Thursday, January 29, 2015

Iphone rules for teens (or anyone)

Janell Burley Hoffmann's Iphone rules.  
1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren't I the greatest?
2. I will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads "Mom" or "Dad." Not ever.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 p.m. every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m. If you would not make a call to someone's land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It's a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person -- preferably me or your father.
11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else's private parts. Don't laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear -- including a bad reputation.
13. Don't take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out).
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dear Sugar Radio II

If you're not listening, please do.  Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond pair up to cohost this amazing podcast and I can't get enough.

While it's similar to Tiny Beautiful Things, I think the dialogue between Almond and Strayed makes for really compelling listening.   Their conversation is honest, blunt, and just so smart.   Almond ups the ante and brings a bit of "English Professor" to the conversation with his subtle references to great literature and Strayed keeps it real with her honest, relatable self.  Their chemistry is wonderful and both just add so much. The music included does not disappoint either.

A few of my favorite excerpts <please listen to podcast for full context>,

"Will he ever learn...   That's not your problem.   But when you feel betrayed you have this desire, 'I want them to realize it.'  But really, you wish you had realized it."

"It's so pro-forma feminine misogyny.  Oh dude, get a new act."  (said by Steve, which made it that much better) but so true.  Some of this anti-woman crap is just so old, predictable and boring.  You don't hate her, you hate yourself.  Tale as old as time.

And this cover of Love is a Battlefield performed by Raining Jane.


Monday, January 26, 2015


A winter storm is brewing and tomorrow will  most likely entail no work and no school.   Sure, things get a little stuffy inside but we've got snowshoes, a fire place, a sled for the baby, books, Homeland and plenty of food...and wine.  

As I get older, I am really drawn to these winter months.  After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, my body and mind crave this quiet time.  I've been reading like a fiend and my brain is swirling with ideas and inspiration.   The quiet of these months gives me time to be still and process it.

Adding to my list of what I know for sure - I am a girl who needs seasons.   For now, these snowy and cold months are serving as the perfect incubator.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Just the facts

I love interviews.  Whether it's the Living with Kids series on Designmom, an interview with an author on Powell Book's site, Oprah's Super Soul Sunday or Vogue's cover story with a popular actress.   Everyone has such unique experiences, perspectives and tales to tell.   

Often times the interviews end with a short series of questions to summarize or just show a relatable side of the person that may not have been otherwise captured. 
I write this blog most days, but I thought - perhaps through answering these questions readers might get to know me a little bit more.  I borrowed these "just the facts" questions from another source...  Here it is. 

Favorite Date-Night Restaurant:
Oleana or Turner's Oyster Bar.   Never a table, always two seats at the bar.

Local Family Activity:
Playing Yahtzee or Cards with our 16 year old after the baby goes to sleep

Celebrity Crush:
Sienna Miller

Dream Vacation:
A month in Spain.  Begin with a stay at the ME Madrid and move on to some cities we've yet to explore.


Meal I Make That My Kids Love:
Homemade chicken soup.

App I Rely On:
I'm recently hooked on podcasts.  

Most-Worn Shoes:
I try to keep my Uggs for home use and walking the dog only but I can't deny how darn comfy, warm and well-loved mine are.    

I feel on my own in terms of career guidance/support. 

My Friends Would Say I'm:
A talker, well-read, real.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Article Club III

Tonight's January Article Club will meet at the Beat Hotel in Harvard Square and discuss this fascinating article, The Confidence Gap. 

Some of the most interesting facts I picked up from the article are as follows:

*Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence.

*Each year she asks her students what they expect to earn, and what they deserve to earn, five years after graduation. “I’ve been doing this for about seven years,” she has written, “and every year there are massive differences between the male and female responses.” On average, she reports, the men think they deserve $80,000 a year and the women $64,000—or 20 percent less.

* Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in. Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect. Or practically perfect.

And yet the result is that many girls learn to avoid taking risks and making mistakes. This is to their detriment: many psychologists now believe that risk taking, failure, and perseverance are essential to confidence-building. Boys, meanwhile, tend to absorb more scolding and punishment, and in the process, they learn to take failure in stride.

“Confidence,” he told us, “is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.”

