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2015 Wrap-Up

2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008   As always, inspired by the always inspiring Sundry.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before? I made a male decision. I know how silly that sounds, but Jennifer Lawrence wrote this amazing piece for Lenny about how (once she discovered how much less she was making than her male costars) she decided to negotiate like a man. I really took that to heart and when an opportunity came up, I answered like a guy would. I remember being afraid and freed by it. And while it didn’t materialize into anything, it made me realize that I can. I can advocate for myself. In fact, I SHOULD.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Yeah, um, 2015 was just a Year of Getting By. There were some great, happy accidents that happened, but for the most part? We were just thrilled to call this year DONE. I don’t even think I made resolutions for this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Shit. I hate this question. Because, yeah, probably? Maybe? You guys, I can’t remember what I wore last week, much less who gave birth 11 months ago. But I will say that we’ve got a lot of babies coming at work VERY soon, and I am over-the-moon excited about it.

4. Did anyone close to you die? I always hate this question, because I feel like I should know this off the top of my head. I attended no funerals.

5. What countries did you visit? No countries. Not yet.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? Balls. I wouldn’t say I lacked balls in 2015, but I think it’s time for me to man up and take control of things.

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? February, I got a new job title at work – one that I’d wanted for awhile. March & April were traveling like a mad woman. May was Mac’s first birthday, and June brought Jack a learner’s permit. July was when Bryan went back in to teaching. October was a fantastic family vacation followed by a trip to L.A. to shoot a national commercial, but then brought sadness when we lost Belle. Tony got his yellow belt in November.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? It got me absolutely nowhere, but exercising my political rights was a really, really big thing for me this year. Tony’s school moved to a building across the street from a women’s clinic, and when the protesters lost their right to protest directly in front of the school, they moved to our school grounds. I took up a flag (supported by a great group of school parents) and sought help from every avenue we had. It was stressful and exhausting and ultimately pointless in the end, but I felt like I had to do SOMETHING.

9. What was your biggest failure? School, or my lack thereof. My one semester off to have a baby turned into two semesters and then three, and now I just need to do it. God, I don’t want to. Like, at all. I just want some accredited college to gift me a Bachelor’s Degree of Hard Knocks and let’s call it a day. But I need to. I know that. – from 2014, but it’s still true. And 2016 looks like a prime year to fix that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nope! I mean, outside of the occasional cold or flu-like thing. I did have some ear infections this year and HOO BUDDY those things are awful! No wonder the kids go nuts when they have them! But we were fairly okay this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought? On a whim, I bought a glamour session from Bookout Studios. It is the most vain thing I’ve ever done, and the money I spent on three pictures is OBSCENE, but you know? I would do it again in a heartbeat. I went in feeling so run down and exhausted and overwhelmed and then to see the pictures? I’m like, damn, woman.. you’re a hottie.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Tony. TOOOOONY. Tony is the best kid to ever walk the earth – seriously, the child is amazing – and he often gets the shaft because Vinnie takes up every single ounce of attention that we can muster. Not only does Tony never, ever complain about it, but he still keeps straight As in school and is thriving in karate. The kid is an amazing big brother to Vinnie (and little brother to Jack) and I just love him to pieces.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Humanity’s, really. Several times this year, I have come this*close to deleting all social media from my phone (which would be my lifeline because I don’t use a computer outside of work) because I am just so DISAPPOINTED IN US as a species. I have a feeling that’s going to get worse before it gets better. Those happy little compilations of “21 Times 2015 Was Awesome” are worth their weight in GOLD because it masks the 38u739782frillion other times we were just total douche-canoes.

14. Where did most of your money go? The usual – daycare, mortgage, cars.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Going to Washington DC. I was lucky enough to go a few times this year, and I just love that city so much. Like, really really.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015? “Watch Me (Silento)”  That damn Whip/Nae Nae song haunts my dreams.

