Category Archives: Balance

At Least There’s A Rainbow Somewhere

So, I had this lovely bunch of Swiss chard thanks to my monthly farmers’ co-op delivery (and, yes, I had this blog which I rarely bothered to update as of late, but that’s another story). Ordering Swiss chard, especially rainbow Swiss chard, always seems like a good idea. Then, I pick it up, and wonder what on earth I’m going to do with it all.

Fortunately, the Epicurious site contained plenty of ideas for putting my newly-acquired greens to good use. After reading the reviews and checking out the time commitment for each recipe, I settled on Penne Pasta with Swiss Chard for our Sunday evening dinner. When I shared that idea with Adventure Guy, he asked, “Does it have meat?” The answer clearly needed to be “yes,” so I added Italian sausage to the originally vegetarian recipe. I think it would be good either way, but I have to admit I enjoyed the extra flavor from the sausage. I also added some chopped onion and pine nuts to the mix. The recipe below includes my adaptations,

Penne Pasta With Italian Sausage and Swiss Chard
Two links Italian Sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 c. water
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 large bunch rainbow Swiss chard
1 lb. penne pasta, cooked
1 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Remove stems from Swiss chard. Rinse and drain, then chop stems and leaves separately. Remove casings from sausage links and cook sausage and half of onions until sausage is well-browned. Drain and set aside in a separate bowl. Retain pan drippings and add remaining onion, garlic, pine nuts, and red pepper flakes to pan. Sauté until onions are transparent. Add half of the water and deglaze pan. Place chopped stems in pan, cover, and cook over low heat for five minutes. Stir and then add leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook another five minutes. Add drained tomatoes, and sausage to chard mixture. Stir well and cook until warmed through. Add to cooked pasta and stir well to combine. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.Top individual bowls with the remaining cheese.

My family all loved this meal. It was fast and easy, and I’ll definitely be serving it again soon.

And now on to other things…like my lack of posting. I’m not sure anyone wants to read about school budget cuts and the stress of ending the semester in both my work life and my student life. There have been long meetings, longer classes, papers to write. Somewhere along the way, blogging began to feel like that proverbial “one more thing.”

So I didn’t do it. I also didn’t feel guilty about it, hence the lack of the traditional apology for neglecting things here so long. Rather unusually for me, I decided there was no need for guilt regarding something that is intended to be fun.

And, speaking of fun. I have to admit to getting quite a thrill out of my most recent comment. Gabrielle Burton stopped by to comment on my review of her book, Searching for Tamsen Donner.  I appreciate knowing that my words aren’t travelling out into space without any readers, even if I am a neglectful writer as of late.


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A Tale of Two Tables

Take a few minutes to watch Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk about why we have too few women leaders.  Ms. Sandberg serves as the COO for Facebook and focuses on three key reasons women make up 50 percent of the population but only a fraction of that number of the top executives and office holders:

  1. Women don’t “sit at the table.”  Women remain less likely to negotiate or advocate for themselves and attribute their success to outside factors rather than to their own talents. Even worse, society views powerful, successful women negatively while viewing men who demonstrate the same traits positively.
  2. Women continue to do more housework and childcare than do their partners, leaving less time to focus on their careers.
  3. Women “leave before they leave,” making both conscious and unconscious career decisions based on the possibility of future family commitments.

This talk dovetails nicely with my current book, Big Girls Don’t Cry, an analysis of the 2008 election by Rebecca Traister.  Though I’m not finished yet, the theme of the hardworking woman usurped by the young, attractive man shines through loud and clear.  When it comes to the negative connotations associated with powerful women, think of Barack Obama damning Hillary Clinton with the faint praise of being, “likable enough.”

Near the end of her talk, Sandberg states that our generation of women will not equalize leadership positions between genders.  The numbers just don’t hold out any hope, and, in fact, are currently in decline.  Instead, we pass on that challenge to our daughters. 

In thinking about the example I set for my own teenage daughters, I can’t help but think about the ways in which I do and do not fall in line with Sandberg’s characterizations.  I hold a job that falls into the upper echelon in my chosen field, and my goal involves ending my career in the superintendent’s chair.  That said, I think I too am likeable enough, and I value the connections I make with people who work for and with me.  On the flip side, I am secure in my own opinions and confident in my abilities, particularly my academic abilities–traits that, according to Sandberg, read more male than female.

Adventure Guy and I also part ways with the norm in our household and childcare arrangements.  On the cleaning front, we both vastly prefer delegating the heavy lifting to others.  When our budget hasn’t allowed for that, Adventure Guy took on an equal amount of the load, demonstrating his often vastly superior skills.  The proof?  Upon receiving one of those toy vacuums with the popping balls inside for Christmas, two-year-old DD1 exclaimed, “Now I can vacuum, just like Daddy!” He also took on equal childcare duties right from the start, providing all the morning care for DD1 once I returned to work.  He got used to dressing, feeding, and dropping off our new little girl at daycare, and I got used to resisting the urge to criticize his efforts, particularly in the baby wardrobe arena.  Our childcare arrangements evolved over time, but, even now, we balance carpooling and extracurricular support duties between the two of us.

So, two out of three stereotypes avoided.  But then there’s number three.  An honest assessment of my career decisions demonstrate some distinct “leaving before I left” behavior. After meeting Adventure guy, I chose the traditionally female-dominated teaching field over the career in law I planned growing up.  Law school would have meant delaying marriage for three years since Adventure Guy’s then job involved frequent moves.  And, as plenty of people told me, I could teach anywhere.  I also considered the relative flexibility teaching provides as compared to the demands placed on law firm associates, knowing that I planned to have children sooner rather than later.

That’s where the stereotype gets all mixed up.  I chose to continue my education after all, entering a masters program in school administration just before learning of my first pregnancy.  I didn’t pass up the opportunity to move out of the classroom and into an instructional coaching position when DD1 was around two.  I took my first job in administration with a 1-year-old Soccer Boy, 4-year-old DD2, and 6-year-old DD1 in tow.  But I also waited thirteen years to begin a doctoral program–the key to that piece of paper that unlocks the next rung of the ladder in my field–because I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen while raising small kids and wrangling 2200 high school kids on a day-to-day basis.

I will likely fail to become the master of my domain as quickly as my male counterparts.  I suppose I could spend more time worrying about that.  Instead, I plan to stay the course, all while taking every opportunity to enjoy the family I’ve built alongside my career.  Because my guess is work will be around long after I have three empty spaces at the most important table–the one my family gathers around for dinner.


Filed under Balance, Kids, Marriage

Advent Conspiracy Update

To mark this mid-point of the Advent season, I thought I’d give an update on my efforts to observe the tenets of The Advent Conspiracy

The challenge? During the month prior to Christmas

  • Worship Fully
  • Spend Less
  • Give More
  • Love All

Thanks to Soccer Boy, I’ve succeeded in worshiping more fully these last two weeks.  Adventure Guy and I have a tendency to indulge our desire to sleep in on Sunday morning from time to time, choosing to go only to Sunday School rather than the earlier church service.  While I believe this serves the noble purpose of making us happier, well-rested people when done occasionally, recently we’d slipped into the habit of doing this more Sundays than not.

It wasn’t until Soccer Boy needed to be at church earlier than usual the last two weeks that I realized how much I’d missed the worship experience.  I am particularly enjoying our singing of more traditional seasonal hymns along with the more contemporary worship music.  They remind me of my childhood and the long history of Christmas celebration. 

Soccer Boy also allowed me to meet a portion of the Love All challenge.  The tween group at our church supports The Heifer Project, an organization that promotes sustainable farming practices.  Not only did I get to see Soccer Boy dressed up as a cow to promote the initiative, but I also purchased part of a llama to be sent to a family in need. 

