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Weekends: Scheduling Vs. Unscheduling?

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Grumpy Rumblings prompted me to write about whether I prefer to schedule my time for the weekends as opposed to not scheduling. Over the years, we’ve definitely tried both approaches, but finally have come to the conclusion that we prefer to a more scheduled weekend.

I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot since the beginning of the year, and have spent time evaluating how we want to spend our weekends. I’ve tried to determine:

  • What each member of the family both needs and wants to do during a weekend
  • What we need and want to do during a weekend as a family
  • What my husband and I need to do together

NEEDS:

  • My son needs to go his 2.5 hour coding class
  • My daughter needs some alone time, and time to write
  • We need to get groceries, and complete necessary household chores
  • My husband is on a tennis team, with scheduled matches on a weekend
  • My son, who is the proud owner of one of the fastest metabolisms known to man yet is also maybe one of the pickiest eaters ever, needs to eat 3-4 LARGE meals a day, with lots of protein as he has to gain weight (this, in addition to two weight gaining shakes a day)
  • My husband and I need date nights once a week–this includes nights out with couple friends, concerts, dinner parties, plays, movies, etc. Yes, I did say “need.” YMMV.
  • I need to work out both days, preferably Orange Theory Fitness classes which includes both HIIT and strength training. Again, with the need. I definitely need to work out.

WANTS:

  • We host at least one joint family dinner on a Friday night with one of the twins’ school friends and their families, once a month. This has been a lot of fun, and we’ve enjoyed getting to know families better.
  • Playdates with friends for both kids
  • I like to cook and bake. This weekend I’m going to make this lemon rosemary cake that was inspired by my mom’s poem “Lemon Bread”!
  • We usually like to complete one household project a weekend, like organizing our linen closet, decluttering a bedroom, or cleaning out a bathroom cabinet for example.
  • My husband likes to watch TV or read in a quiet area by himself for a few hours
  • I like to do something that is relaxing by myself, like a massage (we have a bunch of free points at our gym that allow us to get these for free every once in a while!), a pedicure, or even a nap.

Obviously, it can be difficult to meet every single one of these wants and needs. But we can fit more into a weekend, if we plan. Also–it’s more budget friendly to book ahead. For date nights, we plan ahead as much as we can, scheduling activities with friends, booking events, restaurants, and most importantly babysitters often months ahead of time. Same with the family dinners, as you have to work with the calendars of two other adults, and multiple children, which is complicated.

That’s not to say that spontaneity doesn’t play a role in our weekends. As you’ll see from our message board, last Sunday looked wide open–but not mentioned was grocery shopping, household chores and Orange Theory Fitness in the morning. However, our afternoon was relatively free, so when a friend invited us to a family event we were able to fit it in. This long weekend, we will be fitting in a “Black Panther” showing–although showtimes are booking up fast! We probably will need to buy tickets tonight. So much for “on the fly”–ha.

There is room for improvement. We should host more playdates than we do, as the kids’ are invited to playdates more than we host them. One of the household projects we will tackle soon is revamping the big kids’ “rec room” downstairs, with an easy-to-use TV, computer for gaming and better organization for the legos, robotics equipment, EV3, etc. I also want to get a ping pong table, as all of us enjoy playing ping pong. I think it would be fun for friends to play during playdates, although we have a great basketball court area that no one ever uses, so maybe not? These are indoor kids.

What do you prefer–scheduled or unscheduled weekends? Would love to hear about your schedules and tips.

 

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What I am Loving Right Now

Kitchen cornerIt’s more than midway through January, and while I am enjoying reading about New Year’s resolutions I won’t be publishing my own. Instead, I’ve been thinking about things that have made my life much better in the last year. I would love to share them with you, and in turn I would love to hear from you. What items made your life better in the last year?

