Sometimes I feel compelled to come back here. Hard to say why, but it’s most likely linked to some nebulous desire to be creative. I can read, star and save links to posts all I like, and I can (and do) craft content for work, but sometimes nothing quite does the job like writing down my own story.

The summer has gone by in a flash. Since I’m still lacking the time to craft a lovely fully baked post, here’s the lazy version. Bullet time!

  • After we decided not to go to Europe (for budgetary reasons) flight prices plummeted. Once we rented our house out on Airbnb, we were able to afford a trip after all. Pro tip – hustling. It pays off.
  • We spent two amazing weeks in the UK and France (mostly in Paris and London). I’ll never forget the twins playing with the children of good friends, who are now also parents, in a crowded museum room.
  • This will go down in family lore as the Summer of Harry Potter. The twins are absolutely obsessed and rarely speak of anything else.
    • We fueled the beast by taking them to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Experience, where we drank Butterbeer, dueled and saw the sets and movie costumes with a sold-out crew of mostly adults, interestingly.
    • We also visited sites connected to the books and movies (the wobbly bridge, Oxford campus spots which stood in for Hogswarts).
    • Finally, when The Cursed Child came out, I took them to the midnight party at our local bookstore, where again, the crowd mostly consisted of adults.
  • Which brings me to a serious question. Are kids no longer reading Harry Potter? Is it mostly adults who are fans? I mean, I know MY kids are. And they make sure all their friends are reading Harry Potter. But what about other kids?
  • I still maintain the Harry Potter series will be read in 150 years, like Dickens.
  • My daughter decided of her own volition to audition for one of the world’s most exclusive ballet programs. It was a terrifying time as she danced in front of renowned ballet masters with dozens of others. Then we worried she would be crushed by disappointment (the majority of applicants aren’t accepted). Then, she was accepted. Which was also scary. So, now we begin.
  • Work is continually challenging and pushes me to new places. I’m growing and learning.
  • My brother got married in my backyard. And he and his wife created a magical event. It was like being in a fairy garden, with twinkly lights and beautiful flowers.

So, overall a good summer. This post is filled with good times and happiness, but that’s OK. When things are going well, it’s in our power to acknowledge it.

*Yes, I know “busy” isn’t the best word. But it can be an apt description, on occasion.



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14 Thoughts I Had While Rereading the 5th Harry Potter Book

DSC_0026The twins and I just finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In order for me to read them the next one (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince) they will both need to read the first five books on their own. Too much? We’ll see, but I’ve never seen my son lock himself in a room for hours to read like he did after the challenge was accepted. Minecraft, schminecraft.


I bought Order of the Phoenix when it came out, at midnight in a bookstore in Dublin, and read the whole thing cover-to-cover on the shortest transatlantic flight ever. I remember that Harry annoyed me, which was new as he never had before. I hated the way he lost his temper at Hermione and Ron, when they were just trying to help. I didn’t understand his righteous anger at those who doubted his account of the events in the fourth book. He was right, so who cared?

Well, 10 years or so have passed and I felt a lot more empathetic to Phoenix Harry this time around. This, and other observations:

