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Monday Musings ~ May 2

May 2, 2016

Happy Monday!


1. I just returned from a conference designed for moms, media and marketers that was all about empowerment and having a voice through content channels. The conference’s theme was “redefining motherhood.” There were many things I really enjoyed about the conference: I attended some great sessions (heard the producer of “Spotlight” speak!), met new contacts and spent time with great friends. Yet the content and great company was a bit overshadowed by my observations that women continue to perpetuate stereotypes and resort to “othering” each other.

Let me give you an example. I was listening to a panel of super-successful women. And by successful, I’m referring to an executive at Twitter, CEO of a philanthropic foundation, founder of a cross-border investment platform, president of an elite special events company, and an astronaut (yes, an astronaut). I felt honored to be in the presence of these amazing women. Yet the moderator spent quite a bit of time asking them about their relationship with their spouse, and strategies for making time for date night.

Granted, I’m NOT knocking date night. But I couldn’t help but think: If this were a panel of men, would they even be asked these questions?

Further, one of the panelists answered that instead of focusing on date night, what works for her is focusing on spending quality time together as a family. But that answer didn’t fit into the gendered norm and she was shamed for not making time for the traditional date night. I was really bothered by this. Here I sat a conference designed to empower women to have a voice and redefine motherhood. Yet the mom who was honest about her family’s choice was criticized in front of a crowd. I’m not blaming the conference organizers for this. It just reminded me of how far we as women and society still have to go.

Well, that was more of a post than a musing. … If you’re still reading, thank you. And let me continue on with my thoughts.

2. Remember the Barenaked Ladies song, “If I Had a Million Dollars”? I was reminded of that song when I read this article and this one about what people would do with a big tax refund. I did not get a tax refund (quite the opposite!). But I always think about that song and wonder what I’d do if I suddenly had a bunch of cash. First thing I’d do is hire a maid service and buy a new car with functioning air conditioning. What would you buy?

3. I was laughing out loud as I read this Scary Mommy article about how family road trips have changed since my childhood. My family would spend a week each summer driving to and from Lake Tahoe and San Diego. There were no snacks or bottled water. Entertainment was reading a book and listening to my parents’ favorite cassette tapes. This is perhaps why I refuse to buy a car with a DVD player (much to Sophie’s dismay).

4. Finally, I’m in LOVE with The West Wing Weekly podcast! “The West Wing” is kind of like comfort food for me. Anytime I feel down or need a pick-me-up, I re-watch episodes and I feel better. It’s still one of my favorite shows. Watching television shows in 1999 (when the series debuted) was so different than today. You had to wait every week for a new episode. There was no DVR, binge-watching or spoilers to find on the Internet. So waiting for the next podcast episode is almost like reliving those early days of “The West Wing.”

What’s going on in your life? Tell me what you’re thinking about this week.

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How the Wrong Change Led to a Moment of Childhood Wonder

April 15, 2016

Every Friday, Sophie’s school sells cups of frozen yogurt for $2.50 when the afternoon bell rings. Last Friday (and like every week before), Sophie wanted to buy herself a frozen yogurt. She pulled $3 out of her backpack and ran off to purchase her cookies and cream treat.

She returned from the purchase looking ecstatic as she ran across the playground toward me. Even for frozen yogurt, I was surprised at her level of excitement.

“Mommy, look what I got!” Sophie shouted as she ran toward me. “Instead of getting two quarters in change back from my one dollar bill, I got this really cool Chinese quarter!”

She shows me a silver coin that was the exact size of a quarter, but was a foreign coin and most likely not worth 25 cents.

I immediately started thinking we should return to the yogurt sale booth and ask for a replacement since she was (inadvertently) shorted a quarter. I started to suggest out loud that she go back and get the proper change.

But before I could finish my sentence, Sophie looked at me with shock and asked why on earth would she even consider returning the coin.

So instead of demanding proper change, I shut up and gave in to Sophie’s wonder and curiosity about the coin.

