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Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning

All The Things I Do Not Know (at age 44)

Here’s the bottom line, I feel younger than I thought I’d feel at 44. I don’t know if this is because I am shocked than I am actually 44 (denial makes you feel younger) or a sign of fundamental immaturity.

Truth be told I don’t begrudge age. I feel lucky lucky lucky to be here, have the family I have, count my friends as friends and have full use of my body. This last point is no joke – you know that “at least you have your health” adage – it’s true. If you’ve ever broken a toe, burned your tongue or worse, you know what I mean. Don’t take your body for granted.

When my mom was 44 I was 14. When my dad was 44 I was 6. God bless my mom for dealing with me as a teenager when she was the age I am now. Pretty sure I was terrible. My dad at age 44 had 6 year-old me. Pretty sure I was an angel. What would he say now if he were alive? He always loved telling people they were middle aged, so he’d likely start there. He would tell me I should start going to church again. He would want to hear about the cake and food today. I don’t know if he would have any words of wisdom…but maybe.

Since he’s not here, I wrote my own list of things I think people should know, or at things I think my kids should know. Here goes…

Living

  • Work on empathy. Be around lots of different types of people. Pause to imagine what it’s like to be in their shoes.
  • Go to places where you don’t speak the language at all. You need to learn what it feels like to have to ask for help.
  • When in doubt, take the kind road. It’s unlikely you will ever regret being kind.
  • Not everyone will be honest about facts. Don’t be naïve about this.
  • Stretch your limbs every day.
  • Lift up heavy things.
  • Enjoy ALL of your firsts.
  • Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes. There’s no reason to let a pair of shoes make you miserable all day.
  • Write things down – memories, thoughts, impressions. You won’t be around one day but people who are in your life will want to know what you were thinking.
  • Learn how to take care of your needs and act accordingly. Over time, you cannot take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Simplify elements of your life so that you are better able to make decisions about other things. The more decisions you have to make, the worse you are at making them.
  • No nail polish is far better than chipped nail polish.
  • Use your fireplace.
  • Watch Friday Night Lights, Steel Magnolias, West Wing, The Wire….

Work/Money

  • Put simply – WORK. Work when you’re young. Earn your own money in college and high school.
  • Be honest with yourself about your financial health. Don’t tell yourself you owe less than you do. You are only making the headache bigger when the chicken comes home to roost.
  • The chicken ALWAYS comes home to roost.
  • Save. Even a dollar a week from your very first paycheck.
  • When you’re about to leave your place of work, identify one more thing you could do that day. Do that one thing.
  • Be early.
  • Read your emails twice before hitting send.
  • Think about being a problem solver not just a problem identifier.
  • Focus on your strengths. You will hear a lot about developing your weaknesses…hogwash. I mean, not total hogwash but often strengths get lost in a sea of “weakness focus.” Life and work are more fun when you play to your strengths.
  • On this, I recently took a test to help name my strengths. I got: Consistency, Relator, Discipline, Learner and Empathy.

Friends

  • Expect that you will get different things from different friends. Don’t expect all of them to be what you think you need them to be.
  • Accept what people can give. Don’t be angry about what they cannot or do not give. It’s just not worth it.
  • This is the “Friend Contact Hierarchy”: Text < Email < Phone call < In person hang out. But all of those are better than NOTHING – so pick one and do it.
  • Skype and Facetime could be on the above list, but I am not sure where (admit when you don’t know something)
  • Also, notice “snapchat” isn’t on the list. I am 44 and I cannot figure out how to use it.
  • Don’t forget good old fashioned cards. People love getting cards.
  • In almost any circumstance, do not lend friends money, unless you are fully prepared to lose that money and that friend.
  • RSVP. Do not be one of those people who doesn’t even RSVP. It’s beyond rude.

