I object

I object.

I object to the sentiment that the “real heroes” are either, or. Us, them. That any one group universally has heroes or villains.

It’s true that we have heroes among the nurses and doctors, postal officers, delivery people, grocery store workers, and so many more. I have deep gratitude for those who risk their lives to serve us, especially those who are overworked, underpaid, and until recently were often overlooked.

It’s just as true that we have heroes among our government leaders and CEOs. Leaders who are using their power and wealth to serve the underserved. Who donate millions and billions of dollars and supplies to organizations who are skilled and staffed to help those in need. I have equally deep gratitude for this group who are currently being overlooked and underappreciated. Who have somehow become villains in memes.

Maybe I’m taking this uber personally because the company I work for (Cisco, led by Chuck Robbins) is doing amazing things.

We secured and distributed thousands (maybe millions) of N95 masks and surgical masks. We’re using 3D printing to produce more masks and shields. We donated $2M to Covenant House alone.  We rallied other companies in the Bay Area to support Destination: Home and continue to make large contributions ourselves. We had a 72 hour Let’s Give campaign which raised $700k+. We allocated $8M in cash and $210M in product to the global coronavirus response.  We sponsored the Global Citizen fundraiser, #TogetheratHome. We gave customers and partners $2.5B in financing for business resiliency. We continue to pay hourly workers who aren’t working (such as café workers and janitors). We increased volunteer hours from 5 to 10 days for the remainder of the year.

Did that last paragraph of some of the things Cisco is doing overwhelm you? It was meant to. It demonstrates a little bit of what one company, one CEO is doing. Yes, I understand that not every company or CEO is doing what we’re doing. But many are, and they deserve our gratitude not our disdain.

So, I object.

I object to the posts that say things like “when this is over, let’s remember that it wasn’t the CEOs & Billionaires who save us, it was the bus drivers, janitors, nurses, truck driver, and food workers”.

What is meant to be a message of redirected appreciation says that one group deserves recognition, but another doesn’t. It divides us. We can’t simultaneously say that we’re all in this together then segment our population to say that one group is helpful, but the other is not.

Perhaps if we focus on individual stories instead of lumping groups of people together we can see that every one of us has an opportunity to make a difference. It’s not about power, wealth or lack thereof. It’s about heart. Compassion. Empathy. And togetherness.





Shop With Her, Not With Me

This is about the startling difference between a trendy shopper (her) and a basic shopper (me). Written by the latter (dress code: black yoga pants and t-shirt), who is in awe of the former (dress code: anything whimsical, trendy, colorful; always accessorized).

Attitude is a mindset.

Me: Do I have to be here?

Her: Do we need to leave?

Enter store. Cheer or sigh?

Me (sigh): Race for the black rack. (Note: this rack doesn’t actually exist, but it should, especially in the store called White House, Black Market).

Her (cheer): Beelines for clothes that she describes as high-fashion and vibrant, yet I describe as “too loud”.

Scan those racks (get your mind out of the gutter!)

Me: Quickly scan for clothes that meet stated goals. Impatiently move as quickly as possible.

Her: Laboriously size up every piece of clothing on every rack. Pick out the most intricate, stylish, clothes. “Ohhhhh” …. “Ahhhh” … as she goes.

Try ‘em on.

Me: Tries on clothes because I have to – who wants to end up back at the store to return stuff?

Her: Tries on clothes because she loves to – so.much.fun! (Also, loves an excuse to go back to the store).

Accessorize. Or not.

Me: I have clothes. I’m done.

Her: We need shoes and accessories.

Me: Fine. Let’s start with shoes. (here’s where I become slightly fashionable, but I ALWAYS regret shoes that look great but hurt my feet).

Her: We need shoes. Jewelry. Pocketbooks. Tights. (Wait, she says these aren’t in style anymore, but I love fishnets and refuse to give them up).

Mentioning the unmentionables.

Me: I don’t have a bra that will work under that dress, so I won’t buy it.

Her: You are WEARING a bra that works under that dress. See? It clips.right.here.

Me: That’s what that plastic thing is for?!

Her: Sigh…how do you not know this?

(This conversation actually happened while dress shopping).

Diane von Furstenberg approved.

Me: I want a black a-lined dress. Or a black wrap dress.

Her: You need something more fun.