17. Compared to this time last year: a) better hair or worse hair? b) more organized or less organized? I decided last June (2014) to not cut my hair until SLS launches, so it’s just longer, but the same fierce red. I love it. And organization is definitely still on point. I may drop the occasional ball, but I catch the eggs, damnit.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Budgeting. You know how some people have a brown thumb, and can’t keep ANYTHING alive? Like, even succulents and cacti die in their care? That’s me with a budget. There’s got to be a better way for us to keep ahead of our money, but I’ll be damned if I’ve found it yet.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Pointing fingers. It’s incredibly easy for me to blame someone else for something terrible that happens. It doesn’t solve anything and doesn’t make me feel any better. I’m working on it.

20. How did you spend Christmas? Trying to predict whether or not we’d have to evacuate due to local flooding. Our area got 6+” in a matter of hours. It was a mess around these parts!

21. Did you fall in love in 2015? I hate this question.

22.What was your favorite tv program? This is the year I fell in love with Doctor Who. Like, I’m ALL IN. I’m realizing the joy of being part of a fandom and I’m just all about it.

24. What was the best book you read? I’ve given up on reading books. It makes me sad and makes me feel.. uneducated, to be honest, but I just don’t have the time or attention span. Now, I’ve learned that this doesn’t mean I don’t read – quite the opposite. I read a LOT. More than most folks I know. It’s just all online news. I read TONS of online research and articles and I feel just as smart as the rest of y’all.

25. What was your greatest food discovery? Turkey necks. Actually, my greatest discovery was to travel a lot and ask the server what they recommend. Usually, I would even phrase it with “If you had to pick your last meal from this menu, what would you have?” It’s almost always something that I would never have picked on my own, and very rarely has it let me down. I love food. Oh, also, wine. I’m a wine drinker now.

26. What did you want and get? A (generally) happy year and a (mostly) healthy family.

27. What did you want and not get? Unanswered prayers and all that.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? Snowpiercer, which was the weirdest, most cult-ish flick I’ve seen in ages and I loved it so so much. (If you watch it based on this alone, please.. well, I’m sorry.) Also, I can’t remember any single movie I’ve watched. OOOH, WAIT, THE MARTIAN. Such a good movie! Saw it twice!

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I was 35 and was treated like a queen both at work and at Bridge Street later with the family. We rode the carousel, the train, and threw coins in the fountain.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I honestly wish I had written more. I need to get back to that.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015? I actually made a big step and simplified my wardrobe. I have six or so pairs of black pants, about as many white tops, and tons of blazers and cardigans. So 99% of my wardrobe is already chosen. It’s made life SO much easier.

32. What kept you sane? My husband. My work family. My kids. (Note: these things often also kept me INsane a lot as well.)

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I already mentioned Lenny, the new online magazine founded in part by Lena Dunham. It’s introduced me to tons of powerful women who all have tons of goodies to share. I’ve been really impressed by female stars who are starting to not accept the status quo – folks like Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy, and the always great Fey/Poehler duo.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? The refugee crisis is something I still have to be careful about exposure to. It eats me alive. So many children are in a bad, bad way and we’re arguing about helping them. I don’t get that. Maybe my world view is too naive, but I just don’t understand. We have enough to help. Why wouldn’t we?

35. Who did you miss? I missed YOU. I missed being able to come here with no bra on and three day old hair and you’d be here, happy to have me. Man, I missed y’all. Can we FIX that this year?

36. Who was the best new person you met? On top of a really terrible memory, I also have this thing where if I like you, it feels like I’ve known you forever. So if I met you this year, but I couldn’t recall you specifically now, it’s because you’re already family to me.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015. The only thing standing between you and your goals is that bullshit story you keep telling yourself. Change your story.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.“Witches can be right. Giants can be good. You decide what’s right. You decide what’s good.” – Into the Woods

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Keep It Simple, Stupid.

This is Belle.

We’ve had Belle for years now. She’s a big ole dog, but a happy dog, and she thinks she’s a lap dog, and quite honestly, she makes me laugh. A lot. She’s a chocolate retriever with the mentality of an 18 month old child.

Belle, like most of our dogs (and also Bryan), is obsessed with lights. The movement of light is a mystery to her. A mystery that must be run down and destroyed. She spends many an hour chasing after a laser, of which there is no good picture because it is just a giant blur of chocolate. Beau will show you how, though, because he is our Obedient Dog.

