Confidence is in the work.

I’ve been reading a lot about Mindy Kaling’s new book and what she has to say about hard work and confidence. Please note that I love her, so I’m obviously biased in favor of whatever she has to say already. But in particular I like this passage:

People talk about confidence without ever bringing up hard work. That’s a mistake.

This resonates so strongly for me, in particular right now because of my twelve-year-old daughter. She’s a good Irish dancer. She has natural talent. And, because natural talent takes you a long way, she has had a pretty good track record in competitions. And then, some time in the last year, she started to have some trouble: you see, she has reached a point in her competition where everyone has natural talent. She’s at a point where the difference between competing and winning is, quite simply, working hard.

I talk to my kids about hard work all the time. For example, I’m not a great runner. I’m a solid runner, with an average pace, for which I have worked hard over a period of years. Running doesn’t come easily to me. I fight and sweat for every mile, for every second shaved off my pace. I have to work harder than everyone else. But I like working hard. I like that challenge, and I like the confidence it brings me: accomplishing something that’s difficult.

Meanwhile: moving up to this competition level, where winning didn’t come as easily, came as a surprise to Gabby. I was proud of her when she made the decision to work harder. She focused on her challenges, she listened to difficult feedback, she wasn’t deterred by competition results that were less than what she hoped. She kept moving forward, an inch at a time, fighting and sweating and working, and believing that the work would bring results. And I am so proud to say that, as of this weekend, she qualified for regional championships this year. And Gabby’s proud, too– not just of the accomplishment, but of the work she put in to get herself there.

Which brings me back to Mindy Kaling. She’s right: hard work begets confidence. Now, if I was working on this lesson with Cam, I’d probably have to use Dwayne Johnson rather than Mindy Kaling…. but honestly: I’m just glad there are people out there who are proud of how hard they work. My dad was always proud of how hard he worked, too. And our kids, they’re watching.



    Happy birthday, Janey!!!!

    She even has great taste in clothes. Look at this cherry-print dress.

    She even has great taste in clothes. Look at this cherry-print dress.

    I realized a long time ago that, in order to make myself a better person, I should surround myself with those who ARE better people. Who, in turn, inspire me to be better. (PSA: take a look around. If you are surrounded by people who make you feel bad about yourself, or who want you to be less than you can be, or– worst of all– if you have gathered a posse of yes-men: you could do better for yourself. Just saying.)

    I have known my friend Jane for about twenty years. Jane is a kinder, more considerate, more caring person than I am. With Jane’s example in my life, I know how important it is to work on my own, harsher tendencies, and strive to be kind. She has excelled in her professional life; her success reminds me to continue to work on my own. When faced with adversity, Jane somehow makes it the least important part of her life, and so keeps everything in proper perspective. I have learned how to handle tough times by watching Jane gracefully navigating those moments herself.

    Plus, she has a handsome husband with a cool job, three beautiful children with heart-melting curly hair, and she’s gorgeous herself. (I would tell you it didn’t seem fair– only, actually, she deserves it all and then some.) Jane celebrates a milestone today, and I am so fortunate to be one of those lucky people who gets to wish my wonderful friend a happy birthday. Love you, Janey.


      Lishie turns twelve.

      "Mom, use this picture. People respect people who win trophies." -Gabby's life philosophy

      “Mom, use this picture. People respect people who win trophies.” -Gabby’s life philosophy

      Twelve years ago today, I was pregnant with my second child, gender unknown. All I knew about this child was that it was very active, and could not stand for me to eat anything except fresh produce and smoothies. And then, in the eighth hour of the eighth day of the eighth month, Gabby the Game Changer came barreling into the world– a few days earlier than we expected, and so suddenly that both the anethesiologist and my own obstetrician missed the birth (looking back, if I had to choose one to make it– I would have gone for the pain meds guy). She has continued to blaze her own trail and defy expectations ever since.

      Gabby is an overwhelming force of nature. Her personality fills every room she enters, and I am ever amazed by her intelligence and her wit, by her motivation and her steadfast belief in herself. I can take no credit for any of this, by the way– it’s all Gabby. She starts junior high in a few weeks, and my goodness, does she have goals: she’s already accumulating service hours toward the National Junior Honor Society. Her life revolves around Irish dance, and she has been working steadily toward her lofty goals there as well– willingly giving up free time, and friend time, to dedicate herself to her goals. I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t bet against her.

      For her birthday, she will go out for sushi with her beloved dad– their annual tradition. And she will attend a competition which she has every intention of winning. And she will continue to be that unique mix of crazy yet controlled; smart but silly; fiercely independent and still sweetly affectionate. I’m just thrilled to be in her orbit. Happy birthday, Gabs. Love you so much.

        That one jerk.

        Okay, there are spiders in our tomato plants. Which is largely beneficial– except that I should say it like this: there are too many spiders in our tomato plants. And I don’t want to hear your, “I thought you weren’t afraid of spiders,” because I’m not. At the same time, I am a human being– so quite naturally I don’t want to stick my upper body into the dense mass of green that is our tomato garden, and come out covered in arachnids. I’ve been working around them for about a month now, but this morning my largesse came to an end: as I was reaching waaaaaaay in underneath one of the plants, I saw tiny movement right in front of my face. It was a spider, rearing back and aiming its gross little fangs at me– about an inch from my left eye.

        That, my friends, was that. I had to call in Dave to help me dispatch some of them. Then, when Gabby and I were picking tomatoes later, we selected a few more for extinction. There are funnel spiders in the zucchini, by the way, but since they can’t sneak up on us and try to puncture our eyeballs, we have a mutual understanding.

