On My Mother’s Birthday…

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I know it is obnoxious to brag about your own kids, but what about your nanny’s?

Thirteen years ago, a timid Guatemalan woman interviewed for a position in our home. She spoke very little English, had three small children, and a loyal husband who worked in the kitchen at the Hyatt. As we spoke, I realized that she also had determination, an incredible work ethic, integrity and a dream for her children. I handed her the keys to our apartment and never looked back.

Now, many years later, so much has changed.  Her English is impeccable. She lost 50 lbs just by removing Coca Cola and adding exercise to her life. She is an American citizen. She is my trusted, more experienced, parental advisor and she is the mother of a college graduate in the top 10% of this year’s UCLA graduating class.

This past Saturday I had the privilege of attending the ceremony as her daughter Melissa, ranked second in her major, accepted her diploma as the first person in her family to ever graduate from university. And while everyone was taking pictures of her, I took pictures of her mother, Sonia, weeping with joy.

Today would be my mother’s 71st birthday.  She was an eternal optimist and dreamed big dreams for everyone she met. Especially her children. My father never finished college and my mother only finished later in life, after she’d gotten married. She and Sonia had spoken of many times about the dreams they shared for their children and the sacrifices it takes to help them along the way. If my mother had been there on Saturday, she would have cheered the loudest and taken thousands of pictures. She would have relished that moment and […]

Adults Need Summer Camp, Too!

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As I anticipate shipping the kids off to summer camp in just a few weeks, I cannot help but wish I was going too.

Summer camp is the best in many ways. You unplug from regular life; you hang out with like-minded people, try new things, play, discover, and make great memories at a blistering pace.

And no homework.

But as adults, isn’t summer camp just a memory?

Just last week I had the good fortune of being invited to attend and present at the Remarkable Women’s Weekend at the Terrenea Resort in Palos Verdes. As the name suggests, we gathered 22 truly remarkable women. Each woman, via highly distinct paths, has made incredible impact in her professional, philanthropic and personal lives. Each woman is a rockstar.

I was not sure what to expect. When you put high-powered, dynamic and driven women together for a weekend, is that a recipe for success? Would they relentlessly compete? Would they retreat to their comfort zones? Could they connect?

We all know that women can be very hard on one another (at any age). But somewhere in the middle of the weekend, when everyone was gathered in spa robes and engrossed in multiple conversations, I saw clearly what this weekend was about. It was our chance to go to camp. Each woman stepping away from their titles, responsibilities, and electronic tethers to reassess, dream, learn and connect.

At the end of the weekend, each woman shared her reflections. As I listened, I was transported to the closing circle on the floor of Bunk 12 in summer of 1982. The sentiments sounded more mature, yet very familiar.

I realized then the power and importance of camp at any age.

Is Traveling With your Kids To Benefit Them or You?

This past week I brought along my two girls, Eden, 10 and Alia London, 8 to New York City. I had been there dozens of times for business; but this time was for them. So for six days, we did New York: Serendipity, Mathilda on Broadway, Empire State Building, Sony Wonder Museum, and a even a carriage ride in Central Park.

The trip was supposed to expand their horizons and I am sure it did. But what I did not know was how it would expand my own.

Do you know how long the subway doors stay open in rush hour? Why are taxi drivers not considered strangers? Why does Elmo in Times Square ask for money? They asked questions that I never contemplated and that I did not know the answers to. They helped me to realize “I don’t know a lot, and I need to ask more questions.”

Our best moments were not pre planned ticketed activities. Our best moments were collapsing in bed after a long day, watching Big after dancing on the piano in FAO Schwartz, trying on lipstick in the hotel bathroom. They enabled me to play more and plan less.

Lastly, I walk fast. I talk fast. I even type fast. They don’t like it. And they told me to slow down, often. It was hard at first to listen. I wanted them to experience everything in our limited amount of time. But then I realized I was missing the mark. The goal of our trip was to find moments of true connection that would make lifelong memories. If hurried them through, the connections would never happen and the memories would never be made. It took a while to slow down, but eventually I did.

This past week I was their guide; but they were mine as […]

For every mother…on the day after Mother’s Day!

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If yesterday was your day, then what is today?

For that matter what are the rest of the 364 days until the next Mother’s Day?

I am not sure how you spent your Mother’s Day. I hope it was a day designed just for you (I got breakfast in bed!). But if that’s the case, then are the rest of our days supposed to be entirely devoted to others?

My teacher, Professor Ira Stone, tells us that to be truly spiritually-fit we should adopt the posture of “spiritual skepticism.” This means that we have to live in the tension of constantly trying to address our own needs while addressing the needs of others.

Every time I study these words, I feel relieved. I do not need to figure out the perfect balance between meeting my needs and meeting the needs of my children. Rather, to be spiritually-fit I need to recognize the inevitability of tension between trying balance my needs and the needs of those I love. And as long as I am willing to address this tension in thought and in action, then each day I move closer to being spiritually well.

This is my prayer for you until Mother’s Day 2016: Motherhood is a spiritual endeavor only when you recognize how truly difficult it is.

For My Mother

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This blog is dedicated to my mother, Barbara Anne Scolnick.

My mother loved London.

She was from London, Ohio (but she used only the city’s name unless pressed).  She even traveled to London with my father and they finessed their way into Buckingham Palace for the Royal wedding (Lady Di and Prince Charles). Don’t believe her?  She has the royal toilet paper to prove it. When we named our daughter London, she was convinced that her granddaughter would be the next princess in the House of Windsor.

Because of my mother, London has always been mythical for me.  And it worked out that this year (during the fifth anniversary of her death last week) Jeff and I traveled for a week in London. The adventure was even better than I imagined — elegant, historic, sophisticated — just like she had described.

What she could not have told me was that dining at the Wolseley, shopping at Fortnum & Mason, and seeing the new Princess kind of up close would make me feel closer to her than I had in years.

The reality is that since her death 1829 days ago, I feel my mother’s presence less and less. The smell of her clothes has faded. The memory of her touch is not as clear. Her voice is harder to hear. Time has messed with my memory.

But being in this place that she loved, it was as if she was right next to me.

I realized then that we never know when the moments that we long for–the moments of deep connection and intimacy– will happen. And when we are sure that they will never return, they do, often in most unlikely of places.

It is often not on scheduled celebrations like Mother’s […]