Me: DO I HAVE TO? (Spoken in the tone of a 3-year old verging on a temper tantrum).

Her: How’s this…this..this…this? TRY THEM ON!

Me: I like the way this looks. We’re done.

Her: Buy it! Looks fabulous. But you can’t wear it to that event so let’s keep looking.

Me: What? We aren’t done? UGH.

(I still don’t understand why the dress that DVF literally invented isn’t good enough for her).

Click. Shop. Done?

Me: Order online.

Her: Go to store. Spend HOURS at store. Or online. She annoyingly can shop anywhere, anytime, for long periods of time.

How much is too much?

Me:  I have enough clothes to last me 7 days. I might need some more black t-shirts. And yoga pants.

Her: Must have many alternatives for many occasions.

8 a.m. on a Wednesday

Me:  I have nothing to wear.

Her: You could wear the such-and-such with the such-and-such.

Me: How the hell do you remember that I even own that?

Her: Emerges in a black Gap t-shirt dress paired with black Seychelles sandals, accessorized with a liquid silver necklace and her Nana’s vintage silver and stone bracelet. Hair in a pony tail, light make-up. *

Me: Emerges in…you guessed it: yoga pants and plain black t-shirt. *

*Literal descriptions from a text exchange at 8a.m. on a Wednesday. Also, I think Seychelles is an island, not as a shoe style. If you know me, you’re laughing that I even know that Seychelles is a place and you are positive I could not find it on a map. (You’re right. I can’t find my house on a map either!)

 Time to vote. Who do you want to shop with?

Do you want to shop with me? My approach is quick-and-easy-let’s-get-out-of-here.  Or better, we can sit next to each other and shop online while we drink wine.

Or, do you want to shop with her? The fashionista who always knows what’s trending, can size up any other person to gauge what looks stunning on said person, and is happy to hit the bar before shopping.

Yeah, I pick her too.





From Mom to Marlee, on Becoming a Bat Mitzvah

Hi Marlee,

When you decided to become a Bat Mitzvah we asked you SO MANY questions. And gave you quite a few options. It wasn’t the first time we did this with you (or, by your perception, to you).

Remember that photo I showed you last week? Standing in the driveway with Lila. You were about 5 and 3 years old. Big smiles on your faces. Wildly mismatched outfits.

That trend started when you were 15 months old, when your fashion philosophy was “I like this shirt. I like those pants. They go together!” (They didn’t). At first Dad and I thought it was adorable. Then we were curious. Then concerned. Then we wondered if we should intervene. Then you started wearing THAT OUTFIT and we knew we had to do something.

(Note: I have photo evidence to share with anyone who is interested. FaceBook periodically serves up this memory as well).

I asked around and found out that I was giving you too many options. So, the next time we got dressed, I tried to narrow it down for you.

“Marlee, do you want to wear this shirt or that shirt? These pants or those pants?” You looked right at me and said (with scorn), “Mommy, I want to wear the blue shirt with the yellow flower and the fairy. With leggings…that have the stripes!”. This outfit was that outfit.

Savta remembers that outfit with disdain. Meg is still trying to determine if it actually didn’t match based on my description (it didn’t!).

Day after day I offered you “this or that…these or those”. Every day you stomped your foot and demanded to wear some other outfit.

It was then that I realized YOU ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO ARGUE WITH (Sam and Callie know what I’m talkin’ about!). It’s also when Dad and I figured something out: It’s not our job to make the decisions for you, but it’s absolutely our responsibility to help you make good decisions.

Whether they’re big or small, easy or hard. Whether it feels like you have too many options, not enough options, or no options at all. And especially when there is duality in the decision like when there are decisions wrapped in decisions, but it doesn’t feel like a gift. Like…

Going to camp? Easy.

Deciding which electives to pick? Hard. (Marlee claims this is not hard, just pick whatever Callie picks).

Doing gymnastics? Easy.

Choosing gymnastics over all other possible activities? Kinda hard.

Becoming a bat mitzvah? Easy.

Choosing who to honor in your candle lighting ceremony? So hard! And don’t get me started on the words for candle number twelve.

Marlee, here’s the thing. All the choices are your choices. Whether they are “right” or “wrong”, whether others agree or disagree, (and by the way, it’s hardly ever so black and white) they are always yours.