  1. Orange Theory Fitness. I LOVE these exercise classes, and I’m not an exercise class person. The biggest pluses are a wonderful crew of fellow workout partners, really nice staff and teachers, and a great app that makes it easy to book classes. While I have worked out regularly for a while now, since taking Orange Theory classes my energy has skyrocketed and the endorphins flow all day after a class. Plus — I have so much fun lifting weights (I feel like Gal Gadot), and hitting my tech-y targets using my heart monitor. I feel so strong these days. HIGHLY recommended.
  2. Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year. I have added a number of this book’s recipes to my core cooking rotation. Every single recipe in here that I have tried turns out delicious. I cannot say the same for most other cookbooks I use! My favorites: Spaghetti Bolognese, Butternut Squash Soup, Shirred Eggs, Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel Sauce, and Banana Bread.
  3.  Gusto. I started my own business last year, and Gusto makes payroll incredibly simple. If you are a business owner, I recommend checking them out.
  4. Show Your Work Podcast: I love LaineyGossip, who is known in Canada as one of the hosts of The Social. Her podcast talks about lessons from Hollywood that can be applied to our work lives. Sounds weird, but it’s totally fascinating. And sometimes useful.
  5. Best of Both Worlds Podcast. A friend recommended this podcast, which focuses on how to best balance work and parenting. Surprisingly A-list guests, like Gretchen Rubin (!), talk about productivity and give useful tips on how to get the most out of your life.
  6. Hold Me Tight: The only book about marriage I’ve ever read that is actually useful. From Dr. Sue Johnson, one of the developers of EFT, this method of improving marriages is unique, academic study-based and helps resolve conflict without focusing on the usual compromises. Instead, EFT focuses on emotional bonds. Truly, a game changer.
  7. High-end workout clothes: Yes, I have fallen prey to the Lululemon cult. Their clothes look and feel SOOOO much better than anything else I’ve tried. I was previously a fan of Target’s running tights, but the tights I bought from Lululemon are so much more flattering, comfortable and durable. Worth the money.
  8. Setting up a Household Folder on Google docs. This is suuuuuuppppper geeky, but I love having a shared folder that tracks what needs to be repaired/fixed, Amazon orders, meal plans, social schedule, Trader Joe’s grocery lists, camp schedules, etc. Totally keeps us accountable and ON IT.
  9. Mint: This app is heaven for the financial geek in me. I look at it all the time.

What do you love? Would love to hear your tips, hacks, and recommendations of things that have made your life better.  

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What Stoicism is…and what it isn’t

IMG_4526I think possibly one of the worst recent developments to happen to the philosophy of stoicism was the word “stoic” becoming such a popular adjective in the English language.

“Stoic” is often first and foremost defined as: “A person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.” In popular literature and culture, this idea is often applied to the “stoic male,” showcased in characters like Sherlock Holmes, Spock, House and John Wayne. These fictional characters show little emotion, except interestingly anger.

I have no interest in having no feelings, and I don’t think this is a healthy approach to life. So for many years, I rolled my eyes when people advocated stoicism. But it turns out, the philosophy of stoicism is not accurately reflected in the adjective we are all so familiar with.

So, What is Stoicism? 

Stoicism began as an ancient Greek philosophy, a reaction to a different philosophy called Cynicism that advocated simple living, a sort of early version of minimalism and / or the Marie Kondo belief system. (Sidebar: This earlier understanding of cynicism has ALSO fallen victim to a newer take on the word cynicism.) While Cynicism was about denying worldly desires (money, power, possessions) to live a happy life, Stoicism was developed with a different goal: the development of self-control as a method of overcoming destructive emotions. But what does that mean?

Stoicism begins with a strange, and not very aspirational idea. This idea was possibly best expressed by the character of Wesley in The Princess Bride, who told Princess Buttercup that “Life IS pain. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” In America, and possibly most of the Western World, we believe that we are entitled to the pursuit of happiness. The puritan work ethic is an important plank of this pursuit, as well. We’re taught in many places (school, church, popular culture, advertising) that if we work hard enough, and follow the rules, we should attain a happy life. That happy life roughly consists of the following: good health (no diseases or problems until old age), a good home we can afford and pay off, and 2.5 children. If we are a good person and work hard, we are taught, we can get this life.