Sophie continued to revel in the coin’s possibility “Isn’t this amazing? I got a coin from China. Or Japan. Or somewhere else. I wonder how much it’s worth. It could be valuable!”

She then talked about sharing the coin with my dad (her granddad), whom she knows takes yearly trips to China for his work.

“Do you think Granddad will know what this coin is worth? I should save it because one day, he may take me to China with him and I can use this coin there.”

The next day, Sophie wrote and mailed him a letter telling him all about the coin and asking for his advice in deciphering its origin.

Finding the right direction to wonder

Finding the path to wonder

This simple, little moment reminded me how incredibly grateful I am that – at 8-years-old – Sophie is still in awe of these little things like a foreign coin.

And here we are, as adults, all grown up; so jaded and focused on reality. When did we lose that wonder? When do we go from curious to cynical? From thinking everything is possible, to thinking things are more impossible than probable? When does that change?

I think about myself at her age and rack my brain, wondering if I ever experienced that type of magical thinking. When did I lose my wonder? I don’t remember.

Seeing Sophie and the curiosity and awe made me smile. I felt a satisfaction that I hadn’t felt for a long time. And this may sound condescending, but I was proud of myself, as a parent, for not crushing that moment of joy by correcting her with accurate information.

So, here’s to finding the wonder — whether it’s a shiny foreign coin or something else!

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Monday Musings ~ April 11

April 11, 2016

Happy Monday! Did you watch the “Billions” finale last night? SO good! I’m going to miss that show.

spring flowers

1. I’ve been following Rivki Silver of the Life in the Married Lane blog for years now. She recently wrote about creating a playlist to help you go from sad to glad. I LOVE this idea (and her song choices)! I agree with Rivki that there’s nothing like music to help express emotion. While I can certainly think about the songs that evoke sadness for me, I’ve never created a playlist to help me feel happier. So thanks to her, I’m committing to creating a “sad to glad” playlist for myself. (Side note: Every time I hear “glad” I think of Pollyanna and the Glad Game. Just me?) The first song on the list: “Beautiful Day” by U2. What one song would be on your playlist?

2. Great post by one of my favorite bloggers, Jessica of How Sweet It Is, about how to prep make-ahead smoothie packets. I love making smoothies, but for some reason it always feels time-consuming to do so. Jessica mentions this same thing in her post – so glad it’s not just me! Her photos are always so gorgeous too. Seriously, she makes frozen fruit look amazing! I’m all over this smoothie pack prepping this week.

3. In this article, a Pixar writer talks about how to write a really great beginning of a story. His advice is super helpful for writers working on fiction. He breaks down the storytelling process into five simple steps, which makes complete sense when you think about the stories we read and watch. Be sure to watch the video contained in this piece because he demonstrates this process using Toy Story, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.

4. Are you a writer or storyteller? This piece by Writer Unboxed explains the difference between the two (yes, there is a difference). Historically speaking, writers were amongst the clergy and the wealthy elite (the mere one percent of the population). Whereas storytellers existed to amuse and inform. They were the common folk you’d find around campfires and hearth fires, telling tales they’d learned from their others. Fascinating stuff! Love this quote from the article:

To be successful, writers must learn the skills of storytelling and storytellers must learn the skills of writing.

5. Finally, this touching piece on Up Popped a Fox was a beautiful reminder to us parents not to lose sight of the moments in life that really matter. Her words so resonated with me that I found myself in tears. Read it!

What’s going on in your life? Do you see yourself as a writer or storyteller, or both? What one song would be on your “sad to glad” playlist?

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Confessions of a Nail Biter

April 8, 2016

This post was originally written and published in December 2010. I decided to revise and republish since many of you have not read the piece before.


My name is Leah, and I bite my nails.

Yes, that’s right. I’m a nail biter. I’m not proud of this habit. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and I want to stop.

nail polish

How does one become a nail biter? Did I one day decided I needed an oral fixation and decided to bite my nails? Maybe it began in childhood when the pacifier was taken from me.