Love

  • After a breakup, wash and change all of your entire bedding. There is nothing like a fresh bed. Do this for a friend if they’ve been dumped.
  • Don’t keep score.
  • When you are parents, be a couple FIRST.
  • Romance is not love.
  • On being parents, don’t feel the need to have kids if you don’t want them.
  • If each of you try to give more than you get, you’re on the road to relationship contentment.

Food

  • Guacamole is best when mixed as little as possible.
  • Often, the appetizers are better than the entrée.
  • Make my spaghetti sauce recipe and share it with friends. It’s three generations of goodness.
  • Know what you are eating – read food labels.
  • Don’t hesitate – just buy an extra carton of milk.
  • Develop a taste for hot mustard.
  • Leave room for dessert.

Lastly, take all of the above with a big grain of salt. The only thing I really know is that it’s getting easier to ask questions as I get older. I am less afraid of looking silly…I used to be really afraid of looking silly.

My Blog Is a PreTeen

Today, this blog is a preteen. I launched it 10 years ago. Going back and re-reading posts is an exercise in embarrassment, pride, growth and humility. Like I said, a preteen.

A lot has happened in ten years.

WHAT HAPPENED?

I got married and had two babies. We bought a first car and a first house. I buried my father and grew closer to my mother. We went to countless weddings. Made new friends, drifted from others. Lost a friend to cancer. Started new hobbies. Picked up a barbell. Went from being a VC, to an interim-CFO to a full time CFO. Sold a few businesses, some that went well, others that didn’t.

I got all nice hangers this past decade and donated more than half of my closet (all “didn’t like” or, let’s be honest, “doesn’t fit” went out).

I learned a lot about parenting. I discovered that I was a much tougher and crunchier parent before I had kids. Before my kids were born I rarely let them watch television; I read to them nightly for a minimum of 30 minutes. They slept peacefully in their beds every night. I crafted with them. I never yelled. I was, in short, an annoying sanctimommy. After they were born one made a habit of 3am creep-ins to snuggle (we have not discouraged). The television does get turned on during the week and oh well. They do read and we read to them. They eat good meals more often than not but I’ve widened my definition of “good.”

ON AMBITION

I’ve become less ambitious. I lean out. I’ve said “no thanks” to a few opportunities that would be big personal career headlines. Part of this may be fear of failure – probably – being afraid to try. But it’s also wanting to be able to pick up my kids from school and sit with them at the dinner table. It’s working with people I know and trust, with all of our good bad and ugly. It’s loyalty to my business partners and what we are building.

I grapple with changing the world. Could I even do that? But isn’t that what I went to school for? I don’t know if I could change the world, but I have peers from Georgetown and HBS doing really big things. I really don’t know, but I like spending time in multiple vectors; building a life and not just a living.

FAVORITE POSTS

Re-reading posts was interesting and embarrassing. I spend little time editing, which is clear upon re-reading. Some are insipid. That’s ok. I never said it was going to be mind- blowing stuff. But others stood out. Below are my personal favorites:

A few things about me: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2007/01/10/just_a_nugget_o/

Bridezilla’s Revenge https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2006/06/01/bridezillas_rev/

Clampett Christmas https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2006/12/14/i_am_so_proud_l/

How to take a bath: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2007/01/13/a_must_do/

Breathe: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/count_to_ten/

Letter to God: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2007/10/10/dear-god-i-real/

Random Thoughts: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/when-you-are-sa/

Life Lessons and Cooking! https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/life-lessons-an/

Early thoughts on motherhood: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/maternity-leave/

Before Fitness Was All Social, a friend and I created The Manolo Challenge: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/the-manolo-challenge/

What it’s like to lose a parent: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/what-its-like-to-lose-a-parent/

Twenty Fives Things About Me: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/from-facebook-but-its-blogworthy25-random-things-about-moi/

A few honest regrets: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2010/03/09/regrets-a-memoir/

One of my first menus: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/dinner-party-menu-for-people-who-have-children-and-want-to-look-composed/

My most read post ever, work related: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/stranger-in-a-strange-land-or-being-a-woman-in-tech/

On birthdays: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/let-me-eat-cake/

My absolute favorite post – I wrote a letter guessing what my father would have written to Avery: https://realtismoi.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/letter-to-a-granddaughter/

THE BIG LESSON

After ten years of writing what is the big lesson? It’s to listen. Listen to your life. Listen to your friends and family. Pry more, into yourself and others. Take time to observe your thoughts without judgement. Listening is loving. It is a way to show compassion and be part of this world. It is a path to empathy. It is a giving of yourself.

