Motherhood and Its Tears

“Mommy why don’t you sing Rockabye Baby to me at night anymore?”

“Honey, that’s actually not a song that I ever really sang to you….”

“Yes you did. Will you sing it to me one last time tonight?”

And like that I’m in tears. Over the end of a ritual that started at the same moment that it ended.

Keep Moving Forward…Into What?

When I was in law, I had reoccurring nightmares about climbing. Well…perhaps “nightmare” is too strong a word. But the gist of my almost-nightly subconscious wandering was that I was, in some way, shape, or form, climbing upward on something that was shaky. Either a wobbly ladder or poorly connected platforms or a broken escalator…. Always upward, and always on unsteady ground. Taylor Swift’s proverbial tilted stage.

My mind is clearly terrible at subtlety in its metaphors. The ground was slipping out from under me in my steady march up the ladder of success.

But for all of its wobbling uncertainty, upward was – and is – delightfully measurable. What is above. What is below. Who is above. Who is below. ~Height~ is so very quantifiable. Whether you are higher than you were last year. Whether you are higher than anyone or everyone else.

But forward. What is forward? What is backward or stagnant or forward when the process is a cycle and there is no finish line? We are told that baby steps in the right direction without knowing the ultimate destination are the way to approach these things – and really the way to approach life in general. And I accept and believe that with all of my heart. But particularly after more momentous and tangibly “right” changes or events – moves, job changes, completed races, and on and on – when the steps are big and clear and the progress is unmistakable – it’s easy to lose sight of what little steps and decisions are right and to what the monotony of the typical day contributes. What place does a day of cleaning and laundry and sick kids and packing lunches have in a life that is moving in the right direction? How do we keep from falling into a rut when the big moments aren’t happening and we are so consumed by the typical day-to-day chores that the bigger picture feels 1000 miles away?

To what extent does moving forward sometimes require nothing but for us to learn to be still?

I’ll never forget reading Karen Armstrong’s The Spiral Staircase years ago and the “a-ha moment” that I had when she described how the nuns’ strictly regimented outer life was meant to free the mind for larger, contemplative pursuits. That the simplification of our outward lives allows for grander internal endeavors. My head goes there when the monotony of daily regimens begins to take over. Let the repetitive tasks happen. Let your mind go.

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. That’s always seemed a little pompous to me, as some of the happiest people I know don’t seem to spend a ton of time waxing philosophical. But, to the extent that waxing philosophical is my lot in life (and let’s face it, it is), perhaps losing myself in the laundry isn’t the worst thing in the world.

I no longer have the OED at my fingertips, but a quick search defined “forward” as:

  • toward or at a place, point, or time in advance; onward (dictionary.com)
  • onward so as to make progress; toward a successful conclusion (Google dictionary)

And on and on….

Here I think it’s less about that conclusion or finish line and more about the never ending process of progress that precedes it. For a goal junkie, that loss of tangible “finishing” is perhaps the hardest part of leaving society’s definition of success and attempting to rewrite it yourself. And those times that follow the big leaps, when the days settle back into quiet and normal, can be the hardest. Especially when you can start to doubt your little steps because the bigger goals are such black boxes.

But perhaps learning to be still is, for many of us, an enormous part of moving forward.

Perhaps when we are feeling most lost it’s important to trust that, for all of its definitions, much like the Supreme Court and obscenity – forward is just something that we know when we see it. And, in truth, much like running, the joy and fulfillment is so much less in the finish line and so much more in the process.

IMG_0284

 

Eat This: Epcot Legacy Showplace at Epcot’s 2017 Food and Wine Festival

The old Odyssey building is home to food offerings of its own and some fabulous exhibits celebrating Epcot’s 35th anniversary at this year’s Food & Wine Festival.

If you don’t know where the Odyssey building is, you’ll find it on the walkway/bridges running from Future World East into World Showcase. This year they have 3 food items, one of which deserves your attention and your calorie allotment for the day….

  • Chilled Scotch Egg wrapped in Sausage with Mustard Sauce ($4)

Scotch Egg

So for those of you unfamiliar with Scotch Eggs, they’re basically a sausage wrapped hard boiled egg that is meant to be travel friendly and eaten at things like picnics. I’m just going to apologize to all of my UK friends right now. Because…nope. I don’t even care how ugly my picture of this thing is. It didn’t do it for me. As far as I can tell, you don’t even get a whole egg. And it’s chewy. Like, chewier than a hard boiled egg should be. It tastes like cold, leftover breakfast. And it’s breaded – so it’s not even like you’re low-carbing it when you eat one. The creamy mustard is pretty good –  but it’d be better on something else. Skip it and save room for…

  • Zesty Cheeseburger and Cheddar Cheese Macaroni Handwich ($5.50)

Handwich

Commmmme to momma…. This thing is RICH. You might want to block out time for a nap after you eat it. Mac and cheese and bits of burger piled high into a cone shaped soft pretzel. It speaks for itself. Eat it slowly while you stroll around the 35th anniversary exhibits in the building.

