Archive for April, 2013
Keys to Success

This must be rapid because E could wake up at any moment, but I wanted to take a minute to reflect on the attributes that make someone a successful person.

Who do I perceive to be successful?  I’d say that I consider most of my friends to be highly successful people, that is, they are accomplished in some area and continue to learn and challenge themselves all the time.  They delve into new or unfamiliar territory despite fear or reservation, and they are content with who they are and what they are doing in this life.  They don’t linger too much in the past or meditate too deeply on the future. They enjoy the moment, and have enough perspective to not sweat the small stuff.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I feel like I have the CAPACITY to be very successful, but for one reason or another, I have fallen flat.  So what do I see as the primary attributes that contribute to being successful, and what do I need to do to get there?

1.  Perspective.  Don’t worry about things you can can’t change.  Especially—- don’t get consumed with very minor issues.  I have trouble with this sometimes, which may simply reflect my personality, but either way, I need to get better at this.  I’m better at this than I was at 24, but now at 34, I expect to be a bit further along than I am.

2.  Be a good listener.  I feel like I am actually pretty good at this.  If you aren’t listening, you aren’t learning, and you can’t fluidly respond to those around you.  And you also can’t expect anyone to listen to you, if you aren’t listening to them.

3.  Communicate accurately and honestly.  And when you’ve done your listening, you can then open your mouth and say what’s on your mind.  But do this gingerly, taking into account how your words affect others.  And be honest.

4.  Don’t worry about what others are doing or thinking.  This actually is not at odds with being a good listener.  It has more to do with avoiding unnecessary and useless comparisons between yourself and others—the kind of judging that only serves to make you feel like crap.  Just don’t do it.  You’ll feel better.

5.  Help others when you can.  You don’t have to change the world, but if you put yourself out there and do something for others, it helps them, it helps you, and everyone wins.  Instead of always having your hand out, know that you can mentor and guide other people, too.

6.  Surround yourself with curious people.  Do you like to have conversations with people who are interested in the world?  Me too.

7.  Take risks, ask questions.  You risk nothing, you get nothing.  You go nowhere.

8.  Be ready for anything.  Don’t plan too far in advance.  You don’t know what life has in store.  Be flexible.  Be open.

9.  Try new things.  Why not?

10.  Know your own limitations.  Know what you don’t know.  And be OK with holes in your knowledge, thinking, and skill set.  We all have areas where we can improve.  Isn’t it enough to know that we have them?  Let’s not berate ourselves over it, too.

So where I am doing awesome?   I am a good listener, a good communicator, I am getting better at helping others, I surround myself with curious people, I am getting better at asking questions, and I have done a lot of work to honestly assess my own limitations.

Where do I fall flat?  I sometimes sweat the small stuff or things that I can’t change, I make unnecessary comparisons, I don’t take as many risks as I should (I often talk myself out of doing things for any number of trivial reasons), I’m not always flexible for changes in plans, I don’t always try new things, and although I am learning more each day about my limitations, I’m not always good with non-judgmental acceptance of them.

So there I have it—-the things I can work on to get where I want to be.  What is *your* definition of success?


What a nice weekend.  A perfect mix of chores and fun times.  Enough to make us feel like we could check a few things off the old to-do list, while also avoiding that whole awful “where did my weekend go?” type of feeling.

One of the highlights is that we managed to plant a couple of boxwoods in our front garden bed.  Landscaping is such an expensive endeavor, so we only tackle a couple of things each year to keep the costs manageable.  Last year we purchased a variety of small conifers to add to our front garden beds.  A couple of them didn’t make it from the extreme heat and drought of last year, but the others seem to be doing OK.  Today we added 2 boxwoods to our front garden to help visually “anchor” our house to the landscape.  We live in a splt-entry home, which requires good landscaping so that it doesn’t look like a shoebox sticking awkwardly out of the soil.  The boxwoods will grow to be about 3-4 feet tall and will spread out a bit to conceal our foundation and add some green in the winter months.  We have a variety of colorful perennial flowers flanking the boxwoods, so once all of our plants grow in this season, we should have a good idea of how things will look going forward.

I have so many outdoor projects that I want to tackle, and only so much time, energy, and money to devote to them.  I have plans to add some additional garden beds to the backyard, and eventually add a stone patio off our deck which will feature a fire pit.  I’d love to get rid of our cement walkway in the front yard (it’s a major trip hazard at the moment, in addition to offending every Feng Shui principle on the planet).  I want to replace our concrete walkway with a curved stone path that is flanked by greenery.  And yes, I would love, love, love to be able to do all of this myself.  One day.