But it’s not just lasers that occupy Belle. Any sort of reflection is a game to her. Our recessed lights in the kitchen may catch the angle of a butter knife just so to throw a pattern on the ceiling and she goes NUTS. All day. Any light. (The rest of our dogs are only interested in the game of laser tag; they scoff at Belle.)

Bryan and I sat in the living room one really sunny weekend as Belle hovered near a floor-to-ceiling window, which bathed her in sunlight. We watched her chase the reflection of her own dogtag around in circles, growling and panting and slobber and fur.

“Stupid dog,” we said, laughing.

Then we watched her some more.

“When was the last time you were ever that happy,” I asked, “about anything?” And we both stared off silently.

Belle’s figured it all out. Keep it simple, stupid.

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The Doing is the Thing

“However, if you do start crying in an argument and someone asks why, you can always say, “I’m just crying because of how wrong you are.” – Amy Poehler, Yes Please

2014 was a big year for me, as me, but a very minute year on this blog. I wrote – in total – four whole posts for this year, which is quite embarrassing. I’ve been keeping this house in check for ten years now, and four posts? FOUR, SARAH. What in the hell have you been doing with your time?

The problem came when I started being a professional communicator. It had always been a very farfetched dream of mine, to be paid to do what came so easily to me. But in the process of trying to “refine my craft”, I lost the fun. When you’re paid to be a content-driven machine, you start to lose your real voice.

Also, there was also life. Life so often got in the way of my writing, of my being able to take time and sit down and quiet my thoughts by vomiting on to a keyboard. And it wasn’t anything intentional – had I asked for the time to write, I have no doubt that twenty people would’ve come to my aid, but how silly, right? And why would I even want to bother?

There came a time this year when I realized that, you know, I really have problems in social situations. I wouldn’t go so far to call it paralyzing, but it makes me very anxious. I worry that people are holding me to my written standard, and they’re expecting my tongue to work as fluidly as my fingertips. They don’t know that I write in my sleep, spending every waking moment crafting the next zinger or jotting down lines to the next parody or manipulating the latest news story into something I could use. This happens all the time. It’s fine for the most part, but I sorely, sorely missed writing for me.

Bryan casually mentioned the other day he missed my writing and I wondered how he could miss it when I feel like I do it ALL THE TIME. But then I realized that I didn’t. I write for clients, I write for coworkers, I write for executives, but I don’t really write as Sarah Lena anymore. I don’t think anyone even checks in here any more – are blogs even a thing any more? – but I miss it. For me.

Um, also, Vinnie is 18 months old now and I have written maybe two things about him. Quick update on Vinnie:

Santa2014r2

Yeah, you know how we do Santa. (Sidenote: there’s a new Santa this year, after seven years of the very same Santa, and now I’m personally devastated and worried that he has ventured to The Great North Pole in The Sky.)

Anyway, so I’ve been going through this Thing where I’m doubting everything I touch and I miss writing but why take the time anymore and also people keep inviting me to things but I stress over them SO HARD like what if I’m not even funny or I say the wrong thing or people get upset that they wasted an invite on me? And then one of the things I got invited to was a Book Club that was reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. Now, I respect THE HELL out of Ms. Poehler for many different reasons (um, lady kicks ass and takes names!), and so – while I skipped the Book Club because I was worried that I would serve as a black hole of fun, aka where all fun things go to die – I did download the audiobook. I started listening to it today when I got tired of yelling at myself in the car, and it spoke to me. Like, literally. Just the preface could’ve been titled, “Hey Sarah, get over yourself and start writing again.” And I cried, because I thought I could follow the path that she followed, but I didn’t, but hey, she’s older than me so maybe there’s still time! (There’s not.) But she’s honest. She’s honest about how hard it is with young kids, and as a woman, and as someone who knows what they want. IT’S HARD. And it’s nice to hear that, you know? That it’s not just you, it’s not a failure on your part. It’s just HARD.

So if I could close with a quote from her book, I would be honored. And I can do that, because this is my space, and I love the shit out of her book.

