Thursday, March 26, 2009

Every Day I Wonder

Every morning on my walk to work I pass by this dinner. It's usually flooded - men in suits, women pushing strollers, older individuals in smart, business casual clothing. I see these people at 9 AM on a weekday, enjoying a leisurely breakfast, and I wonder... What on earth they do to maintain a lifestyle that allows these mornings?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From One Chore to Another

The light was perfect tonight. Views from the grocery store to the gym:

Monday, March 23, 2009


Today a couple of my colleagues are coming over to do some strategic planning for FY10. I'm excited to have these women over because (1) it's always nice to get out of the office and (2) they are friends as well as colleagues, so it's fun to share our apartment with them.

Growing up, at least once a year, my mom would host her office at our house for a strategic planning session or a full day training of one sort or another. She would spend the day before cleaning up, cooking and baking, organizing, pulling markers and flip charts and ideas together. The day of our basement would fill with people and throughout the day the house would be alive with all their energy. Occasionally we'd hear laughter, or our mom's voice talking through some ideas, or people mixing and mingling. Everyone (including my mom) seemed to be in a very chipper mood, happy it seemed to be breaking the daily routine. At the time, I didn't realize at the time what a unique and personal approach this was. Mom opened up our house to her colleagues, inviting everyone into a welcoming, creative environment.

Leaving the office to think long-term about what your office hopes to achieve seems a necessary step to thinking outside the box. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

And another thing...

My husband got sworn into the New York Bar on Monday!

Active Recovery

Will 2009 be the fastest year on record? I hope so, because so far time has flown so quickly it's hard to remember that I want to enjoy this. I can't believe we're already at the tail end of March (!!!)...

About a minute after describing the pleasures I take in long-distance runs, my knee decided it might not be interested in running a half-marathon after all. Last weekend I had to stop 3.5-miles in, cutting my run in half, because the pain in my left knee was just too much.

So this past week has been about an active recovery. I have taken a week off of the gym, in an effort to give my IT band some time to heal and relax. And instead of logging hours at the gym, I spent time with family and friends. My cousin-in-law came to town for a delicious Thai dinner; my colleagues from Mt. Sinai filled me with good news (one is pregnant) and an odd pineapple & tequila concoction; and some friends from Brooklyn spent an evening with Michael and I in a basement bar in the West Village. The steady stream of company didn't allow for much rest, but it felt emotionally restorative somehow.

This afternoon I went for a lovely, leisurely walk down by the water:

The active recovery continues...

Instant Gratification


A healthy reminder from The Ten-Year Nap:
"But mostly, though, he knew that if you longed for what you did not have, then you would be one of those unhappy people you could find anywhere in any setting, the ones who couldn't appreciate what they had as long as they saw something they did not have."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Where does it all go?

This week, I have spent the following hours with my husband:
  • Monday: 9 – 11 PM (2 hours)
  • Tuesday: 8 – 11 PM (3 hours)
  • Wednesday: 9 – 11 PM (2 hours)

In three days, I have spent 7 hours with my husband – less time, in fact, than I spend with my colleagues in ONE work day. I don’t understand how we are all supposed to be okay with this. What makes this alright?

Monday, March 2, 2009


This morning, I woke up to a city blanketed in snow. For the first time in five years, city schools were closed for a snow day! It was stunning - and incredibly hard to leave the apartment to go to work. As I packed up my bag, put on my winter wears and said goodbye to Michael, I was fighting a bad mood.

On my walk in, though, everything changed. The walk was just beautiful - cold, sure, but brisk and exciting. Snow brings such a unique and rare silence to the city, and it was great to bask in that for a bit. But what really did it was this week's essay for "This I Believe." About halfway through my walk in, I turned on NPR to hear Russel Honore read his essay titled "Work is a Blessing." It was the perfect challenge for a Monday morning. Here it is:
I grew up in Lakeland, La., one of 12 children. We all lived on my parents' subsistence farm. We grew cotton, sugar cane, corn, hogs, chickens and had a large garden, but it didn't bring in much cash. So when I was 12, I got a part-time job on a dairy farm down the road, helping to milk cows. We milked 65 cows at 5 in the morning and again at 2 in afternoon, seven days a week.

In the kitchen one Saturday before daylight, I remember complaining to my father and grandfather about having to go milk those cows. My father said, "Ya know, boy, to work is a blessing."

I looked at those two men who'd worked harder than I ever had — my father eking out a living on that farm and my grandfather farming and working as a carpenter during the Depression. I had a feeling I had been told something really important, but it took many years before it sank in.

Going to college was a rare privilege for a kid from Lakeland. My father told me if I picked something to study that I liked doing, I'd always look forward to my work. But he also added, "Even having a job you hate is better than not having a job at all." I wanted to be a farmer, but I joined the ROTC program to help pay for college. And what started out as an obligation to the Army became a way of life that I stayed committed to for 37 years, three months and three days.

In the late 1980s, during a visit to Bangladesh, I saw a woman with a baby on her back, breaking bricks with a hammer. I asked a Bangladesh military escort why they weren't using a machine, which would have been a lot easier. He told me a machine would put that lady out of work. Breaking those bricks meant she'd earn enough money to feed herself and her baby that day. And as bad as that woman's job was, it was enough to keep a small family alive. It reminded me of my father's words: To work is a blessing.

Serving in the U.S. Army overseas, I saw a lot of people like that woman in Bangladesh. And I have come to believe that people without jobs are not free. They are victims of crime, the ideology of terrorism, poor health, depression and social unrest. These victims become the illegal immigrants, the slaves of human trafficking, the drug dealers, the street gang members. I've seen it over and over again on the U.S. border, in Somalia, the Congo, Afghanistan and in New Orleans. People who have jobs can have a home, send their kids to school, develop a sense of pride, contribute to the good of the community, and even help others. When we can work, we're free. We're blessed.

I don't think I'll ever quit working. I'm retired from the Army, but I'm still working to help people be prepared for disaster. And I may get to do a little farming someday, too. I'm not going to stop. I believe in my father's words. I believe in the blessing of work.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Long Haul

I'm planning on running a half marathon for my 29th birthday! In preparation, I'll be spending the next few Saturday afternoons running progressively longer distances in Central Park. This week was 6 miles, next week 7, and up and up until I run the 13.1 miles of the half on my birthday.

I've been surprised over the past couple of weeks at how genuinely enjoyable these long runs have been. Unlike most of my other workouts, this one seems more relaxed. Without an instructor yelling at me, or my husband nearby to impress, I'm able to be a little less aggressive. As I run, I am calm, relaxed, and just enjoying the time outdoors in Central Park. It's been a wonderful addition to the weekend. Of course, we'll see what I say when I'm up to 11 and 12 miles...

Several years ago, on the eve of my very first running race, I spoke with a good friend who is an avid runner. She encouraged me to think of exercise as a way of praising God for giving us lungs that work, legs that move, muscles that power our bodies. It's hard to remember that in the midst of a challenging gym class. But it seems a natural observation while circling Central Park.


Great pieces in the Times today from Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd!