The Case for Adequacy

I read an article in The New York Times the other day in which a CEO of an insurance company was interviewed about her career development, management style, and hiring techniques. She said that, from childhood, her parents had instilled in her and her siblings that “mediocrity is not a good place to be.” That guidance had clearly impacted her, as she demonstrated leadership skills early on and has had a very successful career (she was being interviewed by The New York Times, after all!).

I found myself nodding along with the interview. That’s right, I thought. Mediocrity is a not a good place to be.

Only, sometimes, it is.

the case for adequacyI have come to this idea only recently, and it’s been difficult to embrace. As a self-described Type A, being mediocre isn’t in my DNA. Doing an adequate—as opposed to excellent—job in any and all aspects of my life—in my career, at home, in the larger world—doesn’t sit right with me.

But the past three months, I found myself repeating an unusual mantra over and over:

Adequacy is okay.
Adequacy is okay.
Adequacy is okay.

This three-word phrase—something I never would have thought I’d say (or think)—became my saving grace during the days and weeks when I was convinced I was failing, messing up everything because there was too much to do and not enough me.

This mantra founds its origins in my career: my manager, the head of the nonprofit organization where I’ve work for more than a decade, went on parental leave and I was asked to take on her duties, as well as my own. I didn’t hesitate to say yes; I was happy to help out by giving her the support she needed to go on leave and to be there for my colleagues who needed someone to temporarily step up in the top role.

For the first few weeks, I did the best I could, and things worked out. I largely held everything together.

After those first few weeks, though, I realized I wasn’t holding things together that well after all. Our household paperwork and to dos piled up, the house was messy, the clothes were washed but left the laundry basket, I was more stressed out and impatient, I pushed back deadlines at work because I couldn’t meet them, I rescheduled meetings, I missed events for the kids, I never scheduled the playdates they desperately wanted, mail went unanswered, and I didn’t respond to emails from friends. I was tired. I didn’t have the bandwidth to talk with my husband about anything other than our kids. I was disappointed in myself. I felt guilty about everything.

Then, I realized something profound: my priority—at least during this time—wasn’t to be amazing or excellent. Rather, it was to do what was most important, which, in my case, was to make sure my family was cared for, to hold down the fort at work, and to keep myself healthy.

I didn’t have to excel in every area of my life. Adequacy was okay. I could float in mediocrity for a little while, until the seas calmed down.

I could be adequate, mediocre even, for the things that were not “mission critical” (who says finding clean socks in the laundry basket instead of bedroom dresser is bad?), and good at the things that mattered to me, the things that sustained me, the things that gave my life meaning. (I should keep this in mind all the time, shouldn’t I?)

Once I made a case for adequacy and once I accepted it, I felt better. I may have achieved less during the time my manager was on leave, but the achievements I did reach were grounded in my best effort, and that was important. Accepting adequacy was, at least for me, about doing the best I could at the time, and letting myself be okay with that.

My manager came back to work this week. I was thrilled to see her, happy to no longer need my mantra, though grateful for the lessons that came along with it.

Boston Ballet’s Thrill of Contact

I was invited by the Boston Ballet to attend the dress rehearsal of Thrill of Contact, the company’s latest performance, which you can see now at the Boston Opera House through May 24.

The dress rehearsal, held the night before the show opened to the public, was an impressive behind the scenes peek at the very hard work—and incredible talent—that goes into a ballet performance.

As a ballet novice—a fan, but a novice—witnessing the dress rehearsal was thrilling. I sat a few rows from the stage with other bloggers and media representatives, careful to stay out of the way of the director and production team who needed a clear line of vision to closely watch each lift, jeté, and pirouette in an effort to ensure that opening night would be perfect. After each performance, the director and the team went on stage to give notes, and, sometimes, the dancers ran through a sequence again to address a concern or to try it again with the music at a slightly different tempo.

Most of all, I loved how the dancers, in between performances, laughed and talked with one another or practiced their steps. In fact, by the end of the rehearsal, the edges of the stage were crowded with dancers, dressed in their street clothes with their hair still pulled back in buns, watching their colleagues perform, twirling about en pointe. I loved how they remained, even when their parts were over, to support one another, and I loved how genuinely excited they seemed to be to watch the performance. There was great unity among the members of the company, and that camaraderie comes through in their dancing.

