Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dancing Eyes

First day of Rosh Hashana, 2011/5772, 6:48 a.m.  I am sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee; Adina walks in ...

Me: "Good morning love."
Adina: "Hi Mommy.  Mommy, did you know my eyes always move?"
Me: "Yes, love.  How do you know?"
Adina: "Caleb told me."

And there you have it.

Adina was born with nystagmus, an involuntary eye movement disorder that results in reduced vision.  Her eyes constantly rotate back & forth, like a pendulum.  Since, thankfully, Adina doesn't notice the world as moving, I've wondered when and how she would discover the oscillations.  I should have known it would be the same way she figures everything else out - from her older brother.

Her reaction?  A'int nothing but a thing.  Adina Becker-Schwartz - Blond hair, long legs, moving eyes.  "Mommy, did you know my eyes always move?; Can you get me some cheerios and orange juice please?"

And my feelings?  Relief.  Gratitude.  And loneliness.  Because I am sitting at a table, in a house, on a street, in a city, very far away from the friends who would so easily get the significance of the moment.  And smile with me.

Back-track to three and a half years ago, a day or so after Larry and I learned of Adina's diagnosis.  A ten minute car ride.  Though I have absolutely no idea of where we went that night, I will never forget getting into my friend "J"'s car, "E" already there, and blurting out my news.  I was terrified.  At that point, we still had an MRI to get through in order to rule out the worst.  And, I knew that it would be a long while until we'd know if our daughter was blind.

My friends made it ... OK.  J immediately got on the phone to "K" whose son had the same disorder.  And K became my friend.  And she, and an entire alphabet of wise, big hearted women in Columbus, Ohio made me feel supported and loved and that whatever it was that I was going to have to help my daughter deal with, I would get through it - and Adina would too.

When all the books and brochures and web sites called nystagmus"wobbly" eyes, my friends made me see my daughter's eyes as "dancing." 

I miss my friends.  

I will make great friends in Denver.

I miss my friends.    

Happy New Year.  To Columbus, Baltimore, D.C., New York, Charlottesville, Jerusalem, Silver Spring, Ranana,Virginia Beach, and Newport News.

p.s. Thank you "N."


Monday, September 26, 2011

a fabulous Becker-Schwartz weekend

We were supposed to kick off the weekend at the home of one of Caleb's classmates, but our plans were derailed by a stomach virus.  Though I wished Caleb's friend a speedy recovery, and am seriously looking forward to getting to know his mom - a mompreneur who apparently has her own television station about the mom/work/life balancing act - I felt happy that the four of us (me, hubbie, 2 kids) would be on our own, in our new home, for Shabbat dinner that night.  I took a chicken out of the freezer, and stopped by my new favorite Whole Foods to pick up a few other quick goodies on my way to get Adina.  We sang, we ate, we went to bed at 8:30 pm.  Perfection.

I took this leaning out the car window.
We woke up early on Saturday morning; packed our traditional Shabbat picnic lunch of peanut butter and banana sandwiches, fruit roll ups and granola bars; threw a few sweatshirts in the backpacks; and headed up to Breckenridge.  What is it about that place that so speaks to me and Larry?  When we were out here two winters ago on vacation, it whispered, "Move, just one more time, c'mon, do it; there are lots of Jews in Denver; and you really can live your daily life somewhere this beautiful."  And since the moving van arrived here a month or so ago, it has been calling, "C'mon, you're here now, and you need your own little weekend place in the mountains to call home."

Maybe the beauty of Breck brings out the "Kol Dmama Dka" ("still small voice") inside me, and my husband, guiding us towards living our values.  Or maybe we are insane.   Hell, I can't imagine what difference it makes though.  After a quick stop at Starbucks, and a brief review of how much money we'd have left if we actually bought two houses in two months (not much), we started the day by looking at a little cottage 4 miles outside of town.  

And then we hiked.  My kids are rockstars.  Pun intended.  ROCK STARS.  Sure, there was a fair amount of kvetching; yes, we stopped 27 times to have a snack; and no, I do not want to play "I spy" ever again thank you very much, but - they did it.  Uphill.  Downhill.  Over a bridge.  Pick up a stick every so often to swing at your sibling.

I told Adina her new nickname was "strong legged Adina;"  she grinned from ear to ear.  On Sunday morning when Caleb woke up, I told him I thought he'd grown - at least an inch - from all the good exercise and fresh air.  He beamed; and asked if we could go hiking again right then & there.  Ha!  Bye, bye television addicts.  

We spent Sunday morning doing laundry (me), mowing the lawn (Larry), and cleaning up the kids' rooms (group project).  Then we all went to watch Caleb play soccer.  Ended the weekend hanging out with lovely new friends' on the deck of their beautiful home staring at a most spectacular view.  Drank good wine; ate delicious grilled tuna, brussel sprouts, and chocolate cake.  And the kids behaved.