There’s also so many indoor projects I want to attempt.  I’ve been dying to learn a new needlework technique (new to me!) called Bargello.  Bargello has an interesting history—I believe it originated in Hungary (maybe around the 1500s?) and was later picked up by artisans in Italy.  The artform was popular during the 1970s, but is not currently in vogue, although I anticipate this will change.  I’ve been scouring the Internets for good needlework kits that I could use to sort of introduce myself to the technique, but they are hard to come by.  Most of the kits are vintage and are therefore overpriced on Ebay.  But I’m sure I’ll be able to work something out.  I also want to learn to work with wood–I’d love to create cubbies and benches for our mudroom, and if I’m super crafty, create bookcases for our living room.  So much to learn!  So little time!  And basically no energy.

I have plans to ride my bike every evening after the kids are in bed, now that sweet, sweet, spring is finally here.  I have plans to spend loads of time at the park with the kids (now that Emery can climb the small play structure and find his way down the slide!!)  I have plans to keep a small container garden on my deck, since my overly shaded yard is essentially unfit to grow vegetables.  I plan to cook good meals this summer, drink local beers and wines, socialize with friends, and spend time hiking, kayaking, and camping.  I plan to do some light networking with whoever, because I don’t have a plan, and it’s all just talking anyway, isn’t it?  I plan to go to my job, do the best I can, and try to take things one day at a time.  I have a few goals for work, but I don’t feel very serious about them because my boss likes to change directions on things rapidly and without apparent reason, so really, why bother?  I’d like to read some good fiction this summer, but pretty much every novel I’ve tried to read in 2013, I have not been able to finish out of complete lack of interest.  I’m open to suggestions for some good summer reading!  (and it doesn’t have to be exclusively fiction!)

So yes, things are looking up. I feel like I have things to look forward to, for the first time in a while.

A year of Emery

Hard to believe, but our little Emery Bemery Boo turned 1 last week.  We had a low-key party with family and close friends.  My dad drove all the way up from WV by himself for the party—his presence was very special to us all.  Emery chowed down on his first cupcake, clapped, smiled for all of the cameras, and found his way inside all of our hearts, once again.

Emery walks, he talks a little, he laughs, points, and observes.  He is attached to his people.  He can say:  bath, cat, Granddad, mama, dada, me, baby, pears, and door.  He can shake his head emphatically.  He dances, loves music, is interested in textures, and is charming to women.  He has two teeth.  Finally.

I love you, Emery.  You are a person of value, and you complete our family.

A good feeling

For some reason lately, I’ve been having an inexplicable good feeling about my life and the future.  All of a sudden, I don’t feel like I am doomed all the time.  I feel like things are going to work out.  I feel like I can handle my life and be happy about wherever it happens to go.

I can’t really explain why I feel this way, other than to say that the fog from those initial post-partum months is beginning to lift.  Certainly, I am still very sleep-deprived.  But I know that it will pass and that one day Emery will be a good sleeper just like his brother.  I feel like we are half way there.

I don’t know where my career will go.  But I also don’t feel too worried about it at the moment.  Not worrying about it has kind of helped me feel more free to network and make connections; I feel like there is less at stake b/c I don’t really know where I am going yet!  It’s kind of liberating.

Your life can take many forms.  It doesn’t have to conform to that “dream” that you had in mind, and most likely, it won’t.  The person I was when I started down the path of behavioral neuroscience is most certainly not the person I am today.  Becoming a mother has changed me profoundly (and yes, there is neuroscience to back this up!)  What was important to me before June 22, 2008 is not necessarily the same as what is important to me now.  People change, circumstances change, limits on time and patience shift like reeds in the wind.

Having a challenging career is important to me.  Doing something quantitative and analytical is something that I need in my life.  But I can accomplish this many ways.  And I can balance it with the most important priority of my life:  raising my two awesome guys!  Working two days a week has worked out great for me.  The boys are happy, and I get two days out of the house to focus on other things.  I love the people I work with, but I loathe my boss, so I’m certain it’s a job that I’m not going to stay at for years on end.  But for now it can work.  For now it’s a good compromise.  I am reasonably happy with where I am.