In the writing class I took last summer, each student had to reveal to interesting things about themselves. I told the class that I can’t stand clutter and I bite my nails. My writing teacher made an interesting observation that perhaps the two idiosyncrasies are related. Maybe I bite my nails to get rid of the excess nail or skin around the tip; to even out the area, if you will. Essentially, to remove the physical “clutter” on my hands.

This little girl who went to daycare with Sophie was a thumb sucker. One day she just stopped, but in it’s place, she started biting her nails. So perhaps our minds look for one habit to replace another. I wonder if kids are able to naturally grow out of their oral habits, would they take up another one? Sophie was a thumb-sucker, but luckily she didn’t take up an annoying oral habit when she finally stopped two years ago. And so far, she hasn’t inherited my nail-biting habit either.

My mother used to bite her nails. I once asked her how she stopped, and she said her grandmother told her when she was a teenager that no man would marry her with bitten fingernails. That was enough to stop her. Clearly that threat didn’t work on me (although I know Bryan finds this habit quite annoying).

I notice I bite my nails most when I’m sitting on the couch watching television. What’s interesting is that I don’t even realize I’ve chomped my fingers until after I’ve done it. My mind is so entranced in what I’m watching and then suddenly I realize I’ve been biting my nails.

I won’t bite my nails when I’m in public, or when they’re freshly manicured. The thought of wasting money and ruining the polish trumps my biting obsession. But I can’t afford to have my nails freshly manicured every week either. Don’t tell me to give up television, or to get acrylic nails either. I did that before my wedding and ended up tearing off all the fake nails while on my honeymoon. Romantic, I know.

So what should I do? Maybe I’ll put a nail buffer board on the couch. And anytime I notice myself biting when I watch television, I’ll use that tool instead. Maybe I should try hypnosis. Or wear gloves. All I know is it’s a nasty habit and I want to break it.

My name is Leah, and I bite my nails.

Do you bite your nails or have an annoying habit you want to break? How did you break a former habit?

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Monday Musings ~ March 28

March 28, 2016

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Did you celebrate Easter? The photo below describes the extent of my festivities. Sophie is on spring break this week (translation: I get to sleep in). And when did it become almost April? Let’s get started!

mini eggs

1. We watched “The Big Short” this weekend, which I thought was a fantastic movie. But I couldn’t help but feeling disgusted the entire way through. Seeing all the greed, arrogance and irresponsibility that permeated that entire period of the housing boom and bust is sickening. Back in 2005, I went into the post office to mail documents, and the woman behind the counter told me she was also a mortgage broker and could help me buy a home for no money down and at a mortgage interest rate of only 1%. I didn’t even know this woman and she had no idea who I was! But there she was, a mortgage broker in a post office uniform, selling shady loans and making big money doing it. Spoiler alert: good thing she didn’t quit her day job at the post office.

2. Moving on to a happier topic: books. Absolutely loved this literary map of the United States! It shows the best books for every state. California is broken up by southern and northern, so my half is apparently represented by the book, The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty. What is your state’s recommended reading?

3. This article about what the things on your desk say about you is freakishly accurate. My case in point: #2. The fact that I have a physical to do list means I prefer physical books to e-books, cooking to eating out, watching movies on Netflix over going to the movies, and a sensible work uniform over trendy garments. Yep, sums me up perfectly!

4. There are two types of people in this world: those who love adult coloring books, and those who feel crippling anxiety at the thought of undertaking that project. I belong in the second camp. So naturally I thought this article about the lessons learned from a failed adult coloring book experiment was a breath of fresh air.

5. I’ve said before I’m not a big podcast listener. But when I heard “The West Wing Weekly” is now a show, and Joshua Malina (Will Bailey) is hosting and taking listeners through every episode? Well, let’s just say the episodes can’t come soon enough. Bartlet for America — always and forever!

What’s going on in your life? What are you musing about this week?

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