Over the past three years, I have been privileged to work with more than 100 brave women women facing the challenge of infertility. The circumstances and outcomes varied widely, but in every case, I have been inspired by the strength these women demonstrated as they opened up about their struggles and the difficult decisions they faced.
When the prospect of parenthood shifts from a joyful expectation to an extended odyssey, it can be easy to lose hope. Even the ever-increasing breadth of ways to build a family - from adoption to fostering to medical intervention - can contribute to the frustration. How do you know what is right? Where do you even begin?
Fortunately, there are amazing resources available to help navigate the rocky road of infertility. I was thrilled to be asked by the founder of the Red Stone to participate in an upcoming Pathways to Parenthood event taking place Tuesday April 21 at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center. This community-wide event will bring together experts in fertility, adoption, mental health, and more for a discussion of the different pathways to becoming a parent.
If you or someone you know is seeking guidance or encouragement related to building a family, I encourage you to reach out to Amy or join fellow community members at the upcoming event.
I don't recall when I first heard this observation, but it is a favorite. I love how simply it captures the dichotomy between the types of people we all encounter in the course of a regular day. I imagine the same is true everywhere in the world, but some days it seems DC has been overrun by the "Here I am!" crowd. So many people rush around assuming their "needs" are the most urgent - and their "crises" the most immediate. It can be easy to feel invisible and irrelevant next to these powerful personalities.
Fortunately, there are those rare souls who remind us that we all matter. Earlier this week I was blessed to spend time with one such woman - a dear friend who is walking through a challenging season in her own life. She joined us for dinner while in town for business, and we had a wonderful time catching up and connecting. Though I was armed with dozens of questions about her family, current work projects, and personal struggles, the conversation kept drifting to what is happening in my life. Rather than offering the encouragement I sought to provide, I became the recipient of her characteristically selfless guidance and affirmation.
I am grateful to have such people in my life - and hope someday I can pay forward this incredible grace. What would it look like to consistently meet people where they are and help them see their own beauty and value? Let's give it a try...
We returned to DC yesterday after a lovely, but lengthy, time away. A smile broke out across my face as the cab sped past the familiar monuments and vistas that distinguish our city. As we walked through our front door I felt a wash of calm descend over me. Home... Sweet... Home...
My daughter immediately wriggled out of my arms and ran to her toy kitchen, gleefully exclaiming, "Tea party!" and diving in to the important work of sorting out cups, tea bags, cream, and sugar for her menagerie of customers. The cat began weaving between our ankles, simultaneously chiding us for our time away and purring a warm welcome. Without a word, my husband and I surveyed the scene and set to work tidying and settling back in.
We cleared the film of dust masking the kitchen counter (who knew so much could collect in just two and half weeks?!), ran the vacuum over the floors, and attended to the cat. My husband pried a reluctant babe away from her entertaining duties for the dinner, bath, and bed routine while I unpacked suitcases; started the laundry; and evaluated our kitchen inventory to create a grocery list for the week ahead.
After our flurry of activity, we sank into the couch and enjoyed a quiet moment in our peaceful home. We shared a toast of gratitude for the opportunity to spend time with family, reconnect with old friends, enjoy areas both new and familiar, and create memories with and for our daughter during our time away. And another to celebrate the joy of coming home to a life (and city) we love.
It is good to be home...
Invariably, when I set out for a vacation, I envision a seemingly endless window of opportunity to tackle the things that never seem to make it to the top of my to-do list in the course of a regular week. I plan on catching up on the journal I am keeping to record precious memories from the babe's early years. I imagine hours of writing - filing away newsletter and blog ideas for future weeks when creativity seems elusive and making progress on long-range projects. I dream of reading - optimistically packing stacks of magazines that have been collecting dust on my bedside table, as well as the book(s) I have yet to start.
But in reality, such windows are always too brief. When a quiet moment presents itself, there are always work details that need attended to and errands to run. And the discipline that comes so easily at home devolves while away: instead of maximizing efficiencies when the opportunity arises, I find myself sitting still, gazing out the window, and losing myself in conversation or quiet thought.
But when I think of the many "wasted" moments over the past two weeks, I don't regret the unread magazines or books or lack of writing progress. I smile when I think of relaxing on a shady porch swing with my daughter and her cousins, starting my days with morning runs on the beach, watching basketball in the middle of the day with my parents, sneaking away for an afternoon at the theatre with my husband, escaping for a movie with my mom, looking through yellowing stacks of decades-old family photos with my dad. Rather than seeing these moments as wasted time, I can appreciate the value of connecting and recharging.
Can you recognize the value in lost moments? Can wasting time allow you to return to the real world refreshed and ready for whatever lies ahead?