The problem with the current “pursuit of happiness” belief system is that there is no calculation of random bad luck in this formula, nor of pre-existing conditions. So when bad things happen, many think there must be a REASON. If you get fired during a recession, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough. If you can’t afford a home in your area, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough in school to get the right degree and / or experience. If you lose a child, you didn’t pray enough / go to church enough / behave well enough in the past. But no one is immune to bad things happening, and eventually bad things will happen to everyone, to different varying degrees. And for some, it’s worse than others. If you need a lesson on why success in life is easier for some rather than others based on socioeconomic factors, here is a brilliant video.

Stoicism begins with one core belief–bad things will happen to you. Whether disease, loss, heartbreak, insults or death, pain is inevitable, and it’s just a matter of time before it reaches your door. This is not a cheery thought, so often people don’t turn to stoicism UNTIL they have had something bad happen.

Stoicism’s Key Component: Perspective

If you know that bad stuff is coming down the path for you, if indeed it already has, what do you do about it? This is the major issue stoicism attempts to provide guidance on. Note: I do not say solve. Stoicism doesn’t advocate that you can solve all your problems or cure pain. Instead, it provides a toolbox, or framework, to help you deal with pain when it arrives.

When you live in a world that denies or makes invisible those who are in pain, it’s difficult to know what to do. You can stay mired in anger or bitterness for years, rightly furious at a culture that only accepts and celebrates the happy and the pain-free. We see the beautiful, perfect, thin, and fit families posing in wildflower fields, or frolicking in the pool of their second homes. And we feel lacking or less than, because we can’t starve ourselves to be that thin, or we can’t afford our first home to begin with, or we can’t have children, or we’ve lost our children, or all of the above.  We see these people being celebrated and it feels we have failed in some way.

The stoics say, no, that isn’t true. We haven’t failed. Not at all. We’ve just hit the pain. And it hurts. So what can we do?

What we can do is try to gain perspective. But by that, I don’t mean what I think you think I mean.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

If we accept that life is pain, that bad things happen to good people–can we shift our thought patterns accordingly so we don’t stay mired in a bad state? And would we want to?

That’s a personal question, and I think the answers probably vary. Personally, I believe that when something bad happens, we should take time to grieve. In Judaism, when someone dies you sit Shiva, and you commemorate the loss over a period of time. Yearly, on the anniversary of a death, you light a memorial candle, called a Yahrzeit candle, to honor the dead. My mother-in-law once told me that these customs are very much for the living, to give them the tools to grieve.

But I also don’t want to live a life primarily defined by sadness, fear, anxiety or depression, either, if that is at all possible. However, if life IS pain, how can this be avoided? Are only those who have a cheerful disposition, those who are optimistic, those who don’t feel much pain–are these lucky few fated to be the only ones who can endure pain with a certain amount of perspective and balance?

Stoicism: The Roots of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Luckily, the answer is no. Anyone who has gone to therapy is probably familiar with cognitive behavioral therapy.  Many books have been written, but a succinct description of CBT, for short, is that there are behaviors that can be taught to change damaging thought patterns. I hate to fly, for example. I am afraid of the noises, the pressure changes, and the turbulence. I will never love flying, but I have learned CBT techniques to use when I am on a plane, so I can still go to all the places I want to. I learn to tolerate the strange plane noises and turbulence by tapping into thoughts that help me to understand them.

CBT has one key Stoic concept embedded into its very DNA: logic. That concept can be paraphrased as the following: when our beliefs and expectations align with what is real, we can be well-adjusted to life. If we can control our thoughts with reasonable logic, we can do more in life. When I am on a plane and turbulence happens, I do the following: I remind myself that most likely these are just normal mechanical functions.

But I also accept that I might die in a plane crash, it’s possible. I will die at some point.

Surrender, Dorothy

Logic, surrender and control. All three of these concepts are crucial to stoicism, yet aren’t they antithetical to each other?

Stoicism suggests that we can take the concept of control too far. If the American concept of happiness is ALL about control–if we do the right things, we will be happy–stoicism says the opposite. We should surrender to the worst case scenarios, yet not worry about them as much as we can. Also, you can prepare yourself to meet disappointment and distress.

Famous stoic Marcus Aurelius used to start his day imagining all the ways he would be slighted and insulted. Instead of thinking that every law he proposed would be met with praise and agreement, he imagined everyone yelling at him about how terrible it was. This allowed him to not be surprised when he actually WAS insulted or when members of his government stabbed him in the back. At the end of the day he would not feel disappointed or angry, but rather equanimous. What he had imagined had come about, or sometimes the day was better.