The last bit really stuck a chord.  Coincidently, on my birthday post last week I wrote that Action was going to be my mantra for the year.   I had never thought much about my lack of action to be tied to confidence.  I always equated it more with a fear of failure or a desire for perfection.  But after digesting this article it's impossible not to consider the role confidence plays.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Being human

To feel.  To be understood.  To be heard.

To keep striving.  To have patience.  To be still.

Dance to the rhythm of our life.  Lay on my back while the soft current does its work.

Peacefully accept who you are and what that means.

I write this while my mind goes a million miles an hour.  Some days are like that for me.  I have difficulty focusing and want to read - yes, yes, yes!  Or converse...  I want to hear people's truths or speak my own.  I want to flush out.   What I've come to learn is that's part of my humanness.  I work in cycles.  I have days when my thoughts seem to rush, overflowing.  I have days where I am drawn to silence.

It's not judgement, it's simply awareness.  Simple. Simply. Always. Awareness.

"We see how beautiful and wonderful and amazing things are, and we see how caught up we are. It isn’t that one is the bad part and one is the good part, but that it’s a kind of interesting, smelly, rich, fertile mess of stuff. When it’s all mixed up together, it’s us: humanness.
This is what we are here to see for ourselves. Both the brilliance and the suffering are here all the time; they interpenetrate each other. For a fully enlightened being, the difference between what is neurosis and what is wisdom is very hard to perceive, because somehow the energy underlying both of them is the same. The basic creative energy of life … bubbles up and courses through all of existence. It can be experienced as open, free, unburdened, full of possibility, energizing. Or this very same energy can be experienced as petty, narrow, stuck, caught… The basic point of it all is just to learn to be extremely honest and also wholehearted about what exists in your mind — thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, the whole thing that adds up to what we call “me” or “I.” Nobody else can really begin to sort out for you what to accept and what to reject in terms of what wakes you up and what makes you fall asleep. No one else can really sort out for you what to accept — what opens up your world — and what to reject — what seems to keep you going round and round in some kind of repetitive misery.
This is the process of making friends with ourselves and with our world. It involves not just the parts we like, but the whole picture, because it all has a lot to teach us." - Pema Chodrom

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


My little one's mind is exploding.  You can see it.  It's as though I can watch the mind making connections, realizations, associations.  Not a day passes that I don't feel so grateful for that healthy, loving boy but these days are especially fun.  His eyes are so expressive.  His words are coming together.

One of his favorite activities these days is sensory play.  His teacher commented on how much he enjoys the rice table.  I'm looking forward to the warmer weather when the possibilities get a bit more messy and free-range, but for now I'm thinking of ideas that we can do in our living room.

I try to keep the sensory activity special.  We do it in a room we don't normally use and we have a special mat to signal that's what we're doing and also keep the mess contained.   I'm searching for more sensory ideas - I think it's a fantastic way to explore, be creative, and play in an open-ended way.  

Last week we did a combination of dry pasta and mini marshmallows. A strange combo, yes, but that's the idea.  This should be cheap and easy.  For 3 days, we've played with this set.  It's amazing how entertained he is.

Tonight I think I'll try soft spaghetti.  The goopy, sticky texture should be a welcome break from the loud, dry pasta.  I'll bring some containers in various sizes and maybe a rolling pin and see where that blossoming brain takes us.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Yesterday I took the a mid-week day off to just plain catch up.  I took the dog on a gorgeous walk through the conservation land in the backyard.  The pond was frozen and the composition of his dark fur, the grey sky, the snow and the ice was exquisite.

Later, I was listening to Dear Sugar radio. they were discussing transformation.   People typically expect transformation to be very concrete - I was one way on December 31st and a new person on January 1.   They used the word "binary" - you are one or you are the other.  You were the beast and now you're the beauty.   But that's not how it really transpires.  Transformation is slow, painful work.  It might be one step forward, two back, a step off course completely, a tumble to the bottom of the hill and a sprint to some mid point.   The first mile might be the most difficult or trying to transition from one seemingly insignificant place to the next one might hang you up for years.   It was an interesting point, especially relevant in the new year.

To enjoy a quiet moment.  To say Thank You for the gift of living in this paradise - paradise measured not only by it's beauty but it's safety, it's freedom, it's tranquility.   The pause is part of my transformation.

Patient nature. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

thirty four

Hello friends.  Today marks another rotation around the sun - I turn 34.  It's a good number, doesn't strike me as particularly eventful.   And I'm happy that I'm in such a good space - a mama, a wife, a homeowner and financially independent.  And most importantly, healthy - in my body, mind and spirit.