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Old me: "You can have it all; you just can't have it all at once." Me at almost 40: "Maybe I know how she does it ..."

totally over it.
Yesterday (Monday), Adina (3 1/2) insisted, again, that she stay at school "all day." I had been picking her up after lunch.  I figured that until I found a job, we'd enjoy time in the afternoons together; we could explore Denver, and then, I'd sign her up to stay for afternoons at pre-school once I needed the childcare.  But after just a few days of teary goodbyes during week #1, my daughter now runs down the hall, stops at the doorway to give me a happy hug, and then skips into her classroom to play with her friends.  

She'd told me about 400 times over the weekend that she wants to "stay for rest time, and dance, and soccer."  It started last Friday, the morning before the first job interview I've been on since she was born.  Right.  In the car, on my way to drop her off she says, "I want to go to school all day, every day."  The universe telling me something?  "I'm ready."  "She's ready."  I told her I'd think about it.

Monday's afternoon activity is dance, so when Adina brought the subject up again yesterday morning as we were getting into the car to go to school, I figured, great.  Better that its her idea to stay til 3, allowing me, hopefully, to find a part-time job, right?  Sure.  I did tell her, however, that Monday & Wednesday (soccer day) is it for now.  On the other days, I will pick her up after lunch & we will go the library, museums, etc.

Uh huh.  Today I picked her up and drove her straight over to her friend Ruth's house for a play date.  I'm to retrieve her there at 2:30.  So here I am, back at a Starbucks, talking to you.

So here's the update on my search for gainful employment.  My interview last Friday went well, but I didn't get the job.  According to the president, the organization needs the communications director to be full-time, as in 60 hours/week full-time, not 40.  OK, not for me.   There is, however, another open position that is intriguing, may even have my name written all over it, and I am hoping to talk to the other hiring powers that be for that gig at the end of this week/beginning of next.  I'm also going to a networking event next week.  And trying my very best to take deep breaths and be patient.  Hi ho, hi ho, its off to find work I go ...

Apropo of nothing, or of absolutely everything, I finished reading "I Don't Know How She Does It?" last night in preparation to go to see the movie starring Jessica Sarah Parker tonight with my friend G.   This book came out in 2002 - three years before my first child was born was born and I left my "60 hour/week type full time job" as a director at a prominent Washington, D.C. political advocacy group to stay home full-time.

The basic gist of the book is hedge-fund manager with handsome husband and 2 lovely children has no time to enjoy what she's accomplished.  She imagines herself appearing before a judge charged with being a working mother who gives her children expensive gifts to make up for missing their bedtimes and not spending enough time with them.  In the end, she gives up the job, and moves to the country to become a full-time mother & wife.  The novel ends, however, with the hint that the heroine will start working again, in a way that provides a more balanced life.

Sound in anyway similar to someone you sort of know?

In addition to being over wanting to hang out with me 24/7, Adina has another new thing.  She's said it at least a dozen times the last several weeks.  Its, "Mommy, when I grow up I want to be a mommy just like you."  Simple, loving statement from a three year old girl, right?  No way man.  That declaration is my "be-all end-all" du jour.  It means the boss thinks I'm doing OK.

And now that she and I and her big brother are ready for me to bring my work back into the mix, here's my message back: "I love being your mommy.  You will be a wonderful mommy.  And fabulous at everything else you choose.  Please don't you worry about how she does it; just be what you want to be."
Post-movie thoughts to follow.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


On Wednesday, Caleb didn't have school so he and I had a date.  Our first adventure, just the two of us, in a long while.  Caleb had been really missing his home in Columbus, and his neediness and acting out were pushing me towards a cliff.  He seemed to like school, karate and new friends, but at home, it would all fall apart.  I was hoping that a little one-on-one time would help "adjust his attitude to the altitude."

We decided to explore the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and spent all morning learning about outer space, dinosaurs, and the human body with the museum's fabulous volunteers.  We had lunch, and then even had time to chill out at home together for an hour before going to get Adina.

Chance to show off what he knew about the moon.  His mom bought whatever he wanted at the gift shop.  Got to do his absolute favorite activity - play with mounds of plastic crap at home - in the middle of what would generally be a school day.  All was good in the Caleb universe.  Which means, all was good in mine.

"You’re Only As Happy As Your Least Happy Child."

Today (Saturday) was another good day for Caleb & I.  We woke up, got dressed, ate a little breakfast and parked the car at the Light Rail station (Orchard) so we could head downtown and explore some new parks.  Who knew how much I missed public transportation!  And choices - so many fabulous choices - vis a vis what to do on a Saturday morning.

On this glorious morning, we got off at Union station and walked through Commons Park to Confluence Park.  Strolled around, watched the exercise classes on various patches of grass, scooted out of the way of the bikers, gazed at the South Platte River, climbed on a few rocks (the kids).  Then to Starbucks for lattes and chocolate milk.  