There’s also a third “food” item at Epcot Legacy Showplace. L’Orange Cotton Candy – a mixture of lime and orange cotton candy. Confession: I didn’t get it. I’m not a big cotton candy eater and feel like you guys could probably fend for yourselves out there on this one. Cotton candy is overpriced everywhere, so $4.75 doesn’t seem terrible if you’re into it. And this one is apparently French.  So mangez as you will….

Eat This: Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

There once was a time when I set my alarm for dawn 180 days out from our trips to book all of the hard to get ADRs. Now, on park days, I wake up in the morning and browse the Disney app with the kids to pick our day’s plans. Yesterday morning was a lazy-ish Sunday, so instead of running out the door early we did some stuff around the house and just grabbed an early dinner reservation at the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.

Beaches & Cream

To get to Beaches & Cream, you enter the lobby of Beach Club and walk toward Cape May, then around the back of it through the open hallway, which puts you out onto the patio area behind Beach Club’s amazing pool, Stormalong Bay (which it shares with the Yacht Club). You enter Beaches & Cream back there – through either the carryout door or the main restaurant door.

The main restaurant is tiny. I think I counted 10 total tables – 3 booths and 7 small round tables. Sort of explained why reservations can be so hard to get.

 

Try to get a seat near the jukebox in front if you can. You can pick the songs that are played. I think my kids enjoyed that at least as much as the meal.

There was a lot of Sugar, Sugar and Lama Rama Ding Dong going on while we were eating. If anyone reading this was there, I apologize.

Beaches & Cream Menu

The menu is, not surprisingly, no frills 50s style diner fare. Burgers and club sandwiches, meatloaf and a Reuben. It was chilly outside and it was on the menu, so I opted for the grilled cheese and tomato bisque. All sandwiches are served with fries or fruit. I opted for the fries and upgraded them to chili cheese. Because, you know, research.

In the distance you can see the kids’ hot dog and mac n cheese. I’m not bothering with close up pictures. They were, in short, a hot dog and mac n cheese.

The grilled cheese was basically a solid grilled cheese. The tomato bisque served its dipping purpose. The fries were good enough fries covered in chili and cheese sauce.  It was a good, inexpensive (the grilled cheese and bisque were $12), chill meal eaten to the tune of jukebox music just behind Stormalong Bay. If you’re deciding between this and Victoria & Albert’s, you’ve…well, you’ve got more trip research to do – but if you want a chill meal during an Epcot or Hollywood Studios day or while you’re poolside at Stormalong, it’s a great option.

But we all know Beaches & Cream isn’t really about the savory dishes. So I did you guys a solid and took at quick look at the dessert menu…

Beaches & Cream Menu 2

…before ordering the Kitchen Sink. You guys – I don’t even like ice cream that much and was alone with my two skinny kids, so this was hilarious. When they bring it out they put these yellow siren-style lights on and the waitress makes a big announcement to the whole restaurant, which dutifully chants back “A WHOLE CAN??” to the information about just how much whipped cream is in this thing.

Beaches & Cream Kitchen Sink

That’s right. The Kitchen Sink is served in an actual “kitchen sink” style bowl that houses massive scoops of vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream, and mint chocolate chip ice cream, an entire can of whipped cream, massive chunks of cake and brownies, Oreos, maraschino cherries, and “every other topping” that the restaurant has – which seems to include gummy orange wedges, peanut butter, bananas, chocolate sauce, various chips and sprinkles and God knows what else. At $32, it was more than all three of our dinners combined, but it claims to serve 4 people and that seems like a low estimate. After eating for approximately 3 hours, it looked like this:

Beaches & Cream Kitchen Sink After

I don’t even think we’d really hit ice cream yet. People at other tables might have been laughing at us. I also might have been laughing.

So, in short, if you want a really chill meal in an out of the way spot at a great resort, hit up Beaches & Cream. Especially if you love ice cream. With the Food & Wine Festival currently around the corner at Epcot, I’d usually have trouble justifying it – but it was perfect for us last night.