        Just, these spiders in the tomato plants: sorry, guys. As usual, one jackass has ruined it for everyone.

          August kinda blows.

          What I love about the summertime is the general feeling that everyone is, at least partially, on vacation. It’s the season of drinks on the patio on a Tuesday night, and of never ever having to pack lunches, and most of the things on the schedule being fun and not obligatory. Now that we’re in August, though, it’s like, “The party is over, losers!!!!!” Some of the few good things about August are the parade of birthdays (Jeff, Ezra, Janey, Pauly, my Gabbilicious, and more) and my parents’ anniversary, which is today.

          Mainly, though, once we’re in the month of August, I can see nine months of alarm clocks and algebra homework staring me in the face. Booooooooo.



            Gabby and I have been keeping a tally of what our garden has produced this summer. So far, among the herbs (tons) and peppers (fair) and cucumbers (so many fewer cukes this year, what’s up with that?) and the tomatoes which have just begun to present themselves– although two of the plants are currently being guarded by a pair of gigantic spiders, so Gabs and I will have to call in Dave to make it safe for us– so far our little garden has produced 38 zucchini.

            Thirty-eight. Zucchini.

            I have shared many of these with my friend Joelle– once I texted her to make sure she still wanted them. Because, you know, zucchini is somehow the red-headed stepchild of the summer garden to some people. Just Google “too much zucchini” and you will find many articles which commiserate with your problem. However I have this (I guess) weird love for the zucchini, and so does Joelle, fortunately. We’ve been trading zucchini chips and zucchini bread back and forth all summer. See? How awesome is that? Why would you not want every squash your garden can produce?

            I was outside this morning, checking out the garden before Gabby gets up– there’s at least one more zucchini ready to go, and I think Dave needs to come vanquish the Tomato Guards now– and I was thinking this: WHY can’t I grow a single damn strawberry? I try every year. Every year the plant looks happy as can be and never bears a single berry.

            Ah well. If you come over today you can have some zucchini bread.

              I’m fighting with my right leg.

              Yesterday during my run, I did something to my right hamstring. Fortunately my friend Michelle drove by while I was doing the Walk of Workout Shame, and she gave me a ride home. (Thanks, Michelle!!!!!!) Then I proceeded to let the screen door close on my right heel, taking out a good-sized chunk. I tried to wear regular shoes to work, but my heel was like “I don’t think so, Crazy Klutz–” so I wore sandals instead.

              And then promptly opened a door which, unbeknownst to me, had the metal doorstop down, and scraped my toes open. Yes, on my right foot. (PS- I was texting photos of the progressing injury all night long. I’m such a baby/ attention whore when I hurt myself.)

              I blame my mom. I get my grace direct from her.

                Amazing Weekend.

                This weekend, the gentlemen in our house drove 6 hours in one direction while the ladies drove 4 hours in the opposite direction. We had lacrosse and dance. It turned out to be the most incredible, winningest weekend ever: Cam’s team went undefeated and won their tournament, while Gabby was on top of her game and could do no wrong at her competition. (In one category, she FELL DOWN and they still gave her fourth place.) Dave and I had the most unbelievable text exchanges:

                DAVE: Cam scores!!!!!

                JULIE: Awesome!!!!! Gabby placed third in treble reel!

                DAVE: Solid. And a WIN for Cam!!!!

                JULIE: Gabby just won the treble jig!!!!

                DAVE: Top seed, moving into the championship bracket!!!


                DAVE: BOYS WIN!!! CHAMPIONS!!!!!

                ……Like that. (We steadily used our caps lock more and more as you can see.) At one point Dave texted me, “I’m going to have a heart attack,” and I totally agreed. All the stars aligned for our children this weekend. It was such an incredible rush– and I’m totally bitter about missing so much excellent lacrosse, even while I’m thrilled to have been there to watch Gabby set that place on fire. It was just an excellent, amazing weekend, and we’re all still coming off the high.

                And what about the J, you ask? –Oh, she had her annual well-check just before we left. Her pediatrician thinks she’ll be at least 5′-7″. How. Unexpected. Is THAT.

                I’ve said it before: it’s fun to watch the kids do their thing, no matter what the outcome. But it’s freaking WAAAAAAAAAAAAY AWESOME to watch them win.

                  My heart is in Louisiana.

                  I want to ask this question: how many people have to die senselessly before we enact laws to protect us all– not from those responsible gun owners, but from monsters like this? When will we stop screaming “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and notice that, in other countries where gun control is stricter, these acts are not prevalent? At what point is a “crazy drifter-” which is EXACTLY how I just heard the latest mass murdering gunman described on the news– not going to be given access to weapons with which he can kill many people in the blink of an eye? When will we make that correlation? When will the knee-jerk reaction stop and common sense kick in?

                  This breaks my heart. We need change. We need more structure. We. Need. Stronger. Gun. Laws.

                    Wednesday musing…

                    Things I love about the teenage boys I drive to and from lacrosse:

                    • their passionate, ongoing discussion of lacrosse gear
                    • their jokes- some of which I am somehow not supposed to hear or understand, despite being a sentient being 3 feet away
                    • their crazy shorts
                    • their offhand, polite “Thanks, Mrs. D,” as they load out of the car and lope toward the field

                    Things I do not love about the teenage boys I drive to and from lacrosse:

                    • that wall of sweaty funk that hits you in the face, about 10 seconds after they get back into the car. Oh my God.

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