Dad and I support you. But, that doesn’t mean we won’t ask you so many questions (like we did with your Bat Mitzvah) or give you other options to think about (like we did with aforementioned blue shirt, striped pants combo.)

We’ll help you sort though the options of this or that, these or those.

We’ll guide you with the toughest decisions like who to let in and out of your life and which college to go to.

We’ll listen when it feels like there are no options, like when I pick you up at a sleepover at 9am but you want to leave at 11am (and now I can hear the future arguments about curfews).

We’ll remind you, over and over again, that you ALWAYS have a choice in how you react and how you respond. And this is one of the most important choices you’ll ever make. We hope you’ll do this with kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, and empathy.

Marlee, we especially support the choice you made today. To become a bat mitzvah. To celebrate with friends and family. And, the decision I anticipate you’ll make next…Dad and Lila’s favorite: to have so much fun for the rest of the night.

Mazel Tov.

Oh, and by the way. That outfit? Great choice.



The Early Days

I sat in the mommy-and-me group feeling completely out of place. All the other moms cheerfully held their babies. They gushed about how many hours their baby slept. They giggled at their rare feeding mishaps.

They were so in control. So confident. And I? I was a mess.

You wouldn’t know it on the outside. I managed to smile and commiserate and not have (too much) vomit on my shirt. While the other moms made parenting seem effortless, I felt like I was in a triathlon (it’s important to note I dislike running, biking, and swimming.).

As I look back on those early days, I see the truth. They were hard yet gratifying. Overwhelming yet manageable. Mostly they felt confusing. My head was split in two as I tried to make sense of the opposing feelings battling in the foreground of my mind. There were so many things my mind didn’t know but my heart sensed instinctively.

I didn’t know that I could feel so alive at the same time I felt so exhausted. Every day felt equally like a gift and a chore. Basic things like eating and sleeping temporarily became advanced skills. My exhaustion felt like a trap that prevented me from living.

I didn’t know that spending all of my time side-by-side with another person would feel so lonely. Seems impossible to create another person, love that person with all your being, and then feel lonely being with them. Surrounding myself with family, friends, and other moms drilled in the isolation further. The physicality of support couldn’t unlock the emotional shackles I created in those early days.

I didn’t know that I could feel like I was going to lose my mind but still have infinite patience. Some days it felt like my mind was at war with itself. I wanted to scream and stomp and kick and cry. Yet I didn’t (at least not most of the time). I breathed in. I breathed out. I spoke calmly. I learned patience.

I didn’t know that being a working mom would feel so dreadful yet be just what I needed. Just when I started to get in my groove and gain confidence of being mom, I was back at work. Correction: I forced myself back to work too soon, dreaded every day, and spiraled into uncontrollable-postpartum depression. Yet recently when a mentor asked “why do you work” I didn’t hesitate to genuinely say, “working makes me a better parent. And a better person.”

I didn’t know that I was a great mom from the start even though I had no idea what I was doing. Up until becoming a mom I thought being great at something meant mastering a skill. Being an expert. I was no expert at being a parent (still am not!) but I did realize at some point that love and patience trumped talent and expertise. At least some of the time.

I didn’t know that one day I would long for the days I couldn’t wait to escape. The no-sleep-can’t-function-why-won’t-she-stop-crying-phase seemed endless yet today I look at baby’s snuggling up in their mom’s necks and I want to experience that moment again. Then I remember the crying (me and the baby), look at my tween girls, and feel grateful that we can have a logical (somewhat logical) conversation and express love in both words and actions.

The early days got me ready for the rest of the days. I still am not entirely sure that I’m doing this parenting thing “right”, but I am (more) certain that there is no right way to do anything (including parenting). I’m positive our girls know that we love them like crazy. And really, that’s half of what I’m supposed to be doing. The other half is better said by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.”

Amazon Fresh is the best. And the WORST.

Dear Amazon,

If Amazon was a radio show I’d lead this with, “first time, long time” since I’ve been a loyal Amazonian since 1998 (1,001 orders placed in 10 years – yes, I counted).

I love so many things about your company yet I love and loathe one in particular: Amazon Fresh.

 A little over a year ago my husband, who gleefully does most of the grocery shopping and cooking in our house, accepted a job that took him from a happily short commute to a monstrously long commute. The former gave him plenty of time to shop and cook while the latter gives him lots of time to listen to Howard Stern (queue my jealousy).