We’d planned on heading into Epcot for Illuminations afterwards but it was unseasonably chilly and I figured just as well not to push it on a school night. So instead the boys toasted marshmallows at the Beach Club campfire and played on the beach for awhile before we headed home. I befriended a lovely couple from Jersey whose child took a liking to me and the boys played with his older sister in the sand. Those little pinch-me moments overlooking Crescent Lake and the Boardwalk are my favorites these days.

Beaches & Cream Boardwalk View 2

Review (and Mood Lightening): I Tried Madison Reed So You Don’t Have To – But Maybe You Should…

Preface: The response to my last post, wherein I start to share the story of my exit from law and move to Florida, has been extraordinary. The number of people who have read it, shared it, and reached out has filled my heart and, in its own way, bolstered my own move forward. If you have read it and it touched you please, PLEASE don’t hesitate to share it and to reach out. If you *have* reached out and I haven’t properly responded yet, please know that it’s because you were one of the messages that I wanted to give full time and attention and life hasn’t permitted that just yet. I have read every response, private message, and email, and every one has touched me.

So, all of that said, I have some processing to do before I revisit the heavier stuff and don’t want that to immobilize me in the meantime.

So let’s get very, very light and review some brilliantly Facebook advertised hair color.

Before I dig into this, I’ll acknowledge that I respect a smartly marketed product. I love my Squatty Potty and the rainbow pooping unicorn that talked me into trying it. So when Madison Reed got my attention with their clever time lapse videos, I knew I’d be giving it a whirl.

To be clear, short of the occasional highlights, I color my own hair – and I haven’t even been doing that much for long. My wedding hair stylist joked that I probably had the last head of virgin hair in Maryland’s tri-state area. Short of some experiments with black and strawberry blonde in my freshman year of college when I’d cut my hair boy-short and was messing around, my color has generally been au naturale.

Then I quit my corporate gig and had the freedom to put a little very temporary pink in it.

Pink Streak Hair

Then I went to D23 and cosplayed as Gamora. I #$%$ing love her. And her red hair.

Gamora Cosplay

Then back to brown…..but then I hit Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and my 4 year old was dead set on Spider-Man. Which was awesome. So I went as Black Widow. Red again.

Black Widow Cosplay

My hair was tiiiiired. And I didn’t really want to grab a box of light brownish off the shelf. And Facebook kept running these eye catching ads with time lapse videos and everyday people shaking out their shiny hair. So I hit up Ulta and had a text message convo in the aisle.

I had Lucca (Light Golden Brown) in my hand before I even noticed the text message thing so I was convinced enough..

After the kids went to bed (and before returning to my Stranger Things 2 binge) I broke the box open.

Around this time was when I acknowledged to myself that something was squicking me out. And then I realized that Madison Reed was sounding like Ashley Madison to me. So I acknowledged that and moved on – perhaps with the knowledge that Madison isn’t a great part of a brand name just yet. #toosoon

You’re supposed to divide your hair into sections and then apply the color one section at a time. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I applied the barrier cream from the little packet and soldiered on. I should say, though, that it smelled AMAZING and had the loveliest consistency. I might have briefly wondered if it would work as a makeup primer.

After mixing the right chemicals and shaking them up, I started to work my way around my hair.There was no smell at all, which was nice. I managed to get everything well coated, though the formula was thick and I could see someone with a ton of hair needing two kits. In any event, I finished up and used the cleaning wipe to wipe around my hair line after donning the provided shower cap.

I then let it sit for 45ish minutes. This was the extended time for “stubborn greys”, which I don’t really have, but more is more so there you go. There was no smell at all, though over time my scalp did start to itch the tiniest bit under the hair cap.

Madison Reed Hair Cap

At the end of the processing time, you’re supposed to throw on the second pair of provided gloves and hop in the shower to rinse completely. Then you wash and condition your hair with packets that were provided with the kit.

Then I got out and dried it.

I will say that in pictures the change is not overly dramatic (and I didn’t want dramatic), but overall the color is very vibrant and smoother – and my hair FEELS freaking AMAZING. I’m curious as to how that lasts, because I’m sure the provided shampoo and conditioner were intense treatments. Still, I just colored my hair like 30 minutes ago and it’s so freakishly soft and shiny and swingy that I can’t stop touching it.

So I’ll update. But in the meantime I really loved this stuff. And I needed to break the intensity for a minute. So I shared my shiny, swingy hair with you.