I didn’t start this blog with that in mind but in reflecting on ten years of posting, I realize that it’s when I am most present that I write. When I am distracted I don’t. I am interested in those times when I don’t have anything to say. Can it be that I haven’t been noticing the wonder that is our world? This is the best article I have ever read about listening and I would urge you to print it and read it in a quiet place. Then tuck it in a drawer and bring it out every once in a while.

One other big lesson. Buy a proper winter coat, with a hood. It took me forever to learn this lesson. My previous coat was ok but my NEW coat, well, it’s a whole new world. I think I’ve been cold for a decade. And wear the hood.

Listen. Think. Be grateful. Know you can do more than you think. Wear a proper coat.

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2015 – a Doing Year. Oh and Crossfit.

This has been a really interesting year. It’s been full of learning for just about all of us in my house. Aiden finally tackled two-wheel bike riding and swimming. Avery rode ocean waves after being fearful for two days, and she got the hang of ice skating. Alexander did a colossal job developing a 32-unit condo building. And among other things, I discovered my inner child and started drawing with a new blog about menus. In this era when it’s so easy to be a passive consumer (we are that too), it’s fun to look back and see the DOING and the CREATING.

This year was also big for me physically. For the first time ever, I stuck with an exercise program diligently, and I did it without an end in mind. Of course I had goals, but in the past my goal (running a marathon or a ten-miler or a half-marathon) has also been an “end.” I would sign up, train, do the race and then stop running for weeks, sometimes months on end. Totally unsatisfying; not sustainable.

I started going to my gym – yes, Crossfit – July 2014 and I told myself I would just try it for six months. Six months came and went and I kept going. I wanted to be there, to do the work, to see results and push to keep getting better. This really was about the Means not the End. It’s a place where people know me first as Kylie, not as Mommy; not as Avery’s mom or Alex’s wife; not where our reason for knowing each other is work-related. The relationships start with you as an individual and branch out from there, rather than the reverse which I find is so common at this time of our lives. It’s a place where you have personal victories and it’s really exciting to see your friends and coaches hit their goals. There are moments of defeat as well. One day this year I just had to leave – mid-workout. Nobody does that. You never really feel compelled to stop but on this day I did. And then the best thing happened, people thoughtfully reached out, just to see if everything was ok. Nobody pushed, they just wanted to be sure everything was ok. (This is a good place to mention that the coaches – James, Maillard, Reggie, Mario, Lauren – are great. Like any business, the culture of a gym is a reflection of the values of leadership. Every day they care.)

I don’t know about you but I find this age trying at times in terms of friendships. People are scattered and busy. Often interactions don’t get past saying hello at morning school drop off. Whatever it is – a regular dinner club, a book group, a gym – finding a place where you get a bit beyond just “hello” is really really nice. I didn’t know how much I needed that.

It’s not all warm and fuzzy…exercising is also about numbers. I dig metrics and Crossfit is pretty trackable. I track my weight lifted each workout (weight * reps * sets). Here are my numbers for the year.

2015 Weight Lifted (lbs) YTD Average Average lbs per Day
January 26,265 26,265 876
February 22,030 24,148 816
March 14,620 20,972 487
April 23,495 21,603 810
May 31,010 23,484 1,034
June 45,140 27,093 1,557
July 26,885 27,064 896
August 31,525 27,621 1,051
September 28,065 27,671 968
October 40,355 28,939 1,345
November 34,408 29,436 1,186
December 39,962 30,313 1,332
TOTAL   363,760        

 

I’m pretty pleased with those figures. Three Hundred Sixty Three Thousand pounds. I have never felt better or more physically capable. I can get almost 100 pounds over my head. Each month I am able to do more and more. The work I am doing now will benefit me for years to come. I also did about 1200 burpees…they are just awful…which means I should do more of them in 2016. Always good to be able to get up from the floor.