The give more portion of the challenge revolves around giving time, not money, of taking the opportunity to relax and enjoy those we love rather than allowing the pressures that often accompany this time of year to get the best of us.  I find that piece to be the most challenging. 

I struggle at times with the urge toward perfectionism.  And that ends up making my family a bit crazy rather instead of happy. I’m proud to report that my efforts in this area are going well.  I didn’t put out quite as many decorations as I sometimes do, and I decorated over two days rather than launching an all-out frontal assault on all unadorned surfaces.  I told Adventure Guy not to bother with putting lights along the roof line, freeing him from the need to execute his annual death-defying moves in below-freezing temperatures.  We also decided it wasn’t worth rushing to get the tree up before we host the Sunday school class party Friday night.  We’ll go back to that “give more” idea instead and choose a time when we can leisurely select and decorate a tree with the kids.

So, that’s where I stand so far.  I have to say, I’m pleased with the overall effect.  While I still have a few more tasks on my holiday “to do” list, I find that I’m looking forward to them rather than merely ticking them off.  Soon, I’ll be addressing cards (wrote the Christmas letter tonight!) and making a list and checking it twice for needed cookie and candy ingredients.

Which brings me to my closing questions.  What is your favorite holiday treat? and If you had to choose only one holiday tradition to observe this year, what would it be?

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‘Tis A Gift

Tonight’s school board meeting rated a perfect score in my book (well, actually, I guess it was on my feedback form).  Though it had its highs (approval of the bid package on an exciting new building project that’s been in the works for several years) and lows (a budget update about the funding cuts predicted for our state), it was sheer efficiency that made it a winner.  We completed our work in one hour and ten minutes, which has to be an all-time best.

And, yes, I’ll admit to a degree of excitement any time I have a shorter-than-average evening meeting.  But tonight, I had reason for celebration when I pulled out of the parking lot.  The bright lights of Soccer Boy’s much-anticipated evening game beckoned from the field, only a few miles from the Board room. I skipped the usual post-meeting small talk and followed the call.

As I rounded the corner from the parking lot, thankful I’d worn chunkier heels today rather than those more likely to sink into the turf, I looked up just in time to see our team score.  Hurrying to the sidelines, I learned that the score stood at 1-0.  Soccer Boy played the rest of the half as goalie, holding on to the shutout.  At the break, he rotated out of goal so he could get some regular playing time.  His sub held strong as well, and the team won 2-0. 

My unexpected opportunity to catch the game made Soccer Boy as happy as it did me.  We celebrated with dinner out and the chance to hear firsthand about Adventure Guy’s experience running the New York Marathon this weekend. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make it a great day. 



Filed under Balance, Kids, Work

September Shoes of the Month

At one point today I looked at one of my coworkers and asked, “Does anything actually work the way it’s supposed to around here anymore?”

It was a bad day.  In a bad week.  In a bad month.  In what’s shaping up to be a bad school year.  As a typically optimistic person, I’ve told myself for weeks now that things were bound to get better.  Now?  I’m not so sure.  I seem to be in a constant state of too much to do with too little time to do it.  All around me, others also seem in need of being talked down from the edge.  But somehow company is not lessening my misery.

So tonight, I did what any reasonable person would.  First I went shoe shopping (courtesy of my excellent deal at a recent charity auction where I purchased a year’s worth of monthly shoe gift certificates), and then I went out for Mexican food with my lovely husband who knows when to buy a girl a top shelf margarita.

Year of Shoes Purchase Number One

Year of Shoes Purchase Number One


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The Depths of Summer

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.  ~Sam Keen

According to Keen, we’ve reached the height of respectability here in Suburbia.    June seemed to be a whirlwind of activity, what with the kids playing their hearts out at camp and the grownups taking advantage of the time to do some travelling.  It’s amazing how vacationing can be taxing in itself. 