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Theme and Variations, Thrill of Contact

Thrill of Contact includes four separate ballets and runs about two hours. The first ballet, Theme and Variations, features choreography by the great George Balanchine and beautiful music by Pete Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The most traditional in approach and feel of the performances during Thrill of Contact, Theme and Variations was so moving; I’ll admit to getting a little misty-eyed watching the dancers float and glide across the stage! With Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio in lead roles, many members of the corps contributed to this very successful ballet. It’s the kind of dance that makes people fall in love with ballet.

The second dance, fremd, has its world premier during Thrill of Contact. Choreographed by Jeffrey Cirio, a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet, fremd is set against music by Chopin, John Field, Byetone, and Aphex Twin. It’s a captivating, modern piece that’s a nice contrast to Theme and Variations.

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The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, Thrill of Contact

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The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, Thrill of Contact

The third dance, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, was one of my favorites. I loved the acid green tutus designed by Stephen Galloway and the stark backdrop. Choreographed by William Forsythe, the piece uses music by Franz Schubert for this, its Boston Ballet world premiere. The notes I scribbled on my Playbill to describe the piece—which features five dancers: Kathleen Breen Combes, Erica Cornejo, Misa Kuranaga, Bo Busby, and John Lam—were “infectious spirit,” “modern,” and “fresh.”

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The Concert, Thrill of Contact

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The Concert, Thrill of Contact

The final dance, The Concert, was choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with music by Frédéric Chopin. This one was so much fun, and it had those of us at the dress rehearsal laughing and smiling! Combining comedy with ballet is a winner in my book; it’s a twist on the more traditional form of ballet, making this art form accessible to first-time visitors as well as ballet aficionados. The Concert is playful and engaging, and kudos go to Ashley Ellis, Lasha Khozashvili, and Dusty Button who take lead roles in its execution.

Spring is a perfect time to go to the ballet! Truthfully, anytime is the perfect time to go to the ballet, but Thrill of Contact is only going on this spring in Boston. Don’t miss it.

Tickets for Thrill of Contact are on sale now at bostonballet.org. The show runs through May 24.

Disclosure: Thanks to the Boston Ballet for inviting me to this dress rehearsal!

A Weekend in Boerne Texas

Howdy, y’all!

A few weeks ago, my husband and I spent a weekend in Boerne, Texas for the wedding of one of my cousins. We met up with my brother and extended family for the nupitals which were held in this small town close to San Antonio, and the time away—59 hours to be precise—was an infrequent kid free weekend for us.

A kid free weekend meant that we did all the things that we never do when traveling with our son and daughter:

We slept past 6 AM.
We took an afternoon nap.
We caught up on our reading.
We had long, leisurely conversations about adult topics.

We didn’t go a children’s museum, watch cartoons, talk about Harry Potter, referee an explosion of sibling rivalry, or answer Star Wars trivia. We missed our kids, but, wow, those 59 hours were great.

The thing I love most about travel is determining what I want to do when. Not every person visits the same place and has the same experience. That makes travel exciting—your trip is all yours.

The wedding and associated gatherings were held in Boerne (pronounced Burn-ey), which is about 30 minutes from the San Antonio airport. In the area, you can find vineyards and antiquing; you can also have the quintessential Texas experience by shopping for cowboy gear or visiting a ranch. We, however, focused on catching up (it had been too long since I had last seen my brother) and eating.

Boerne, despite its small size, is home to some good eating establishments, and we tried three of them:

  • Little Gretel – This part of Texas was settled by German immigrants, and, as a result, authentic German cuisine can be found. We lunched at Little Gretel, sitting on its patio in the warm sun, partaking of their pretzel appetizer, crisp white wine, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and schnitzel. Yum.
  • Cypress Grille – This restaurant had been recommended by three of my relatives, so we headed there for dinner on Saturday night, only to face a long wait (it’s that popular). Fortunately, a table opened up in the bar, and we had one of those meals when everyone left pleased with their selections (no menu envy here!), with brother remarking how good his dinner was for hours.
  • Dodging Duck – Since the weather in Texas in April is enjoyable—warm and sunny but not yet oppressive—we again chose a spot where we could sit outside, across the street from Boerne’s own river walk. We ate standard pub food here—salads, burgers, fish tacos; the meal was tasty, the service friendly and welcoming.