Rising before the sun isn't an anomaly in our home - most mornings find me up around 5am to meet with a client and/or enjoy a pre-dawn morning yoga practice, and the babe and her papa are up shortly thereafter to commence their own morning routines. But rising early as a family without an agenda is a rarity. On our final day at the beach last week, the three of us ventured out to watch the sun rise over the ocean. We left our sleepy dwelling and wandered down streets lined by similarly still houses. As we turned onto the main street we noted not one coffee shop or diner was open and not one car crept down the street. A single, solitary runner and a few birds chasing the surf gave the only indication we were not completely alone on the island.
Arriving at a city pier that extended far into the water, we were surprised to find two gentlemen sitting silently together. As if anticipating our arrival, the younger of the two welcomed us, explaining that he and his father have been meeting daily at this very spot to watch the sun rise together for more than a decade. As we waited in silence, I fell in love with the idea of beginning every day in this way: joining a loved one to witness the miracle brought about by each sunrise. Sharing the daily wonder of a new opportunity to set aside whatever may have gone awry the day before and starting again with a fresh perspective.
As the first light began to appear over the horizon, we grew excited - trying to guess precisely where the first slice of orange would slip into view. And then it happened - a shimmer became a sliver became a perfect sphere - finally ascending above the skyline.
A daily ritual of watching the sun rise over the ocean isn't feasible for most of us, but each new day offers a reminder of the miracle of renewal. Can you embrace the morning as an opportunity to let go of whatever is no longer useful and set (or renew) an intention for your day?
After several lovely days on the beach with family, the babe and I departed yesterday for our annual visit to my favorite city in the world for the Big East Basketball tournament. The thought of flying solo with a newly two year old gave me some apprehension, but I was prepared with a bag of tricks and the ardent hope that her sweet disposition and my careful planning would thwart any drama.
My hopes were realized - in no small part thanks to the goodness of our fellow passengers. In the security line, a kind soul retrieved my hat that my hat had fallen from my purse unknowingly as I hoisted our bags onto the screening belt. Another sweet gentleman alerted me that the babe had escaped under the security table while I was pulling out our boarding passes. Yet another stranger lifted our bags into the overhead bins while I settled her into her seat on the plane.
Our flight went well until the plane began descending, at which point my sweet girl became sick...again...and again...and again. Because of safety protocols, no flight attendant could come to our rescue, but our seat neighbor immediately leapt into action, providing an additional flight sickness bag at a critical moment and helping me clean our seats. When we arrived, another fellow passenger helped pull our bag down from the overhead bin while I continued to clean and comfort an ill and unsettled babe.
She and I navigated our way through the airport and crawled into a taxicab. Much to my dismay, moments after pulling out of the airport, it happened again. But rather than being upset, our driver produced paper towels and a bag along with his sympathy. When we finally arrived at the hotel, my parents greeted us at the curb with a bottle of water and a roll of paper towels to help the driver clean his car. As we pulled a sleepy babe out into the fresh air, I reflected on the goodness we had benefited from at the hands of an assortment of strangers who crossed our paths at just the right moment.
"Goodness" may seem a nebulous concept, but you know when you have been its beneficiary. Have you been on the receiving end of goodness? How can you pay it forward?
Can I let you in on a little secret? I'm not really a beach girl. Don't get me wrong - I love water and sunshine and beautiful vistas, but the beach itself is, well, messy. Thoughts of relaxing on the sand as you watch the waves roll in always seems romantic, but the reality is never quite so ideal. The sun is either blazing hot, or you realize you should have brought a jacket when strong winds set your teeth chattering. And whether or not the wind is blowing, sand travels surreptitiously, finding its way into your shoes, your clothes, your bag, and your teeth.
But this week finds me in Florida, just steps away from the beach, which holds only fascination for a babe who has yet to fall victim to the burden of logic. Our first day out, I sat back from the water safe and dry, enjoying the warm sun as I watched her explore this new world with her father, cousins, and grandparents. She jumped and giggled each time a wave washed over her feet - both surprised and delighted.
As I wrapped the shivering - but gleeful - girl in a towel, she pleaded for "one more time" over and over again. While I captured the moment in photos, helping lay the groundwork for fond memories as she grows, I reflected on how much I loved water as a child. I sought every opportunity to spend time in oceans, pools, rivers, and lakes without reservation - undeterred by cold water, sand, even mud. Many of my favorite recollections center around splashing, swimming, and laughing with family and friends.
Inspired by a desire to create similarly warm memories for and with my daughter, on our next day out, I set aside my aversion to mess and strode into the COLD water. We hopped in the waves, collected and washed seashells, and dined in the sun - sand, seagulls, and all. The experience and memories were more than worth the mess, and we loved every minute of it.
Are you allowing an inconvenience to stand between you and the memories you could be creating? What delights might you find by getting a little sand in your shoes?