  1. My God, Umbridge is the absolute worst. Torturing children for telling the truth? CHILLING.
  2. I loved Luna Lovegood just as much the second time, yet I finally appreciated why she got sorted into Ravenclaw. As spacey as she might seem, she’s actually coolly rational. She’s the one who gets the gang to the Ministry of Magic via the thestrals, after all.
  3. Ginny, never my favorite, starts to gain prominence in Phoenix. I think it’s her Bat Boogey Hex that grates the most. The constant mentioning of her mastery of this charm seems a cheap ploy to make her the heiress to Fred and George at Hogwarts. She’s an amalgam of attributes we’re supposed to like, but she never feels authentic to me. She bugs.
  4. Poor Cho! Yes, her friend was a snitch (and boy does she pay for it). Cho cries a lot, but who wouldn’t be sad if their boyfriend died? However, I get Harry’s feelings too. It’s hard out there for a teenager in love with the girlfriend of his competitor in the Triwizard Tournament who gets smoked by the most evil wizard in a century. I mean, I think we can all relate.
  5. Neville! Phoenix marks a turning point in the evolution of Neville, and he battles HARD at the Department of Mysteries even though he’s sorely overmatched in almost every way. Neville arguably has the least amount of talent in his year, but he works harder than anyone at the Dumbledore Army meetings. We should all try to be like Neville Longbottom.
  6. James Potter IS a tosser, or at least he is in Snape’s Worst Memory. He’s like one of those talented jocks in high school who thinks they are REAL FUNNY but they are actually bullies and everyone secretly dislikes them. We have to take it on the word of others that James changed, but this impression of him really sticks.
  7. Hermione continues to rock steady. Hermione is the real superhero in this book in many ways, and I too am troubled by the classification of her as a sidekick (hat tip, Grumpy Rumblings). She was the only one who knew Voldemort was using Harry.
  8. The Daily Prophet’s attack on Harry’s character is maddening. I know what it is like to go into Gryffindor’s dormitory and have a friend shun you because they believe the Daily Prophet. It sucks, and I get why Harry is so pissed off about it. When the story is being told by someone else, he’s powerless. Not coincidently, things turn around for him when he tells his story to the Quibbler.
  9. Speaking of maddening: Hagrid, ugh. Everyone has had That Friend – the one with the best intentions but who does the dumbest things that are frankly dangerous. Somehow, everything always works out OK in the end. Then you go into a corner and have a quiet breakdown.
  10. Harry’s temper in Phoenix is mostly related to grief, shock and guilt. And well, I think the ALI community can relate to that.
  11. Does Ron have Imposter Syndrome? His terrible goal-keeping improves after his brothers leave, and he has nothing left to prove.
  12. Movie Filch is unspeakably sinister now that I’ve seen the Red Wedding.
  13. The Sirius storyline is so sad. Because I’m shallow, I wonder just how “very good-looking” he was before Azkaban. Like, did he look like Jon Snow?
  14. Phoenix has my favorite Fred and George moment, when they fly into the sunset after unleashing all manner of chaos upon Umbridge.

‘Give her hell from us, Peeves.’

And Peeves, whom Harry has never seen take an order from a student before, swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute as Fred and George wheeled about to tumultuous applause from the students below and sped out of the open front doors into the glorious sunset.

Love Ginny? Hate Neville? Ron = Imposter? Would love to hear your thoughts, even (especiallly?) if you disagree.



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Why Bother?

Lately I feel like a real contrarian on this blog. I don’t think anything I have to say will resonate with anyone. Remember when I wrote fashion posts? Me neither. I don’t feel like advising anyone on fashion when I work with millennials who in many cases look and dress better than Gal Meets Glam. I can’t relate much to the constant stream of articles and blog posts about continual self-improvement trends that change every other week.

But here’s something I’ve been thinking, and it is indeed a contrarian position: Most people have within them their own answers on how to improve themselves. These answers are based on an individual calculus of meeting necessary responsibilities, but also enjoying life. And so, I spend my time working on my career, staying on budget, helping my kids do homework, read and learn, entertaining my family (my brother lives here now – woo-hoo!), doing fun stuff occasionally with my husband and participating in sports I actually enjoy. And sleep! I need sleep on the weekend, and I don’t care any more if people make snide comments about it. I need that sleep for optimal performance.

I feel this way because I have embraced the stoics after initially resisting them. The stoics were early to the personal growth canon, but ultimately what they wanted to do was not let life get them down. A lot of exercises they did were to inure themselves to life’s slings and arrows BEFORE they actually happened. Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and philosopher, would imagine all the terrible things people would say to him during the course of one day when he first woke up. Then, when people DID say terrible things (I guess Rome was a golden age of insults, and he heard lots of crap in the course of a day like, “Hey Marco, your son is kind of a weasel”), because of the early morning practice, he would be like, “Eh, that wasn’t not so bad.”

That’s one example, but others are quite profound. The stoics would say: counting on the best things happening to you is a recipe for unhappiness. Let go of that. By imagining the worst things happening, you can address how you feel about it, then let go of the panic – then truly appreciate what you have WHILE you have it.