He changed both his expectations, and his perspective on the day. I’m not a public figure, but like most people, there are times when I am discussed, written about, and confronted by others negatively. It helps to expect that this will happen, and not expect that everyone will cheer my very existence with roses and head pats. People will misunderstand me, and they will have issues with many things about me. That’s life.

Stoicism Doesn’t Mean the End of Agency

I’m not as extreme as Marcus Aurelius. But I do use stoicism to help me control my reactions to news, events, personal happenings and of course, work.  For me, I focus on taking one thing at a time, and taking action. If bad news makes me mad, instead of falling into a spiral of downward thinking (really easy to do in 2017), I try to instead take action at some point that day, whether calling my Senator or giving money to a charity. Then it’s easier for me to move on.

Likewise, if something relatively minor or triggering causes me to be sad, I try to honor that feeling, then use it to create some action that day. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But I do find that I have less long-acting sadness and anger when I handle my thoughts in this way.

Stoicism Doesn’t Mean If You’re Sad, You Suck

This is a common misperception. If you read certain quotes on Pinterest or wherever out of context, it is easy to get this impression.

Stoicism has been very helpful to me. When Bad Stuff Went Down, I was so confused and bewildered, both that it happened to me at all (I Worked Hard and was a Good Citizen) then by people’s reactions. (“Everything happens for a REASON!”) Then I was angry and bitter. Eventually though, once I got over the grief (which took time, granted), I was able to frame things differently. I was able to see I was human, and was  just experiencing the pain that is inevitable to life.

Interested? Here are two of my favorite resources about Stoicism:

Here’s what I DON’T recommend, as it’s too easy to take single quotes out of context:

Thoughts? Open to Stoicism, or too put-off?

 

 

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After

A few months ago, Grumpy Rumblings suggested I write an “after” post, describing how our kitchen/living room/dining room remodel turned out. I love reading “before” and “after” stories. However, going through a remodel in real life was a lot different than Pinterest or HGTV would imply. The actual experience subtracted some things from our lives. Things like many, many dollar bills and the amount of square footage we could live in for a time, as we stayed in our home during construction to save money. On the other hand, remodels also add elements to your life: chaos, disruption, a lot of dust, and arguments about what kind of doorbell to install. In short, the process itself kinda sucked.

The remodel wasn’t a mere beautification project; we had some pretty big problems. “Before”, we had no hot water in our kitchen sink, all of our plumbing needed to be replaced, our wiring was crappy, our early 1960s appliances didn’t work (the oven would not close, only two of the burners would heat up and provided uneven cooking power at best), our countertops stabbed a friend of ours in the chest and drew blood, and my son tripped over one of our useless brick hearths and received a scar on his forehead like Harry Potter. Less importantly, the whole living area was ugly. Major features included white stained carpets, dirty-looking linoleum, a dark maze-like layout, and really low ceilings.

Want to see “before” and “after” photos?

KITCHEN

Before: Old sink, showcasing the most water pressure we could get

Old sink

Before: Awesome, light-blocking kitchen layout, in foreground are the homicidal countertop tiles

old layout

After: Sunlight! It’s not overrated!

Kitchen

After: Friendly countertops that don’t stab friends!

Kitchen corner

DINING ROOM

Before: Closed-off dining area (which we used as a playroom) featuring white carpets. Perfect for a space where people eat!

dining room carpet

After: We opened up the dining room to the kitchen and made it an eat-in area. The downside is we don’t have a formal, traditional dining area, but we prefer this.

Kitchen:dining room

FAMILY ROOM

Before: We didn’t have a family room before, because we used this space as our dining area. Also this space was host to one of two ugly and dangerous brick hearths.

old family room

After: We raised the ceilings in this space, and added a skylight.

Family room

After: We also added an office nook, to make the space more functional.

office

Living Room

After: No before shot, unfortunately. Admittedly, this room was not terrible, but it did have another deathly hearth and a weird sunken floor. We raised the floor so it was even with the rest of the downstairs.

Living Room

Additional thoughts:

  • What I am most happy about is that we maximized every square inch of space we had. We use every bit of the downstairs now, whether doing homework, working, watching TV, cooking, or just lounging around. I love that we didn’t increase the size of the house at all, but it feels like we did.
  • I believe most older furniture was better made, plus I like recycling old things that have personal value. So, much of our furniture is “old”: the club chairs were my in-laws and the dining chairs were inherited from my husband’s grandmother.
  • We worked with a designer to help pick paint colors, fixtures, furniture and some architectural elements which was a great move. Shout-out: I think Loribeth originally suggested this, thanks! This was worth every penny.
  • Plumbing and wiring is expensive. No real way around it.
  • Buying all your appliances together can save lots, but shop around. Get as many bids as possible. Do your research – on everything.
  • We used a contractor who was a lot less expensive than others we got bids from, but in return we heavily project managed the remodel. That is one way to cut costs if you are up to it.
  • Choose a contractor who knows the codes. Ours was an expert, so we had no delays because of inspections and every plan passed the local planning board quickly.
  • We kept our “design aesthetic” (such a pretentious term!) to mid-century modern, which is true to the home’s actual architecture. This aesthetic is modern, which my husband likes, but also bright and upbeat, which I like.
  • We used Pinterest a lot. Here is the board we used, if you are curious what inspired us. We got many ideas from Remodelista.
  • Here are other posts about the project:

Have you done a remodel? If so, what did you learn? 

 

 

 

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Day in the Life: Narrative Two

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to incorporate stoicism (see One…One…One…) more into my day-to-day life since the funeral. Monday was a particularly challenging day, so I decided to take notes first on my initial reaction to the day, then how I chose to respond to my initial reactions from a stoic perspective.  On Tuesday, I shared Narrative One, which was my initial inner monologue.

Today I share my stoic reactions (in bold, after my initial reactions). Next I will share learnings.

3:30 AM: I can’t sleep, and I’m not relaxed from my “weekend.” What weekend? I cleaned and cooked like a mad woman to prepare for a dinner we hosted for friends and their daughter on Saturday night, then cleaned again when they left. Darcy has been sick for a week and my son is now also sick so they were both in bed (although Darcy rallied when the guests arrived to attend the dinner). I pushed through to marinate and bake chicken, make a salad and cauliflower rice, prepare hors d’oeuvres and get ice cream. A massive sinus headache descended that luckily lifted when dinner began. Sunday morning I worked for five hours straight to get ahead of three work deadlines. There’s something wrong with my Google drive – it overwrote a file my colleague created!! She was so mad, and I felt terrible. Then after I dragged myself to the gym, I came home to do as much prep ahead of time for the family Passover dinner Darcy signed us up to host tonight. We’re hosting 15 people, including three children under five (my nieces, and yes to answer your question, my sister-in-law is very fertile). I wanted to host Break the Fast, the fun one where everyone eats and runs, but no. After more cleaning (Darcy did some cooking for the meal, and left a huge mess because he had to go back to bed), setting up temporary tables, getting out all the dishes, silverware, bowls, etc (why so many dishes for this holiday – two sets of glasses for each person, really!!) and the haggadahs, it was close to midnight. I’m worried just thinking about all the things I need to do both for work and for the dinner.

3:30 AM: Take it One…One…One. Right now, you need to sleep. That’s all. Use your sleep techniques to prepare your mind for sleep. (Note: I fell asleep shortly after and although my sleep wasn’t great, it was sleep!)

6:00 AM: I dropped in and out of sleep since 3:30, but now I have to wake up. I forgot to mention that the twins are off for spring break this week. I quickly look at the news and feel depressed. I’m working from home, and have three big conference calls. I also owe two presentations and another important document by 2 PM. They have to be perfect because they are going to the top of the food chain. Stressful! I get my coffee and settle down to business until I have to make the twins’ breakfast. I’m working in the master closet so I can close the door for quiet.

6:00 AM: Take it One…One…One. Right now, look at what you wrote down on your to do list for work last night. It’s carefully prioritized. Begin proofing your first presentation. That’s it for now. Set your alarm for 6:30, make breakfast for the kids, then come back. You’ve got this. 