“So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready. This is America and I am allowed to have healthy self-esteem. This book comes straight from my feisty and freckled fingers. Know it was a battle. Blood was shed. A war raged between my jokey and protective brain and my squishy and tender heart. I have realized that mystery is what keeps people away, and I’ve grown tired of smoke and mirrors. I yearn for the clean, well-lighted place. So let’s peek behind the curtain and hail the others like us. The open-faced sandwiches who take risks and live big and smile with all of their teeth. These are the people I want to be around. This is the honest way I want to live and love and write.” – Amy Poehler, Yes Please

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The Welcomed and Dreaded Diagnosis

“I’ve been feeling off,” I started out. “You know, I mean, I work. And I have lots of kids. So that would make anyone tired, right?”

She cocked her head and pointed her head at me, but never lifted her eyes from the keyboard. She typed as fast as I do when I furiously putting together another briefing. I wondered if she did Powerpoint in her dreams. Like I do.

“So, yeah. I’m tired all the time. But to fall asleep, I have to take something. Well, a LOT of something. If I try to fall asleep on my own, even if I’m dead tired, I will just sit there and think. Worry, mostly. It’s like my brain is a ticker tape of things I didn’t get done that day or things that are looming over me later in the week or things that I haven’t considered even worrying about until right that very second. It will go on for hours. So I usually take something to fall asleep.”

She nodded.

“But, not like, a DANGEROUS amount of anything. I don’t, like, put myself in a drug-induced coma or anything. I can still hear the baby if he cries. And he does. A lot. He seems to wake up every 2-3 hours. Not really wake up, where you get him up or even really feed him anymore, more just like he fusses a lot because he’s crawled into a corner of his crib and can’t figure out how to roll over. It’s pretty stressful, I guess. Being a baby, I mean.”

Her eyes flicked up at me and then back down to the keyboard.

“So, yeah. The sleeping thing. Also the worrying. I mean, I love my job. I do. I’m always telling people how much I love my job, and man, do I. I work in the space industry, in human exploration. HOW COOL IS THAT. Super cool, that’s how cool. I love it. But it can be a little much sometimes. But, I mean, we all do that. We all are under that same amount of stress. I shouldn’t complain. It’s just a hard job. But I love it.”

She nodded again and pursed her lips.

“The thing is, I feel like I have to work harder, you know? I’m a woman in an engineering industry, and I’m a woman with no education. I have unmatched skills in a lot of areas and that should be enough, but I feel like I should still work harder. To prove myself, I mean. But I wouldn’t mind maybe not working this hard. Or maybe not stressing out about working this hard. But I love it! Man, I love my job.”

Her hands flew across the keyboard.

“My husband is pretty amazing. He helps a lot. He helps so much that I feel guilty; he’s easily got 75% of the responsibility of our household. That’s not fair to him. He’s so great about it all, though; he’s an amazing dad to the boys. And the boys are growing up so quickly! Now we’re in soccer and lacrosse season, which is a struggle, obviously, to juggle two separate sports and separate schedules. And now that Tony’s in school, he’s got a whole new list of things that I’m always having to miss because of stuff, so there’s that. He’s just a minature me. Emotionally, I mean. So incredibly sensitive and tentative. Not shy, mind you; obviously I’m not shy, right? He just.. he feels too much and it’s overwhelming. I know how that is. I imagine it’s a lot harder at 6 than it is at 33. I worry about him so much. And I feel like I’m not a great mom to him most of the time.”

She took a deep breath and took her hands off of the keyboard.

“Oh! Also! I’m tired of being fat. That’s really the reason I came today.”

She folded her hands in her lap and looked at me. She had an engineer’s gaze.

“I want you to try Lexapro,” she said.

“For weight loss?” I asked, incredulously.

“For your anxiety,” she said, clinically. “You’re vibrating right now. You’re having trouble sleeping and you’re anxious. I want you to try Lexapro.”

“But I have tried Lexapro,” I said. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, but this sure was not the How can I qualify for a gastric bypass conversation I had rehearsed in the car on the way over.

“And why did you stop?”

“Because.. I didn’t need it anymore,” I said, maybe a little too decisively.

“There’s nothing wrong with medication to treat you,” she said.