There’s more to do in Boerne than just eat! Since the weather was so lovely, before my cousin’s wedding, we walked through the Cibolo Nature Center, a quiet spot where we could appreciate Texas nature up close.

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Cibolo Nature Center, Boerne, Texas

We ventured outside of Boerne to see San Antonio’s River Walk, which, on the Saturday afternoon we arrived, was filled with families and groups of friends, enjoying river boat cruises and people watching. A popular destination in San Antonio, the River Walk is home to parades, parties, and restaurants, making it popular with out of town visitors and locals alike.

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We clean up nice!

A confession: We never made it to Alamo! We tried to get there, but our efforts were stymied by a traffic jam and street closings for a fiesta that drew thousands of people to San Antonio. These traffic woes put our GPS in a tailspin and sent us almost to Oklahoma. We’ll see the Alamo next time we’re in Texas—kid free or not.

Disclosures: None; I just wanted to tell you about my trip!

Patio Dreaming with Wayfair

When the temperature hit 80 degrees this weekend, my son and daughter celebrated by running around the backyard with the neighborhood kids, while my husband and I sat outside on two not-very-comfortable chairs to drink a glass of wine and relax.

It was delightful.

But, the chairs really were uncomfortable. I knocked over my wine glass because I didn’t have a table on which to place it. And, the patio where we were sitting looked uninviting. This patio, I thought, needs some work.

To the rescue came my friends at Wayfair who invited me to design my dream patio. I wondered how they had read my mind (they are very clever over there at Wayfair!), and then I got to work browsing the Wayfair site for ideas.

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Adventurer Abby Review

adventurer_abby_reviewMy kitchen sink is filled with purple bubbles, the outcome of a science project my kids performed, thanks to their new friend, Adventurer Abby.

Adventurer Abby is the creation of a group of Harvard Business School students who are passionate about increasing the number of women with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) college majors and careers. Their mission is to expose girls to STEM as early and as often as possible in order to shape and empower our world’s next generation of female scientists and engineers.

It’s a great goal, isn’t it? I was intrigued when I heard about Adventurer Abby, especially since I am a mom to a bubbly almost six-year-old girl, G, who is at an age when math and science are fun. I want her enthusiasm for STEM-related topics to continue, and therefore welcomed the chance to review Adventurer Abby.

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Bedtime Questions

Bedtime always brings unexpected treasures. Not only is it the promise of sleep after what is always a too-busy day, but it’s also an extra long hug from my son or a whispered endearment from my daughter. In that twilight before the day ends for my children, I often find space to relish our time together. It’s a pause to take a mental snap shot of what I hold dear. However, bedtime is not always hugs and quiet; sometimes, the kids have another idea, using that time to remind me of their extraordinary ability to throw me a curve ball.

Tonight was one of those nights.

big-questionsWhen I arrived home from work, G, my vivacious five-year-old, was waiting for me in her bed, curled up under her yellow comforter. She wore lime green summer pajama bottoms and a “birthday girl” pink t-shirt (she’s begun to plan her birthday, which is more than two months away, and the shirt provides inspiration). Her hair was damp from her bath, and she held a purple teddy bear named Violet in her arms.

“Cuddle with me, Mommy. Get under the covers with me,” she invited. It’s hard for me to turn her down; I am aware that she will one day not want to cuddle, so I grab these chances when she offers. I quickly changed from my work clothes and slid in the bed next to her, my arms around her body, her head under my chin.

We caught up on our days, and then G rolled over.

“Why are we here, Mommy?” she asked.

“What do you mean, honey?”

“Why are all of the people here? On Earth? Why are we alive?” she clarified.