A friend recently attended a memorial service for a community leader who had lived a long and fruitful life with many professional successes and personal achievements. Family members and friends in turn spoke about his accomplishments, shared joyful memories, and praised the legacy of faith he left behind. His son, now a grown man with a family of his own, shared that he was shaped - more than anything - by his father's kindness. He related that in his fifty years of life, he never once heard his father speak ill of another person.
This anecdote stopped me cold. In more than FIVE DECADES, this man had NEVER heard his father disparage another person. In our constantly comparing, judging, justifying culture, I don't know many people who can go five hours without speaking critically, let alone five decades...
I think often of the example I want to set for my daughter and the legacy I want to leave behind as a parent and a person. These desires have shaped my professional decisions and long-term plans, as they do for most parents. But how we will be remembered has less to do with the seemingly "big" decisions: what type of work we do and where we live - than it does with who we are around the dinner table, walking down the street, and talking with our family and friends. Our character shines through in the simple conversations and unplanned moments that make up our days.
What if instead of criticizing we practiced kindness? What if we extended compassion to - rather than complaining about - the frustrating colleague, unhelpful salesperson, or rude stranger?
What would it look like to live a life (and leave a legacy) characterized by kindness?
Having celebrated yet another birthday last week, I must confess I am finding myself increasingly forgetful. It happens frequently enough that it has become a joke in our house - albeit one I don't always find amusing... I could blame "mommy brain" or my vata dosha. I could point to the frenzy of preparing for a seventeen day stretch of travel with a toddler or the wide ranging array of details floating around in my head at any given moment. I could acknowledge that I am not getting any younger. But the underlying cause doesn't change the reality: If I don't write something down - whether an observation, appointment time, or song I want to add to an upcoming class playlist - the information could very well be lost forever.
This experience is extraordinarily frustrating for someone who used to take for granted her ability to recall every element of every dish in a 24 course tasting menu years after the fact - or recite entire Shakespeare soliloquys - or remember the winners of every major Academy Award category for the past 20 years. I have begun to feel rather self-conscious about this development - fearing I will be judged dimwitted, or inattentive, or worse. I think often of a sentiment shared by a dear family friend well into the third act of her life: "You should have known me back when I was smart!"
But if I reflect honestly on the former me who seemingly had all the facts of the world at her disposal, I also recognize her impatience. I feel her annoyance when a colleague paused to recall a relevant fact or stopped to select just the right word to convey an idea. I see her roll her eyes (inwardly, of course) when a well-meaning family friend would ask, "How old are you now?" I hear her sigh (not always inwardly) when interrupted mid-conversation and asked to repeat an answer or anecdote. And it occurs to me, as bright as that girl may have been, she isn't someone I would choose to be around today.
Rather than longing for the razor-sharp young lady I was, I am learning to embrace the more forgetful, more forgiving woman I am becoming. I am daring to ask a question rather than pretending I remember the answer. I am realizing that asking someone to repeat something is not the end of the world. I am letting go of the fear of being judged and focusing instead on accepting where I am today.
Perhaps your mind is a steel trap and you have no concern about the foibles of your memory. But it is a rare individual who doesn't have some insecurity or weakness they try to mitigate and/or conceal from others. Next time you find yourself mapping out a coping strategy or retreating before your flaw (real or imagined) is discovered, try looking at what you have gained by losing. Embracing your vulnerability may be exactly what you need to grow.
I love lists. Whether scribbled on the back of an envelope, lined up neatly on an index card, or color coded on a spreadsheet, my life story could be told through the dozens of ongoing lists I use to keep my mind clear and our days running according to schedule.
Though I have many staples in the list category - from groceries to to-do's to project deadlines - my favorite by far is the packing list. Dating back as far as middle school, I can recall reviewing the agenda for a given camp or vacation and creating a corresponding plan for wardrobe, books, and so many travel snacks I often required a second bag. As an adult I cultivated the art of minimalist packing - fitting everything I could possibly need for a week abroad in a a single carry-on bag, carefully considering the utility of every item to ensure I had everything the trip required and nothing it didn't.
These days, my ambitions are much less grand: I can survive as long as the babe has her teddy bear - but I still enjoy the process of crafting a packing list. The act gives me the opportunity to take a pre-vacation: envisioning the people and places we will visit, considering what clothes, books, and other essentials will suit each scenario - and contemplating how much (or little) I can carry with me as I navigate the airports, car rides, and hotel and house transfers with a babe in tow. This weekend, my skills will be put to the test as the babe and I depart for a seventeen day travel stretch in which we will visit three very different destinations in three very different climates. Three trips, two girls, one bag - let the planning begin!
What adventures are on your horizons this year? How can you ensure you will have (just) what you need?
Thank you for visiting the Starting Over blog. Stop by anytime for a dose of inspiration, tools to help you achieve your goals, and a community of fellow travelers. I hope to see you often!