Last thing to mention on this – a constant motivator on this has been my mother (not sure she knows this). My mom never worked out when we were kids now regularly goes to a trainer. She is in great shape and can take care of herself at age 73. She is always eager to listen when I call her with some Crossfit feat. What a nice thing – finding a new way to bond with your mom even at the ripe young age of 43🙂

Know Thyself

When I was about 25 I took the Myers Briggs assessment. The first measure pegged me as 50/50 E/I, as much an introvert as an extrovert. My friends found this surprising “Really? I always think of you as so outgoing.” Little did they know.

Now nearly twenty years later that “I” side seems to be getting stronger. As I introduced more elements of “others” to my life, that little “I” side got really strong. In my twenties and thirties it was easier to be alone, to be quiet, to sit in my own head. I took all of that for granted – half the time I am not even sure I knew I was recharging.

Introduce husband and kids on top of work, etc. and my world changed.

I hope it goes without saying that my husband and kids are the most important thing to me. Without a doubt, full stop.

And yet.

And yet I need to put my mask on first. This means different things for different people, but for me it means I absolutely must have quiet downtime, or time doing something on my own be that reading, cooking, working out. I can be around other people but my interactions with others might be less than normal. Being at home with the kids is awesome on weekends but it also means there is a constant buzzing of activity, of voices, of inquiry. “Can I have milk?” “What are we doing today?” “Where is the hammer?” and I don’t know about all of the other moms out there but in my house, 90% of the time I am the object of this inquiry.

I find it tiring. And then I feel bad about that because it’s my family and they’re awesome and nobody is sick and we live in a great place and who am I to complain. SUCK IT UP.

What happens then is the “Push Through.” Don’t we all do this? It works for a while. Until it doesn’t. Until you have an inkling that the dinner you planned to attend, the playdate you need to go to, may just be a little too much. The smart money doesn’t ignore the inkling. The funny thing about introversion is that it is really fucking fierce personality trait (not shy; not meek) and it will demand to be heard. Ignore it at your peril. You can take heed and say to your husband “Can you take the kids to this playdate?” and listen to yourself, OR you can Push Through, once again and well, it’s not pretty. In my case, ignoring the inkling too many times means I freak out about things that don’t matter. I can get mean. I am not a good mother or wife or friend in these moments.

It’s hard to accept this and not feel like a self-indulgent complainer. Life is good. We have food family and opportunities. I don’t worry about running out of water. But to be there for others, you’ve got to be there for yourself. This is ok. I keep telling myself this is OK.

Giving Thanks

When I enter a house, I have a habit of finding the spot where my dad would sit if he were still alive. He always went for a chair’s position rather than a chair’s comfort. He was all about the view, be it over a room where he could see everything going on or near a window to take in the trees or the ocean. On this Thanksgiving I was reminded of his habit as I took in the ocean view I’m so lucky to have today. Focus more on enjoying your surroundings than sinking into a seat. Enjoy looking outward while being anchored on firm ground. Take a moment or several to just notice and breath in your surroundings. Presence in the moment matters. Thanks for all of that, Dad. 

  

Summer 2015 Wrap-Up

And what a summer it was! In a nutshell:

Sister Philly trip and a 12 course dinner! A blue chicken? Lots of BBQ. Art playing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. A Foo Fighters concert! The Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees. COTTON CANDY. Avery mastering stilts. Family kayaking on the East River. Pink lemonade on hand at all times. Fish tacos and a day at an awesome NYC beach. Rollerskating. Crab picking in Red Hook!

Ikea.