Then, to REI.  Ahhh, REI.  Its hard to describe, but suffice it say this particular REI is like a TEMPLE.  A holy place, where you can tap into your deepest feelings and desires, and pray that you have enough money in your wallet to pay for that perfect sleeping bag and tent that are obviously essential to you heading out to the mountains for an enlightening outdoor experience.  Seriously, this place is F-U-N, FUN!  We were there an hour and half.  And Larry could have stayed longer.  Shopping.  He & the kids got hiking boots, and I looked at jackets.  While we were there, Caleb got an invite for an afternoon play date.  We asked the friend to meet us at our house, because we had to be there to wait for our new coffee table.  Yay!  

Caleb had so much fun with his friend.  I love seeing that child happy.  They ran around, played some "six year old boy" games I will never understand, and laughed hilariously through dinner about farting on their bicycles.  Today (Sunday) and this week is looking good too.  He's got a birthday party this morning, a soccer game this afternoon, and more play dates after school this week.       

Caleb misses home.  So do I.  I think he believes me that slowly, but surely, Denver will become that place of comfort and security and happiness that we both crave.  I know he has to go through this moving experience himself, in his own way.  I do hope that I can help guide him by modeling my own openness and excitement to making 10266 E. Fair Place, and all that Colorado has to offer, my sanctuary.  

Til next time ... 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reworking the Way Work Works (say 3x fast)

So here's an update.  I've got an interview for a "director of communications and marketing" position with a not-for-profit organization.  My first in a pretty long time.  I think they are going to want someone in the office full-time, but I am excited, and terrified, about exploring the possibilities.  Wish me luck (on Friday morning) in my new "professional looking, interview appropriate, and goes nicely with my black pants from Banana Republic" jacket.

I spent this morning at the Starbucks in Cherry Creek drafting a couple of cover letters, and sending my resume into cyberspace.  Thank you Andrew Hudson for your fabulous PR jobs list.  I am checking it & others out every couple of days.  But after spending more on a grande 1/2 skim, 1/2 soy decaf extra hot latte (what, thats high maintenance?) and a mixed berry muffin than one of the part-time jobs that caught my interest is offering to pay, I decided to was time to go across the street and check out the offerings at West Elm.  Great; I could spend an entire year's paycheck from the aforementioned job in a matter of four minutes here.  Time to forget about jobs - and rugs and lamps, go get Adina from pre-school, and move on.

Part-time work that is stimulating and challenging, offers flexible scheduling, and provides fair compensation.   Whats a mom to do ????????????????????????????????????

So we know that the way work has worked just doesn't work for many of today's educated and experienced women.  Sure, there are notable companies that have risen to the occasion and created opportunities for us to off-ramp and on-ramp at different stages of our careers, and made flextime work arrangements more available.  Still, too many women looking for any schedule other than full time, Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, are faced with having to accept positions beneath their skill sets, and/or with ridiculously low pay.


In the Denver Post a few days ago, Dave Maney proclaimed that "full-time, 9-to-5 work is a relic of the pre-Internet days."  According to Maney, companies no longer need to buy into the very expensive idea that work is best accomplished by organizing people to show up together at the same office or factory at the same time five days a week for a specific amount of pay and benefits.  Because the internet allows work tasks to get accomplished in so many ways - freelancing websites, software-based office automation, contract workers, foreign call centers, Indian IT help desks, virtual receptionists, etc., Maney, quoting policy expert Andrei Cherny, says we are at the beginning of "Individual Age Economics" or the "Individual Economy."

According to Maney this means we have to compete; big time.  That we have no choice but to become small, focused free agents who can market the hell out of ourselves.  Scary?  Maybe.  But isn't it also a great opportunity, and motivator, for moms looking to re-enter the workforce after taking time out to care for their families.  Those jobs we haven't done in years; its possible that many of them aren't going to be here much longer anyway.  The Individual Economy will require individual initiative; creativity and innovation.  Aren't these exactly the skills that we've honed while raising our children?

I'm looking.  And I'm thinking about it.  

How about you?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Updates on living the dream in the Mile High City

Caleb at the summit, writing about what he sees. 
First summit!
(Yesterday, September 5, 2011...) Larry and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary with a day trip to Evergreen and a 4 mile hike in Alderfer/Three Sisters Park.  Very proud of the kids, who kvetched pretty much the whole way up, but got totally jazzed at the top, powered up with lunch and sang & skipped the whole way down.  Kudos to the "Evelyn & Larry School of You Better F-in Learn to Love it Out Here Because Mommy's Not Moving Again and This is How We're Going to Roll."  Larry & I enjoyed a delicious bottle of port after the kids went to bed and are very much looking forward to going out on our eighth anniversary when we most certainly will have found a babysitter here.  Hint, hint.