While I absolutely want my husband to have a job he likes, I did not like the implication: someone, likely ME, was going to need to take over the shopping and cooking.

Amazon Fresh to the rescue.

I skeptically placed my first order and soon became addicted. Fresh ingredients, super-easy ordering, almost instant delivery. Even meal kits! The few times my order wasn’t accurate (and the two times my eggs were crushed) your incredible customer service team stepped in. What’s not to love?!?!

Soon my husband and I joked that Amazon Fresh saved us from divorce because surely the additional responsibility of shopping and cooking on top of my three demanding jobs (mom, Cisco, PTA) would lead to arguments at best and divorce at worst.

And then Amazon Fresh BAILED ON US.

 I first heard the news from my neighbor (another die-hard Fresh Fan): you were stopping delivery in our area. Surely she was mistaken, I thought. I quickly googled to learn the terrible truth: you were stopping delivery all over the place. I went home, distraught, to share the news with my husband. We looked at each other feeling bewildered, wondering yet again, WHO WILL DO THE SHOPPING?

I tripled my orders leading up to the day those beautiful green bags would no longer grace my front stairs. In the 21 days since I said goodbye to my beloved Fresh we’ve bickered and bargained about who will go to the store, resorting to a ro-cham-bo style contest of “NOT IT!”.

Please bring Amazon Fresh back to our area.

You’re running a huge company with billions of customers and dollars at stake. One loyal Amazonian in the middle of a small town in Massachusetts cannot place enough orders to make a financial business justification for such a request. I get it. Yet I still beg you, please, PLEASE bring Amazon fresh back to Massachusetts.

Thank you for considering my plea.

Your loyal customer since 1998,


“Why don’t more kids stand up to the bullies?”

Every time I read a post about mean kids and bullies I want to proudly declare my kids always stand up to the mean kids. But always isn’t accurate. And frankly, it’s not realistic.

I realize that statement sounds horrific and half of you stopped reading (and likely started irately commenting) but hear me out. Because none of us have a perfect kindness record.

While I want my girls to always do the right thing, even when the right thing is the hard thing, sometimes they choose not to. And I get it.

Yes, I get it.

Because I was a kid once.  While I had a strong desire to be kind, my 13-year old self had a stronger desire to fit in. The author of Wonder (must read book) sums it up perfectly:

What character do you identify with the most or is the most like you?
I wish I could say I was most like Summer, but that wouldn’t be true. I try to be more like her every day, though. ..But the character I identify the most with as a girl, or who represents what I might have been like if a kid like Auggie came to my school, is Charlotte. I think a lot of kids can relate to Charlotte. She’s nice enough, but she never really goes out of her way to be kind to Auggie. She’ll wave hello from a distance, but she never sits down with him. She helps Jack behind the scenes, but she never openly sides with him. She’s a good girl, but she’s not quite brave enough to act on her good instincts. That kind of bravery sometimes doesn’t come until you’re older, and sometimes doesn’t come at all. She represents the difference between simply being nice, and choosing to be kind, which is a main theme of the book. She’s the classic bystander, though I think by the end of the book she’s become aware of this. Her precept shows this. I think in the sixth grade, she’ll be an upstander, not a bystander.

 In 7th grade my “friends” had an amazing (sarcasm) game of social isolation where every week someone in the group was iced out. Somehow I was the person that was most frequently iced out.  So you’d think when it was someone else’s turn I would speak out or at least go hang out with the friend that was being isolated.

But I didn’t. Because it was freaking SCARY.

Here’s another thing I inwardly retaliate against: the idea that all rude, mean, and bullying behavior (do you know the difference?) starts at home. Whenever I read a post that includes some form of “well she learned it somewhere, must have started at home” I think that maybe it didn’t.

You read that right: I don’t believe that all bullying starts at home. I also don’t dare to utter those words out loud, or even more daring, print them in response to a FB post (yep, still trying to fit in).

How could I think such a thing? I try to assume some positive intent, especially when kids are involved. Sometimes the meanness is superficial oversight. Sometimes it’s a momentary lack of empathy. Sometimes people make a bad on-the-spot-decision. Yet other times the person is simply an asshole.

It’s really hard to know what motivated the behavior or where it was learned so I don’t want to pass judgment (which doesn’t mean I don’t pass judgment, just that I try not to!). And I especially want to be fair because I’d want that treatment if it were my girls accused of bullying.