But now we’ve gotten into the summer at home groove. The kids hang out at the neighborhood pool, ride their bikes, chase the occasional ice cream truck, and, in the case of Soccer Boy, launch epic Nerf battles with the neighborhood boys. Throw in a few activities here and there, like Golf and Tennis day camp for Soccer Boy, cross country practice and SAT prep for DD1, and dance technique class for DD2, along with a lovely lack of scheduled weekend activities, and we’ve found a nice balance.

But in the midst of our laziness, DD1 is marking the days until she receives her learner’s permit (6 and counting, for the record), and DD2 has an important countdown of her own going as she awaits the day she’ll officially make me the mother of two teenagers (11 and counting, again for the record). That gives us a buzz of excitement around here that will take us right on into the school year, which begins August 13.

My goal is to hold tight to the relaxed frame of mind as my work schedule picks up between now and the first of August.  To help do so, I take three-day weekends during the month of July.  It’s amazing what that extra day does in the realm of keeping up with the general household chores and duties.  I found myself with time this weekend to read, hang out at the pool, and make The Pioneer Woman’s fabulous home made Blackberry ice cream.  I managed to savor that last activity right on into tonight when I finished the last bite.  And, with that in mind, it’s likely a good thing that my summer schedule also includes a renewed dedication to my work at the gym!

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Dream House

Maybe you’re just like my mother.  She’s never satisfied. ~Prince

I’ve never really understood all the lyrics to When Doves Cry, but the line above always leaped out at me.  Ironically, not because of my own mother’s expectations.  No, that line resonates because I find myself too often unsatisfied.  I’m the one who’s always after the next accomplishment, the better title, the latest “must-have” item.  And, to some extent that drive leads to positive things.  I wouldn’t be where I am professionally without it.  On the other hand, my credit card balance could certainly benefit from a shopping moratorium.

But, a bigger source of nagging dissatisfaction bubbled it’s way into my consciousness today when a wonderful post by Sock Girl at Old Blue Socks got me thinking about my constant, ongoing search for real estate.  Granted we’ve lived in our current home for twelve years now.  But I’ve been actively looking for a different one on and off for at least seven of those years.  Online searches, open houses, and even the occasional round of official looking with a realtor–all coming to naught so far.

Here’s the problem.  I really love the floor plan of our house.  It suits our needs well.  The challenge?  We’d like a larger lot, preferably one that already has a pool or the room to add one.  I feel this “need” both literally and figuratively on hot summer days like the ones we’ve been suffering through in Suburbia lately. 

Prior to the economy’s recent nosedive, Adventure Guy and I went so far as to get some proposals from pool companies.  During our updates last year, we decided putting in a pool made a lot more sense than moving, especially since we hadn’t found anything we really liked for less than several hundred thousand dollars more than what we could get for our current home.  Unfortunately, our cash flow has become a bit lacking now, considering that a large part of Adventure Guy’s earnings come from sales commissions.  And a pool falls squarely into the luxury category.

I’m working really hard on practicing delayed gratification.  After all, we’re constantly reminding the kids that we need to be happy with what we have, asking them to appreciate how blessed we are in the scheme of things.  No, we’re not the richest people they know, but we’re certainly not the poorest either, and we’re so fortunate that both Adventure Guy and I have good jobs in this tough economy.

In so many ways, I realize coveting a pool is awfully shallow (no, I really didn’t mean that as a pun).  I felt this even more strongly when I read Sock Girl’s beautiful description of her dream home, a description that captures many of the features of my current home.

My dream house is not a mansion.  It is roomy though, but not so large that I couldn’t clean it easily myself.  It has a modest garden, or window boxes… just enough to make it pretty, but wouldn’t make me feel like I needed a team of gardeners to keep up with or like a failure when I don’t.  It has a washer and dryer that is not in the basement.  It has storage and big closets.  There are at least three bedrooms (though a spare would be a bonus) and there is room to do more than just walk around the furniture.  It has shelves and cupboards and drawers that work, and all our stuff is in those things.  There is room to bake.  And a welcoming place to take off your boots. And lots of windows.  Maybe there is a deck, or a porch, or even just bench outside to read and think and stretch one’s imagination.  It feels like home. ~Sock Girl

Thanks for the reminder, Sock Girl. My current abode may not be the ultimate dream house, but I know I’m fortunate to have it and even more fortunate to live here with the people who make our house a home.