In my head, I agreed. In my head, I happily swallowed that pill for three years when I had PPD after Tony’s birth. In my head, I agreed that if medication made you a better person, by God, take the pill. There is no judgement in letting yourself be a better parent, wife, person, even in a generic prescription.

But my heart was shattered.

I thought I had this under control! I thought I was hanging on to this, and I thought everything was fine! Hard, yes. Difficult, of course. Sustainable? Probably not. But I thought I was in the clear!

I have put on such a good, brave face!

My God, what have I been doing to my children? To my husband? To my coworkers?

I have let them all down.

“We’ll start with the lowest dose,” she said. “Just to try it.”

I folded my hands in my lap and took a breath.

“And take time for yourself, okay? Try taking a walk. Every day. Half an hour. I’m sure your office has somewhere that you can walk, even if it’s just around the floor. Just walk.”

I nodded.

“This will help you to sleep without any additional medication. You’ll be able to fall asleep and turn your brain off.”

My eyes flickered up at her and then back down.

“We’ll fix all of the other stuff once we get this nailed down. And we will. Get this nailed down.”

I nodded and pursed my lips.

I considered not telling anyone, not picking up the prescription. I considered just saying that I was waiting on blood work to see what to do next. (Part of that is true; I got poked in every possible location of a vein today.) I considered just trying to suck it up.

But I’m telling you. Since 2004, you have been my accountability partner. You must hold me accountable now.

Help me help myself.

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Be the Change

Clearly, I am still not over Newtown yet. I may not be for awhile. I still can’t watch any video of the children talking, can’t view their parents offering tribute to their lost angels. I can’t read the stories of the teachers, many of whom saved many lives and died heroes. I can’t process it any other way than to be stuck inside my own head – and write here. Lucky you.

We’ve heard them all week, right? Those trigger sentences. “As a whole, those people..” and “If they only would” and the They and Those are faceless and therefore easier to shift the blame on to.

I am a planner by nature. When I face something that I struggle with, I sit down and make a list. But how do you fix a nation? How do you make everyone see the light?

And what light are you trying to show them, exactly?

Today, I was circling through a drive-thru for my breakfast as I went into work, and although I had entered legally, a giant white van cut me off and scooted in front of me in line. He was an older, haggard looking gentleman, and my ire was lit. I considered my options: laying on my horn, approaching his vehicle, Instagramming his license plate.

But those options would only make me feel better. This man, who had obviously not cared if he performed this action, would most likely not be swayed by my anger; my feelings were of no matter to him. I sat there and stewed, angry to the point of shaking (um, hi, pregnancy hormones!). And I finally thought, I can’t sway him through my anger. I can only control myself.

So when I finally made it to the window to order, I asked if I could pick up his breakfast. The lady asked me twice if I understood what I was doing (and because I’m no saint, I made sure he hadn’t placed an order for an entire office or anything) and I clarified, “Tell him he obviously needs something good to happen to him today.”

And I felt SO MUCH better. Granted – again, I am not completely altruistic – some of my good vibes were smug I hope he felt like trash vibes. But the majority of them were based in the fact that I hoped he stopped and considered his next actions.

As I drove to work, I realized that we’re going about this all wrong. The answer may not be to point to the people we don’t agree with and call them names. It may not be to preach that My Way is the Only Way. It might be, instead, to admit that the problem lies within ourselves. Each of us.

Each. Of. Us.

And just think. If we each did that, if each rational adult instead wondered what THEY could do FOR THEMSELVES to fix this problem, wouldn’t that trickle out in really great ways? For instance, I need to work on my compassion and patience for others. You know who will see that and learn from it? My kids. My boys, youth in public school systems. And if they do the same, who will see that and learn from it? Their peers. And if we all did that – if we all stopped thinking that we each are so much busier and put-upon than everyone else – wouldn’t that fix a lot of problems? If we started practicing empathy and valued human lives again? Wouldn’t that mean something changed?

I can fix me. And I should, and I should do it openly and within earshot and plain view of my children. I am flawed, and there is room for improvement, so that’s the plan right now. I can’t fix national issues; that’s why I elect folks that are smarter and more capable than I. But I can fix my own outlook, and hope that it will have a positive impact on those around me. And maybe that’s all we can – and should – be doing right now.

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