Which could happen as accounted for in this powerful narrative of a kind, thoughtful mom who discovered her worst nightmare: it was her kid that was the bully.

Which is all to say, again, I get it when kids are bystanders instead of upstanders.

When I talk to my kids about another kid who is left out, picked on, called names, or worse, I understand when they respond with hesitation. I coach them, guide them, and question them…using all of my best techniques to get them to stand up to that mean kid but in the end I know I made the same choice over and over again.

Even as an adult I sometimes slip into this old habit. I get caught up in the scene, worry that I’ll make waves, and watch someone else’s misery unfold. A friend of mine summed it up perfectly, “we have too many bystanders, myself included. I speak out, but not too loudly because I just want to exist in peace.”

(BTW, this statement is hilarious because one of the things I admire most about this friend is that she seems to always speak out, loudly, without a care of who disagrees, at the most meaningful moments.)

There are certain situations I expect any human being to get involved in no matter their age. If anyone witnesses another person being taunted, harassed, isolated, discriminated against or pushed around, they should help. Period. If my girls told me they saw this behavior and said nothing I would be so vocal you might even hear me from wherever you live.

What I really want to figure out is how to help my kids feel comfortable standing up for themselves and others. How to do this in a way that is authentic to them. How to acknowledge their discomfort and help them work through it. How to help them be kind and confident in their response. How to get them to do what’s right more often and more vocally. How to teach them without telling them so it becomes instinct.

Back to the original question, “Why don’t more kids stand up to bullies?” My answer stands: there are a lot of reasons. Let’s take time to understand the reasons so we can guide our kids more often for better results. Let’s be realistic about what’s possible, when.

And let’s keep talking about it. Right here. Right now.


My Path is Different

I’m living in the decade my mom didn’t survive.

I just got here yet I’ll be here for a while. I wonder if that’s what my mom thought when she entered her 40s. Surely she didn’t think, “this is the decade I am going to die.”

Yet I fear just that.

Today I see all that she left behind. All that she might have seen. If only she were here.

My path is different.

I want to watch my kids grow up. To be part of their lives and their kids’ lives. I want to love them and hug them and smile at them and yell at them and fight with them and hold them close and let them go. I want to be their mom for a long, long time.

My path is different.

I want to grow old with Josh. To hold hands, have adventures, explore new places, discover new interests.  I want to reminisce about our life. Create new memories to reflect on. To watch our children become independent. Together.

My path is different.

I feel more love and gratitude than ever before yet I crave more. I feel confident yet inadequate. I feel like I am giving so much yet it’s never enough. I feel like I am surrounded by family and friends yet I am alone. I feel like I know myself better than ever yet there is so much more to discover.

My path is different.

I know the age of her death is arbitrary. I know the chance that I will follow in her footsteps of early demise is unlikely. Yet I can’t shake it. The closer I get to the age she died the more I feel like there is a shadow cast upon my soul.

My path is different. But only if I make it so.

This decade I will love more. Laugh more. Smile more. Feel more gratitude. Experience more joy.

Happy birthday, Mom.


Post Script from my actual 44th bday – post from Facebook:


I have my mom’s hands.

I often look at them with wonder. Curious what it would be like if she were here. Would we link fingers like I do with Marlee? Squeeze hands like I do with Lila?

Today isn’t just my birthday. It’s my 44th birthday. I have entered the age my mom was when she died.

It’s surreal. And bittersweet.

When she died I remember feeling an immense sense of loneliness and isolation. There was no internet. No social network. No one besides my friend Dan Paluso to say, “I’ve been there. It gets better.”

While many expressed sympathy, few shared empathy. If empathy existed, I was immune to it (isolation and shame will do that to a person – thank you to Brene Brown for helping me to understand that).

Today I can summon support from friends or strangers. A few words; a good search. Public or private; named or anonymous. It’s easier to find someone to say, “I’ve been there. It gets better.”

While a shadow of sorrow still creeps into my mind, it no longer penetrates my soul.

Maybe the promises I made to myself when I entered my 40s helped (https://jillshaul.com/2017/03/08/my-path-is-different/).

Maybe it was the healing of hugs and hand-holds from two great girls.

Maybe it was something else entirely. Or, doesn’t matter at all.

Thank you for all of the birthday wishes.