A trip to Mom’s where we bought my nephew a fish named Charlie. Aiden rode a bike without trainers and we birthday’d Farm Style. Popeye’s Chicken. Lamas. The perfect peach pie. Last minute pizza party for 23 Brooklynites to say “see you next year!” to friends moving to Spain. A week in Cape May! Aiden actually swimming and Avery riding the waves. Arcade games. Beach hole-digging. A pig roast with our feet in the sand and a clambake with our toes in the grass. A new blog about MENUS. Garden kale and fridge white wine. And now, enjoying September and pumpkin anticipation…

I Remember

I am not normally one to obsess. I don’t hoard things. I am generally able to move on. But then there are little things that get me. Chocolate pudding. Racerback shirts. That pair of jeans. The opening music of Friday Night Lights (not to mention that entire series – best show EVER). And this song, I Remember by Deadmau5. Listening to that song takes me so many places – it came out in 2008 but because it’s all clubby it takes me right back to London in 1993, some NYC club in 1996 the name of which escapes me, Greece in 1998, Boston in 1999 (I know that last one doesn’t exactly scream “cool hot trendsetting venue” but trust me – Boston had a club scene). You can drive to it. Run to it. Make dinner for your kids while listening to it “Mommy…are you dancing?” My 3am clubbing days might be gone (until the kids go to college) but the dancing days will live on FOREVER.

Stay Young; Bake Cookies

It’s August. It’s hot. It’s time for a batch of unrelated updates. This weekend I took the kids to see my mom, sister and her family. While at home I spent some time with my dad’s old stuff. I do this every time I go home and every time it’s worth it. I ran across an OpEd he wrote in 1964 for the local White Plains paper. That was before I was born, but while growing up we spent a lot of time in Westchester which got me thinking about childhood memories…things like riding in the front seat of a car next to dad while we ate chocolate ice cream cones. For some reason that kid thing reminded me of when I used to climb the tree out in front of our house, feeling triumphant up to the top. Feeling triumphant made me think about the other end of the spectrum – Failure. Recently in my personal workout journey I missed a deadlift that I had made before. From that came a little rage (if that’s possible…only a LITTLE rage) and feelings of doubt (crap what happened?). But then I thought about how life isn’t a straight line and some days you win and others you don’t. The key is getting back on the horse and to keep working. Which made me remember that work matters more than talent and if you’re following any of Carol Dweck’s great work, you will know what I mean (I encourage you to read the whole article – it matters for adults, kids, relationships…). Speaking of relationships, that got me thinking about how much I value mine. My spouse in particular. We know a number of people going through very tough marriage times – some lasting, some not – and I am reminded that marriage is not a solution for a relationship, it’s a choice. A choice we make every day. I am feeling now for the people we know struggling with this choice. That got me thinking about how that choice manifests itself and for us, we are not alone here, it’s in the little things like moving the laundry to the dryer, picking up socks, listening when your partner speaks. This weekend when I got home it was about how my amazing husband thought to do the grocery shopping and in the course of that made us a pie. It was a fabulous peach pie (all gone now). Thinking about that prompted a thought about creating and making things. I have a new little project I’m working on related to Menus. I love making up menus. So I am posting a menu a week on the site. They aren’t fancy – but they are fun. And making them gives me a chance to think about what we would like to cook in different situations. I am also a person who wishes I had been born with artistic talent but rather than wallowing in my lack of talent I am jumping in head first and putting a little image alongside each menu. When is the last time you used markers, or crayons? I HIGHLY encourage this childish behavior. Who says kids are the only scribblers?  Please check it out HERE.

Typical Saturday night

10:50pm

In our backyard. Came out back to look at the stars. I think my neighbor is screening a movie. If I had to guess I’d say Mad Max. Alex gardened today so it smells like mulch. Neighbors have been grilling. Air conditioners. There’s a nice breeze. City trees are rustling. I hear people yelling from the street. And then they go away. The kids are sound asleep. I think I’ll set the coffee maker and start tomorrow out here. 
  

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