When kids ask these not-so-easy to answer questions, remember two things:

1) They’re kids. You have to give them answers that are appropriate for kids.
2) You can, sometimes, ask to get back to them after you have thought about their question a bit (this is particularly helpful when they ask about reproduction or sex).

This time, though, I decided to just jump in.

“Oh, we’re here to love one another, be kind, and make the world a better place,” I replied.

“Who made us? Who created the people?”

“Well, there’s something called evolution. It means that we were around for a very long time, but as something different than the people we are today. As time passed, we changed as a result of the environment and how we lived.”

I paused. Why do kids always ask big questions like this at bedtime?

“How did the world start?” she continued. She didn’t wait between questions, shooting them out to me one after the other.

“There was a big explosion—it was called the big bang—and that’s how our planet began. Some people think it was God, not the big bang. I think they’re the same thing,” I explained.

“Mommy, there was a big bang and the big bang made God and God made us. I know this, Mommy,” she answered firmly.

“Uh-huh,” I said. Her confidence was impressive. People have been wrestling with questions about our origins and meaning of life for generations, and my kid has it all figured by age five.

“And, Mommy,” she said, stretching her arms up over her head. “After the big bang, God wasn’t a body, just eyes and a mouth and a nose. Eyes and a mouth and nose. And we were in God’s eye. That’s where we live. Right there. In the eye.”

“I love that, baby. That’s a great way to look at our world.” I gave her a kiss, slipping out of bed and tucking the comforter around her and Violet. “Now, get some sleep.”

“Good night, love,” I whispered, stepping out of G’s room. She didn’t answer; her eyes were closed and she was off to dreamland, leaving me to wonder about the big questions she’d ask me about tomorrow.

Kick Start Spring with Seeds

I’m a New Englander who doesn’t put away the winter gear until May (you just never know), so in April, I get antsy.

Come on, spring, I want to yell! It’s time to arrive! I’m sick of boots, heavy coats, and mittens; I want green! I want the flowers and trees in my yard to grow! Yet April resists my entreaties, and I’m forced to continue to wait, wait, wait…it truly is the cruelest month.

But this year, thanks to a little help from some friends, spring arrived early—on my kitchen counter.

Seeds_Red_Shutters

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4 Tips to Learn with Learnivore

Step heel.
Paddle roll.
Cramp roll.
Shuffle.
Grapevine.

learning with learnivoreMy vocabulary has a few new words and phrases, thanks to Learnivore, a social network new to the Boston area that aims to connect teachers and learners. Learnivore offers instruction in everything from running (perfect for those wanting to sign up for next year’s Boston Marathon!) to soccer, from sewing to knitting, from technology to French. Since I’m a big believer in ongoing, lifelong learning, I decided to give the site a try. Learnivore invited me to sample their services, providing me with a budget of $100 for instruction of my choosing.

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Are you ready for Mother’s Day?

are you ready for mother's dayAre you ready for Mother’s Day on May 10?

Are you taking your special person—whether she’s your mom or someone you care about—out for a delicious brunch or are you bringing her breakfast in bed?

Are you going big, surprising the mom in your life with something unexpected?

Are you spending the day outside, exploring a park or taking a walk along the beach?

Are you sending your lady to a spa for the day?

Whatever your plans, I’d recommend getting started soon now, so May 10 is a day focused on what Mother’s Day should be all about (at least according to THIS mother): saying thank you to the special person (or people) in your life.

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20 Things To Do While Making School Lunches

school lunchesBy this time, nearly two months from the end of the school year, I am done making lunches for my kids. Every night, it’s the same…

  • Sandwiches or yogurt? (My daughter only eats cheese sandwiches; my son only eats sandwiches with meat. And this changes daily.)
  • Apple or clementines? (Clementines are always a winner; apples are a bold choice, as they could go either way.)
  • Pretzels or a granola bar? (A gamble.)

I ask myself: should jazz it up by including an organic juice box? Do I take a risk and slip in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the off-chance they might eat it?

Mostly, I’m just bored making their lunches. But I make them because I love.my.kids. (I tell myself this repeatedly.)

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