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The Get Away

According to the records at the boarding kennel, our Labrador retriever gained 26 pounds this year.  Fortunately, I have not followed suit.  In fact, I actually lost about six pounds this week.  Don’t worry, I’m not on some crazy fad diet.  The loss came entirely in the form of my laptop.

In a bold move, I went on vacation without it.  Okay, I’ll admit this feat would have been even more impressive if I hadn’t had full access to Facebook, Twitter, email, online camp photos, and the occasional blog on my iPhone.  But, nonetheless, I went five entire days without  stooping to tackling Adventure Guy and taking over his computer.

So what did I do with my free time?  Let’s see, I finished the book I took on the outbound flight, read two more while lying by the pool, and got a good start on a fourth during the trip home.  I fit in a lovely hot stone massage and added on a bonus scalp massage and conditioning treatment.  I chose the long road from Scottsdale to Sedona, taking in the amazing scenery and enjoying every minute of uninterrupted time with my husband.  I ate great food on patios across Arizona and sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon during an impromptu side trip.

In short, this vacation was just what I needed.

On The Road

On The Road


Filed under Balance, Life in General, Marriage

Forget About April

Life is crazy.  Forget about April being the cruelest month. T. S. Eliot clearly didn’t have three school-aged children and a job in school administration–all of which mean never having to be bored in May. We’ve got two weeks and counting before school is over and it’s time to put the kids on the bus to camp on June 1. 

Before then, we’ll be wrapping up Soccer Boy’s last year of elementary school with lots of special events to mark the occasion.  DD1 and DD2 both had their spring concerts–orchestra and vocal music, respectively.  I’ve been buying poster board and random supplies right and left for class projects, and DD1 is gearing up for finals.  Did I mention, we’re throwing in DD2’s confirmation and dance recital for good measure this Sunday?  That means extra practices both at church and the dance studio, plus finagling the schedule so that DD2 makes both events on time.

And that’s just the kids.  I’ve made the rounds of PTA spring luncheons, attended my very last Junior League Board and General meetings (and gotten the silver tray for 10 years of active service to prove it), filed year-end reports for multiple projects, run more meetings than I can count in an effort to wrap up the rest of the school year, and turned in my last paper for my first doctoral class.

Amidst all that, I have company coming in this weekend.  My parents will be joining us for DD2’s confirmation and recital and hopefully get to see a couple of games for Soccer Boy–if, that is, this interminable streak of rain ever ends. In classic fashion, we will not be celebrating DD2’s confirmation in the same fashion as DD1’s

I had good intentions, really.  I even have a ham in the freezer for that planned brunch.  But when I started looking at schedules and doing the math for travel time between church and performing arts center, I decided taking MIL up on her invitation to do brunch at the club was the way to go. 

So someone else will do the cooking on Sunday.  That leaves Saturday night to cover.  Anyone have good suggestions for an easy meal to please a crowd?  I think it’s about time I darkened the door of the grocery store again.

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Counting Down

Life in Suburbia runs along more of less smoothly by way of iPhones, Outlook calendars, text messaging, and, above all, the master family calendar that resides on the bulletin board in our laundry room.  If it’s not on the calendar, we haven’t committed to it.

As I walked in tonight from yet another meeting (it comes with the territory here at the end of the school year), I spotted Soccer Boy’s addition.


Yes, May 29th marks the last day of school.  I’m sure Soccer Boy thought this was pretty funny.  I imagine he thinks the kids are the only ones who feel that way, as well.  I’ll try not to let him in on the secret that his teachers will be just as happy, if not more so, to see that Friday roll around.

And, after seeing what lies between now and then on the rest of the calendar, I’m looking forward to the end of the month too!


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