7:00 AM – 2 PM: Crunch time. With the back-to-back meetings and the deadlines, I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom or eat. My babysitter comes at 11:00 AM to pick up the twins and take them to lunch and a movie. It’s embarrassing but I let them use screens until then as I don’t know what else to do. I feel guilty about this. I scramble to triple check the multiple presentations and documents that need to be shipped are perfect, and represent exactly what we need to represent.

7:00 AM – 2 PM:  You have carefully scheduled your time this morning, including arranging for the babysitter to come and give you a break, and you have done enough quality prep work to get everything done as well as you can. It may be hectic, but it will pass. Remember: you have completed many incredibly complicated projects in a timely fashion in the past, and these will get done as well. Yes, the twins will use their iPads, but their favorite games and shows are about math, science and chess. Never forget that it could be a lot worse. You could not have done the prep, you could have not gotten any sleep at all. You could have no iPads for the kids to use. You’re lucky to have what you have. Deep breaths. Begin. 

2:00 PM: I log off, and begin final meal preparations. I clean the downstairs again (how does it get so messy so fast??), roast the shank bone and eggs, set up drinks and appetizer stations, start preparing the salt water, parsley, and nag the twins to take baths and dress nicely. Then we have to run to the store to pick up more matzoh, grape juice, horseradish root, and sparkling water, because those weren’t on my list and they should have been. I spend too much because I go to the local expensive store, something I rarely do since we’re on a strict budget. I’m starting to feel resentful that I am doing so much while Darcy is at work. Why did he want us to host this holiday?

2:00 PM: Let’s address the Darcy resentment. He is very much an equal partner. When you went back to work full-time, you had the big conversation and insisted housework would be split 50-50. He has never reneged on this deal, and it’s been four years. This is the first time he has been sick in over a year, and it’s OK for him to be incapacitated. When you had a staph infection on your leg a couple of months ago and were a hot mess, he stepped up for you big time, doing all the cleaning and cooking and helping fill in on that volunteer duty. Write yourself a note to to have a conversation with him after Passover is over to cooly evaluate whether we should host next year. 

Regarding the expensive store. You’ll need to reallocate the money you spent there to somewhere else in the budget. The budget is a pain, yes, but life is so uncertain and your duty is to be prepared for bad things. You don’t have by any means a job or income that is for life. Your emergency fund needs to be bigger than employees with guaranteed jobs and pensions. Remember always to save. 

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4:00 PM: My in-laws arrive. They bring some of the food in various states of completion which we begin to unpack. We then start to heat up and prepare: salad, matzoh ball soup, noodle kugal, appetizers, dessert. I run up to take a quick shower. Darcy finally arrives.

4:00 PM: Remember how lucky you are to have helpful in-laws nearby. Since you have no immediate family in range (since your brother moved in January), it’s optimal that your kids get to have the multi-generational experience you didn’t growing up. Your father-in-law cooks and hosts family gatherings regularly, showing your twins a great example of men leading household activities. 

5:00 PM: Guests arrive. I serve wine, appetizers and chat. My sister-in-law brings another dessert and the charosset. I begin dishing out all the passover plates, while clearing the drinks and appetizer plates. The little ones run around the house in a loop screaming while the twins try to herd them like cats to activities they might enjoy. My headache from Saturday has returned.

5:00 PM: It’s a privilege and a pleasure to be able to host family gatherings, and you enjoy being hospitable. The twins are showing lots of care and attention to their little cousins, which shows empathy and patience. They will need both of those as adults. Remember what Pema Chodron says: “Whoever got the idea that we could have pleasure without pain?” In your memories of this evening, you will not remember your headache. You will remember the joy of watching your children play with their cousins, and how cute your nieces were in their matching outfits. How solemnly the little nieces paid attention when you showed them a picture of the family that wasn’t here, and how they said your mom’s dress was so pretty in your brother’s wedding picture. 