Maggie and Nicole had a really interesting post about complaining. I think complaining is what we do when we think we need – and deserve to have the best things happen to us. We want: partners who are perfect, this house, this body, kids who never give us a moment of trouble. I definitely have my moments of wanting this stuff. But all of these things are NEVER going to happen. So why continually be surprised that they continue to not arrive?

So I no longer complain much. Like Marie Kondo’s method, I think complaining is (mostly) a waste of my time. When I thought more about Maggie and Nicole’s post I realized something interesting. My blog posts with sturm and drang DO get more attention. The highest number of comments I ever got was for some rant about a bad travel day. If I am not going to complain, will anyone care what I have to say? Or comment?

I’m guessing no, so bring on the crickets! But like I told a blogging friend recently, sometimes it’s just nice to know that this platform is here, where we can still write. Even if no one cares – our voices are still here. I might not be talking about what anyone cares about, and so I should expect nothing in return. The stoics would demand no less.

Stoics – yay or nay? Marie Kondo – yay or nay?





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Time Management

I had to make the time (ha!) to write this short post, prompted by my own response to Stirrup Queens.

Randi Zuckerberg’s “Pick 3” tweet from almost 5 years ago is apparently making the rounds. And debate is being stirred.


Insert “career” for “company,” and I tend to agree.

Why? It’s probably these factors:

  • Where I live
  • My own career
  • People I know

…that makes me more sympathetic to this argument. I don’t want to break my back just to try to maintain “balance” with all these things – and fail. What’s the point?

We all make choices, and my own career is personally satisfying and allows my family a certain level of security and comfort. I love what I do. That said, data shows my profession is one of the 10 most stressful professions and filled with deadlines, which in turn leads to a pretty tight schedule with few breaks and lunch hours. No, it’s not on par with the presidency or being a firefighter, and no, PR execs aren’t saving the world. But empirically speaking, we really don’t have free time during business hours (8 – 6). We just don’t.

Take away my commute, my time with the twins (dinner, homework, bedtime – 2 hours), time with my husband when he gets home and sleep – and that’s pretty much all I’ve got during the week.

Let me make clear – this isn’t unique to my profession / situation. Others who work in tech, Silicon Valley startups, investment banking, corporate law, etc, etc. also are faced with this type of schedule.

So, “Pick Three” appeals to me. My three right now are career, family and sleep. But don’t forget about the weekends. That’s when I try to pursue the other two, too.

Pick Three – or Do Them All? 



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In sociology and philosophy, agency is the capacity of an entity (a person or other entity, human or any living being in general, or soul-consciousness in religion) to act in any given environment.

– Wikipedia

Sometimes life is not within our control. The proportion of how much control we have varies. I would argue the proportion varies person to person, based on socio-economic background, genetics, and pure dumb luck, among other factors.

For the most part, I prefer to operate under the idea that I have agency in many, but not all matters. I love my job and industry because it allows for a high level of agency. The harder I work, the smarter my strategies, the better I do.

Likewise, budgeting is mostly under my control unless our situation changes. Do I want to be in debt, or do I want to pay off debt? I want to pay off debt, so I make choices to do so. No vacations, few meals out, no shopping = less debt. It’s straightforward and it feels like I am in control, which I love.

Does it mean I am bummed that we’re not going to Disneyland, or Hawaii, or Europe? Sure. But again, my choice. No travel this year means less debt. And less worry. Worry doesn’t have a dollar value, but not worrying is worth something to me. It’s worth a lot, actually.

I was reading Beverly Cleary’s autobiography “Girl From Yamhill” which contains one of the most compelling descriptions of what it was like to live during the Depression.  We aren’t in a Depression (although we recently narrowly avoided one) yet there are lessons to be learned from the book. Build an emergency fund, have the least amount of debt you can – and especially don’t carry high interest level debt.

The past ten years has taught me that you often don’t have control of a situation, but when you have agency, grab it. Use it. Grousing or complaining often about the unfair nature of life is a waste of time. And worse, it wastes other people’s time.

I wish I had learned this much earlier, but now that I have, I hope to never forget it.

How much agency to do you think people have? Do you like to feel in control in most of your life?







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