Today was (gasp) cloudy in the Mile High City, a good time for Adina and I to explore the fabulous children's area at the Koelbel Library after I picked her up from pre-school.  Colorado must be desperate for settlers because not only did they issue me a license to drive a car ... I got a library card!  My heart started pounding and my palms got all sweaty when the librarian took my "application" and started typing into her computer.  Huge. sigh. of. relief.  She handed me a card.  Apparently, she had no way of knowing about overdue fines, or say a "Dora & Diego at the Beach" book in the glove compartment of my car that belongs to a certain library in the state of Ohio and that, ahem, I will obviously be mailing back to them just like I told the kids.

Speaking of loving Denver even when I'm not outside (remember, clouds, went to the library), here are a few of the accoutrements of big city living that I've been kvelling over the last few days.  I never knew I always missed:

1. Chinese food delivery.  And eggrolls and tofu with mixed vegetables appeared at the front door.  And life was good.

2. Chair massage after manicure.  And for $10 for 10 minutes I bent over the flourescent drying lights.  And life was good.

3.  Target with produce.  AND LIFE WAS GOOD!

One last note.  I enjoyed a brief, but meaningful chat this morning about my last post on "choice paralysis" with the friend who suggested I try blogging about my journey out west/back into the world of paid employment.  I said something along the lines of I wish there were more high level, intellectually stimulating 9 am to 3 pm jobs out there, and she said something about thinking the next big thing was going to be when companies figured out a way to tap into all the creativity and intelligence of women who've been focusing on raising their kids, but are ready to enter or reenter the work force, who want to be productive and make a difference outside their homes, but also be there when the kids get home from school, need to go to the doctor, have a big soccer game, etc.  Of course!  Isn't this the natural next step in the feminist work evolution?  Stay tuned for more please as I ponder and research.  And please, let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Choice Paralysis"

(Friday, Sept. 2, late morning) ... After dropping my daughter off, I went for a bike ride along the High Line Canal trail with a new friend; lets call her "G."  Sunshine + crisp 74 degree air + completely honest easy back & forth = better than therapy.  I'd felt good vibes about G from the day I met her at our sons' school and we decided to carpool.  Our husbands hit it off too, not a prerequisite to good friendship, but always a help at the "raising young kids focus on family life" juncture in things.  I knew our bike 'n chat was going to be fun when in the four minute ride from our daughters' pre-school to the trailhead, G & I were able to follow each other as we each fragmented through five or six different discussion topics.

So G & I are both lawyers who have struggled at various points after earning our JDs with what the hell to do with such illustrious pieces of paper.  We're members of a pretty big club.  (I'd post a link or two here, but I think my point is better made by asking you to please google the phrase disgruntled lawyers.)  Like many associates in the "now that I'm a lawyer, why can't I sleep at night?" firm, I have experienced some pretty serious self-doubt.  I'm talking about the kind of insecurity that makes one wonder whether the problem was not simply the wrong career choice, but rather a deep deficit in one's ability to utilize sound judgement.  Tack on a self-diagnosed case of severe lack of focus, and you've got an uber-educated, highly marketable basket-case.  Me, c. 1999.

As G & I shared stories, we realized that our network of conversations had a unifying theme - the paradox of choice.  This is the theory, popularized in psychologist Barry Schwartz's 2004 book, "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less," that while choice is essential to happiness, too many possibilities can actually lead to a poorer decision or failure to make a decision at all.  G & I had both found ourselves, at various points, torn between all of our options - at work and at home.

Woe is Evelyn, right?  But hey, if you're rolling your eyes just about now, don't.  Because if you're reading this, its likely that you too bear the burden of utterly fantastic luck.  G & I are among a generation of middle class American women who enjoy a level of autonomy and freedom our foremothers could only dream of, and fought for on our behalf.  We were born into a world where we can be and do pretty much whatever we want.  Where to live; who to marry; how many children to have, if at all; how to earn a living - you name it, we get to pick.

Tack onto this wealth of possibilities a small to extra-large (depending on how Jewishly you were raised) dose of guilt because you know that even today you are surrounded in the good ole U.S.A. by women for whom "equality" is just an illusion.  And because you know that there are millions more women living in other parts of the world for whom even the concept of making one's own decisions is entirely unknown.  Rape; genital mutilation; sex trafficking.  And we're complaining about a job that albeit mind-numbingly boring pays six figures?

So many, many choices.  Whats a Gen X or Y girl to do?

Here's what I've done at this point.  Grown up.  A lot.  Realized that I'm not crazy.  Well, not because I went to law school (which I loved, by the way) and then followed my heart.  Owned my decisions.  Accepted the closing of certain doors when I've opened up others.  Learned to appreciate my story.  Decided to keep writing it.  In my own way.  In my own words.  And been thankful, every day, for that choice.