5:45 PM: We sit down to the dinner. Darcy has prepared a thoughtful but short service, which the three little ones under five scream over. The twins perform the Four Questions which we had all been agonizing over and preparing for (it’s long, and it’s in Hebrew). There is an argument resulting in the recommendation that Darcy end the service early, and there are some hurt feelings.

5:45 PM: The flawless rendition of the Four Questions is worth celebrating. The twins spent a lot of time to learn and recite the difficult passages in a different alphabet and language, and practiced diligently. The solid performance is yet more proof that if they work hard, they can achieve good things. Darcy’s service can be applied with the twins when the guests are gone, so it won’t go to waste. 

IMG_0746

6:15 PM: The service is over, my mother-in-law and I clear the passover plates and set up the buffet. People start dishing out their meals.

6:45 PM: I haven’t even sat down yet to eat my meal. I’m starving. I shovel in some food as fast as I can.

7:00 PM: My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, daughter and I begin to clear the plates for dinner and I begin washing them. This will be a two dishwasher load evening, something I actively avoid because I don’t want to waste water. I put the dessert out and the dessert plates and forks. People dig in. The men in the family play basketball. It’s feeling a bit patriarchal to me, and I’m not a fan of that.

7:30 PM: Most people are done with dessert and I start to bus those dishes. I offer coffee and tea, and luckily no one accepts. I think everyone can tell I don’t feel like making any. The twins get in some stupid fight about nothing. I send them to their rooms.

6:15 – 7:30 PM: How lucky you are to have received such lovely dishes, glasses and stemware from your wedding. It’s lovely to see them put to use with family. Stay strong on discipline. The twins are learning that they can’t get away with bad behavior. It’s important to show them that there are limits. 

8:00 PM: All the guests are gone, and I begin to pick up the house. It looks like a bomb went off, and there are literally over 60 dishes and pieces of silverware that need to be washed, much of it needs to be done by hand. Matzoh is in pieces all over the floor. One of the little ones had an accident and the bathroom is a mess. Darcy feels tired and sick (he likely has a sinus infection) and heads to bed. I feel irked that I’m left to deal with all of this.

10:00 PM: Cleanup completed. The house does not look remotely perfect, but my back feels like crap and I’m worried it might go out. I retreat upstairs and put on a heating pad. I’m so fried I don’t feel like reading my book, so instead I just zone out on my phone, something I’m trying to avoid doing. I feel guilty for using my phone at bedtime, because I know it’s bad for my sleep. The twins are impossible to get to bed. They keep talking, and they are wound up from the dessert. I keep yelling at them to whisper because my back hurts and I don’t want to walk over to their rooms.

8:00 – 10 PM: Let go of your standards that the house needs to be perfect. It’s beautiful in a different way to see the aftermath of a meal attended by a houseful of guests. While it may be a pain at times to host meals, you always love the end result: sending people you love home with full stomachs.

11:30 PM: I finally fall asleep.

11:30 PM: The story you read on your phone is so unspeakably beautiful.

What would happen if we all created SuperBabies? Would we make a SuperRace? Fleets of SuperAdults so smart and wise and strong and nontoxic that they would never get cancer? (But they would of course discover its cure.) By age fifteen, they would teach their teachers. They would outrun all world records. They would eradicate every harmful chemical or they would somehow render all chemicals harmless to SuperBodies. They would, each one, win prestigious awards in their fields, twisting the bell curve into a radiant point of light from which would emanate their stellar, star-like performance. They would never know rejection. They would not know depression. They would not cry, or if they did cry, they would shed tears of existential meaning and fulfillment, reflecting on their infinite successes. And on their holidays, they would gather around fires—propping their lean, tall, muscular bodies onto core-boosting exercise balls—and tell stories of the generations past, when people were not Super but Regular. In those bygone days, RegularPeople had autoimmune disorders and chronic pain. They had broken hearts and failed dreams. They had something the SuperPeople only know through history books: suffering.”

– Heather Kirn Lanier

SuperBabies are not a thing. I might lose all my income. Family and friends might disappear. Our government is teetering on the brink of Lord knows what. Suffering is part of life. Given this, what matters is today I did work I’m proud of, and hosted a meal that filled people’s lives with tradition and a nice caloric intake. Today, to quote Ice Cube, was a good day. 

 

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