer less from poverty-related health problems and obesity. And still, their death toll is higher than other comparable countries, like Denmark.

Meanwhile, the essential healthcare workers I know who are putting themselves at risk every single day are conducting themselves with such grace and humility, even patiently listening to those complaining about not being able to get their hair done. (I can’t say I am doing the same.) It’s the best and worst of human behavior at the same time.

What has surprised you?

See above.

What has not surprised you?

That the virus spread so far, and so fast.

What about the future creates feelings of worry or fear?

The economy is a real concern. We have to re-open it, and we have to do it right. Both are extremely difficult tasks.

Being on the West Coast, I am alarmed that there might have been a different, more contagious strain the East Coast has been dealing with. Yikes. What happens when it spreads here?

Finally, I’m worried about fall / winter 2020. The 1918 flu killed a lot of people in the fall and winter.

What have you truly enjoyed about sheltering in place?

Watching movies with the whole family, spending time with our lovely dog Sally and our daily hikes.

Who or what has impressed you in a positive way?

I continue to be humbled by our essential workers. The doctors, nurses, delivery people and grocery store workers who put themselves on the line every day are amazing. They deserve our everlasting gratitude.

What will you do differently when life normalizes?

I will definitely wash my hands a lot more than I used to, and take precautions when I am around large groups of people. I have no desire to go to concerts or the movies right now, but maybe that will change?

What memory or moment will talk about in ten years? 

I think I’ll always remember when my husband and I went to the local grocery store right before the shelter-in-place took effect. There was an apocalyptic vibe in the air –people seemed fairly panicked — and we bought all sorts of supplies we never would have purchased before. Like a 5 pound piece of corned beef, for example. But the scary scenes in movies of people fighting over the last bottle of water, like in World War Z or Contagion, luckily never became a reality.



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