This is, of course, not endorsed. I just genuinely liked the stuff.

xoxx

 

How I Ended Up Leaving Big Law and Moving to Disney World

“Just put a date on the calendar. I don’t care if it’s two weeks from now or two years from now. Just put it down. And then spend whatever span of time exists between now and then wrapping your head around this. Because it’s going to be hard.”

It ended up being just about 6 months from that day. It also ended up being hard.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I graduated from Harvard Law in the spring of 2004, bright eyed and ready to throw my type A personality into a world of corporate law where I’d perhaps spend forever or perhaps spend a brief amount of time. I was looking forward to being still in one pursuit and actually didn’t choose one particular very prestigious law firm because they asked me, at the interview, what my plans were for after I’d leave them. (Of course the fact that an associate there cried during his interview of me didn’t help either….) I packed up my things in Cambridge, said lots of tearful farewells, and was moved by my chosen firm into my new apartment in NYC – which I shared with a dear law school friend whom I would almost never see because 99% of my time would be spent in the office.

Then life started to happen.

Truth be told, I loved aspects of what I did. Playing with the English language was always my jam. I dare someone to give me a mathematical formula that I can’t memorialize in contract-speak. The people were brilliant. The deals were bigger than my young self could wrap her head around. I worked so. damned. hard. and I was proud of the work that I was putting out and the respect that I was getting. But it didn’t fulfill me and when you’re billing 400 hour months, you’re screwed if it doesn’t fulfill you. I envied the people that were fulfilled. It would have all been so EASY if I was fulfilled.

But life kept happening.

I met a wonderful man. He had a lucrative trucking company but had regrets about never dedicating himself to academics. And we had the means! If we had anything, we had means. So we committed to each other and he enrolled to finish his degree. We got engaged. We left Wall Street for DC. I took the Virginia bar and started a new practice at a new Big Law firm. The people were still brilliant. I was still proud of the work that I was putting out. But it still didn’t fulfill me. I still envied the people that were fulfilled. I was mentored by a wonderful, powerful, brilliant woman who was killing it in partnership. She seemed to outsource everything else in her life and was okay with it. I wouldn’t have been. Because the work itself wasn’t enough.

I know that the idea of being “fulfilled” is eyeroll inducing. I was raised by a father who told me to be grateful that I had work. And he was right – in a way. And to the degree that he wasn’t it didn’t matter because he was my dad and that was how I was raised. I had gone to Columbia and Harvard. I had a “great job”. My qualms about it must have been wrong. I was lucky and my internal dialogue must have been wrong.

I wasn’t getting any younger and I didn’t want to hold up the rest of my life while I figured out this pink elephant in the room, all consuming detail. We bought a house and had two children that were (and still are) my world.

But then my dad got sick. Shortly after the birth of my second child, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and life as I knew it stopped. The nightmare started.

There were no down times in my father’s fight against cancer. There were no quiet moments of togetherness. Acute leukemia in a sixty-something man is not a gentle disease. Over the course of 10 months I mothered my two young children, supported my family financially in corporate law, tried to support my mother emotionally and mentally, and screamed alone in my car while beating the steering wheel. Those 10 months were the sort of time that people on the outside look in on and say they “don’t know how you survived”. Like anyone in that sort of situation, the answer was that survival was the only option. I worked. I cried. I took care of my kids. I tried to be a good wife. I answered calls from my delirious father at 3 a.m. yelling that I’d abandoned him in the hospital and “WHY WASN’T I COMING TO GET HIM???” You just survive. You wake up in the morning and you do whatever you need to do to haul yourself and the people that you love through the day.

I used every tool I knew to keep a clear head. I ran. I meditated. I ate well. I meditated more. I ran more. And more. I ran until the chaos went away. I had never been a runner. But I ran because it was all that worked.

On February 20, 2014 – incidentally my 36th birthday – I got a call from my mom and my father’s oncologist. They were together in his office on speakerphone. The oncologist didn’t mince words.

“We are no longer prolonging your father’s life. We are prolonging his death.”

I was an only child. I was the decisive one. I had written my father’s advance directive. I had not one shred of doubt.

We did the terminal extubation the next day.

They gave him morphine for hours. When they pulled out the tube the sound was horrible. Something inhuman came out of my vocal chords too. I remember it vaguely. I remember falling. Then I remember standing back up. It was a moment of falling apart I’d allowed myself. Then I stood back up.

We started picking up the pieces. I kept working. We waded through the death-related mass of paperwork.

I kept working. I also kept running.