I work hard at creating the life that I want to live.  I try  to be intentional with things that are important to me.  Being a passive participant in life, in my opinion, is one of the most damaging things a person can do to themselves.  The magnitude of what is achievable is enough to blow all of our minds.  

On this 34th year - I hope to finish what I've started with small, consistent action toward my goal.  Action - what am I doing about it?   What steps can I take to resolve the undone and incomplete.  Action - Forward Movement.  Advancement.  Motion.   Action, my mantra for thirty-four.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Until next time...

My sister-in-law, brother-in-law and niece have been visiting from Rio since Christmas Day.  What a wonderful trip we've had!   The house felt so full with family and love and laughs.  Everyone got along so well and they were ideal guests - easygoing, helpful, appreciative!   They spent so much time playing with J and I know they'll miss that sweet boy a lot when they leave.   It must be said, we're having brutally cold temps here and there hasn't been a single complaint about the weather.  I will try to remember that when I'm whining about the sauna-like temps in Rio.

They are a wonderful family and I know all of our hearts will be a little heavy today as we say goodbye, for now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Hopped on the Serial podcast bandwagon and am totally hooked!   Only 1 episode in, I'm just astounded by the brilliance and creativity used to do such a project.  I listen to a lot of books on tape, and I guess that's what I was expecting, and this is certainly not that.   In addition to the narration, there are sound clips from interviews, testimonies, and phone calls.  There is an eery but perfectly subtle soundtrack.

I urge you, if you have a long commute, if you run or walk for any length of time, if you're traveling and want to listen on the plane - check it out.  You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Today marks a special day - J is going to "school", which is really a home daycare with a small group of kids and an emphasis on early learning, since he's still too young for proper preschool.   But, this is the first time he'll be truly "on his own" - ie. not with me, not with his nanny, not with his dad or grammy.  My heart is kind of in my throat when I think about it but I know it's the right place for him.  He's ready for the next step.

Yesterday, my 16 year old stepson took the bus home from NYC alone.  He had been there with his aunt and uncle but needed to come back before them to get back to school.  He's a competent, independent kid - who has flown to/from Brazil on his own since he was 14 - and I never much doubted his ability to navigate the trip back from NYC.  As we were chatting on our drive home and I was telling him about my angst related to J's first day without us, he calmly said - "but you're not thinking of all the good things".    Ahh.  So simple and so true.  It's so easy to worry.  For our minds to start imagining every worst case scenario.   But what about imagining him at the school, making friends, doing art, ....thriving!

It was a great reminder.  And so, today, I let go a little bit of my baby.  I send him out knowing full well that he's capable to do the task at hand.  I remind myself of one of the most basic tenants of parenting, not to hold on to them forever but to teach them to soar without us.  We give our children gifts when we ask of them, when we don't make it easy, when we don't settle.   Goodluck, Baby J!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcome, 2015

A tradition on this blog has been to jot down some resolutions as both a way to stay accountable, a way to remember and a way to reflect.   No surprise, my resolutions for the past four years (!) haven't changed too much.  I've consistently resolved to consume less, find more art and creativity, be more organized, meditate and eat healthier.   Those continue to be my goals...   I suppose they aren't really New Years Resolutions at all, but just weaknesses that I continue to strive to improve upon.

But in the spirit of tradition, listed below are a few of my tangible goals.  I will check on them in early spring to see how I'm doing:

1. Follow The Artist's Way.  Have you read it?  I am just started and am loving it.  It is a sort of "how-to" guide on unblocking creativity.  

2. More water.

3.  Find 10 minutes per day of quiet meditation.  I have never felt better in my life than when I've committed to this practice.

4. Patience with myself and those I love as we all try to do better.

"And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been." - Rilke

Friday, January 2, 2015

Adrift in the Boston Harbor...

On New Years Eve, I took some time to quietly reflect on a few grievances I had from the year.  I wrote freely, without editing, without fear, without hesitation.  I wrote of the challenges I faced and what I learned from them....

After I had written, I ripped the paper into small shreds and let it go into the Boston Harbor.  A symbol to myself that those troubles were gone.  They were 2014's problems and did not belong to this year.  By physically releasing them, I have a tangible reminder that they are gone.

Creating S P A C E to allow for the gifts of a new year.