We started going back to Disney with the kids. My heart sang when I was there and ached when I left. I found out about a half marathon there that was exactly 2 years after the date of my father’s death.

I kept working. But I was training for something symbolic. I billed 400 hour months. I spent my younger son’s 2nd birthday closing a deal in a hotel room while my husband celebrated with them in other parts of the resort. But I was training for something symbolic.

On February 21, 2016 I ran the Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World. It was my f- you to the universe. I was still kicking. It was everything that I hoped it would be.

And then it was over and I went home. And I kept working. And I started to crumble inside.

My husband had finished his degree in mechanical engineering. No small feat for a man who’d reentered the academic world in his 40s, surrounded by kids who’d been raised on computers. He’d tried a responsible government job at the patent office. Then sales engineering. He could have made it work but none of it felt like him. He didn’t belong behind a desk. To an extent, trucking *had* been him. Now he had his degree and we knew what he was capable of but we also knew what felt right. The wheels started turning. Pun sort of intended.

Then I came home from that race and I kept working. And I crashed. I’d run the half. I’d said my f- you to the universe. But nothing had changed. I got on the phone with one of my best friends.

“We’re getting me out. Soon. We have to. I can’t take it anymore.”

“No. You’re not. You hate where you are but you’re not going to be  able to change it like that.” No matter how much I hated it, it was still a huge part of my identity. It was also how I put food on the table.

What is that Law of Inertia? An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Crisis and my own brute strength desperate determination would become that unbalanced force.

I had the fateful conversation with my friend. Put a date on the calendar and spend the time between now and then coming to terms with it and preparing financially. I wrote August 11th on the calendar. I bought my husband an 80-foot long car hauler. He went on the road. I took care of the kids and kept working. I banked every penny.

On July 28, 2016, I gave notice. I fought for my decision with the partnership for hours. I turned down the idea of a sabbatical because I knew I wouldn’t start to heal without a clean break. They said I would be miserable. I didn’t want to admit to them that I already was.

Ultimately I stretched my remaining time with the firm out for a bit to try to ease the transition. My last day of work was August 22, 2016. I came home and packed and we went to Disney later that week.

The process of detoxing from a life in Big Law is a subject for another day. The months following my exit were, and still are, the sort of soul searching difficult that does not sum up tidily or easily. I had ups and downs. I purged my house. I kept running. I started to allow myself to daydream about what might be next.

Suffice to say that after 13+ years in Big Law and everything else that those years encompassed, and with a dear husband who is now more often than not on the road for work, we found ourselves fully portable from a work perspective, staged and sold our Maryland home, and built a house in Florida immediately north of the Magic Kingdom.

Because when you are forced to wake up to how short life is, following your joy starts to make a lot more sense.

Eat This: China Booth – Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival 2017

I truly don’t know how or why it’s taken me so long to talk about the China booth at Epcot’s 2017 Food & Wine Festival. What I do know is that it’s a situation that needs to be remedied, as it’s one of my all around go to favorites at F&W this year.

So let’s not waste any more time than we already have…. I give you, China:

  • Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce ($6.50)

Duck Bao China Epcot Food and Wine

In retrospect, as I start this review, China is all about this insanely delicious duck bao bun. I’ve had it probably more times than any other single item at this year’s Food & Wine Festival and as I’m sitting here looking at this picture I would like to have it again. The bun is spongy and soft, the duck is lean and flavorful and well cooked. The veggies and onion add a subtle crunch and the hoisin sauce gives that kick of sweetness that hoisin sauce should.

  • Spicy Chicken Bao Bun ($5.25)

Epcot Food and Wine China Chicken

Another tasty bao bun, another day. This is a simple dish – just a fried finger of chicken with spicy sauce and green onions. It’s not the duck, but it’s a solid option.

  • Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles ($5.75)

Epcot Food and Wine China Shrimp 2

This is unapologetically just tasty Chinese food. The shrimp are tender and sitting on a bed of soft noodles, all of which are breath-defyingly garlicky. The sprinkling of green onions on top gives a nice little crunch. And they’re kind enough to provide a bottle of Sriracha sauce at the pickup window, which, like all Sriracha sauce, you should use, because it will make your life better.

  • Chicken Pot Stickers ($4)

Epcot Food and Wine China Dumplings 3

For some reason, all things dumpling have been calling my name lately – and these answered the call happily. Like many things at Food & Wine, they are simple and good and don’t need a book written about them. They just need to be eaten. Grab a set to go with your duck bao. Your taste buds will thank you.