Nora makes me miss New York even more than I already do! A born and bred Queens gal, her love for her city is contagious. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live on Sesame Street?
I can’t wait to follow her around her jam-packed day. Let’s do this, Nora!
Hi there! I’m Nora Gomez-Strauss, a working mom in NYC. I am a born and bred Queens, NY gal and live in my native borough with my born and bred Queens guys: my husband and two year old son. By day, I get to work at Public Art Fund.
This year, we sold our beloved apartment and decided to make a dramatic move…down the hallway. We love our neighborhood and especially our building, and couldn’t let a three-bedroom in NYC slip away while knowing we were outgrowing our space. It should have been the easiest move ever, but things never quite work out that way.
Our new home is still under renovation, so in the mean time, we are staying at my in-laws’, who happen to live three floors down from us! Before you get any sitcom-like ideas in your mind: they are away for summer. It is not the most convenient to have to essentially move twice, but we are very lucky to have somewhere to stay. Beyond that, we are lucky to have them in the same building as us. I won the in-law lottery and could not love them any more. Especially now with a little one, it’s wonderful to have them so close. My own parents are only a 15-minute drive away, so it’s safe to say we are all pretty close, figuratively and literally.
But let’s get on with the day. My alarm goes off at 5:45 am, which, in the dead of winter seems inhumane. I usually check emails, some news, and Instagram for a few minutes before hearing a pitter-patter of footsteps and “Mama!” My toddler, Santiago, will run up to the bed, where we have the same conversation every morning. I explain I have to get up and shower, but he can stay in bed with dad.
Before Santiago (Santi, for short) was born, I found the time to go to the gym or a yoga class. That has since mostly gone out the window. When he was about two months old I began doing these ten-minute Pilates videos every morning, which I found was a helpful habit for me. A friend also introduced me to this great app called YogaGlo, that lets you select online classes based on what you would like to focus on or how much time you have. I usually do a 15-minute class by my favorite instructor. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a small thing that helps me start my day.*
We are in the midst of casual potty training and around 7:00 am I say to Santi, “Time to brush teeth and use the potty!” with the kind of excitement usually reserved for Christmas morning. Then I’ll get him dressed and get his breakfast ready, which is usually yogurt, fruit, and either eggs or cereal during the week. Weekends are reserved for bagel-donut-pancake bonanzas.
My own breakfast is usually hot lemon water and some toast, or if I feel like treating myself, Greek yogurt with granola. Yes, I realize that makes me sound super boring. We listen to NPR every morning, so my husband and I often discuss whatever we are listening to as he gets his morning going. These days, we tend to get really worked up by the news we hear and I recently had to take a step back when Santi repeated a non-baby-friendly word I used. Whoops.
My husband, David, is the Deputy Director of the Queens Museum**, which is only a few minutes away by car, so his morning is not always as time-sensitive as mine. My favorite morning ritual is David and Santi walking me to the subway. We say good morning to the wonderful people who work in our building and our neighbors along the way and often joke it’s like we live on Sesame Street. Our neighborhood, Forest Hills, can feel like a little town, which is a nice feeling living in a big city. I say, “I love you, have a great day!” to each of my boys and head off.
Going back to living so close to family, we also see them often because both grandmothers help look after Santi. The week is split up between them and a nanny. I love knowing that he has special relationships with both grandmothers — aka Gamma and Nana. They are invaluable. If I had a squad, they would definitely be in it. (And for the record, they are as gorgeous as super models).
I count my just about 30-minute subway ride as alone time, which I use to listen to music and read. Currently, I am reading Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, and I must look crazy trying to hold my laughter in as I read. Every once in a while, a chuckle will escape. I have also unknowingly danced like nobody is watching with my headphones on, so comparatively, a chuckle is not so bad.
By the time I get to work, sometimes I feel like a whole day has happened. Before stepping into the office, I usually grab sweet nectar from above…I mean, iced coffee. I am one of those very lucky people that do not dread coming to work every day. It is a very special feeling knowing that I get to be part of something that touches people’s lives every day — whether it’s getting someone to smile on their way to work, making someone stop in their tracks and have a quiet moment, or inspiring a child to make their own art. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware we’re not saving lives, but we might be changing lives. I know this because Public Art Fund changed my own life.
When I was home from college one summer and working at the 92nd Street Y Arts camp, we were with the kids at City Hall Park, where Public Art Fund had an exhibition on view. The kids were going wild, both interacting with the art and drawing in their sketchbooks. At the time, I thought I wanted to become an art teacher but wasn’t completely sure. I remember thinking how great it must be to work somewhere like Public Art Fund. It was that thought that led me to pursue Arts & Cultural Management for graduate school, and I eventually made my way here years later.
At Public Art Fund, I’m the Director of Digital Strategies, so I spend a lot of time at the computer. It’s a mix of new media, marketing, website management, and graphic design. First thing in the morning, I check email and write a to do list for the day. The to do list dictates the rest of the day.
We are gearing up to open an exhibition next month, so today I talk with my boss, Kellie Honeycutt, our Director of Communications, about some of the elements surrounding the show. I have worked with Kellie for almost five years, and for most of them, we were a department of just two. She is the best colleague anyone could ask for. I don’t think I know anyone who laughs as often at work as I do. We work very well together, and even when things get hectic, it’s reassuring to be on a team with her. This is the first week for our new Communications Associate, Sandrine Milet, so it’s been a extra exciting to have another set of hands join us.
We have a new exhibition being announced in the next couple days, so Kellie and I discuss some details, including the online strategy. Posting the announcement of a new exhibition is always really thrilling. These shows have often been in the works for two years or three years and finally being able to share them with the public is exhilarating. In addition to posting to our various social media accounts, I also monitor our activity all day. I can’t be at every exhibition we have across the city on a daily basis, so we value our online interactions in a different way than brick and mortar organizations do. We often say social media operates as our Visitor Services department. I spend a lot of time answering questions, commenting on images, and engaging in conversation. Tools like Hootsuite help me keep my sanity!
While so much of that is exciting, you know what is not? Lunch in Midtown Manhattan. It’s kind of all the same. I will usually step out with Kellie to quickly get a salad or soup to bring back to the office. Don Draper would not approve. However, today I want to get a few Instagram-worthy images of our current work at Rockefeller Center, so Kellie and Sandrine volunteer to walk over with me if we can grab something tasty from near that area. Kellie’s daughter is about three months younger than Santi, so we often spend our walks to getting lunch discussing very chic things like how to remove poop stains and what latest baby clothes sale we have shopped.
In the afternoon, our department meets with Rachel Nawi, our Director of Development, to discuss this year’s Public Art Fund magazine. Even though it will not drop until December, it takes months to organize and create the content, edit, and finally send to print. One of my happiest work moments of the year is getting the magazine in my hands for the first time. The rest of the afternoon is spent checking things off of the to-do list like making sure the webpages for our Talks series are ready to go, developing a graphic identity for another upcoming show, and working with our super star summer intern to organize the images for the magazine. At the end of the day, if I’ve checked off most of my list, I feel like the day was productive.
When I first came back to work after having Santi, I had this internal pressure to have it all. Once I realized that was impossible, I felt so much better. My number one job before everything else is always mom, but some days I am better at being mom and some days I am better at work, and that’s ok.
When I get home, I say the same thing to Santi every day: “I am so happy to see you!” I have been saying that since getting home from work my first day after maternity leave, and I really mean it every day. I also still feel the same way about David. When I am walking home from the subway, I keep thinking how excited I am to see both of them.
Today, the boys and I go on our daily visit three floors up to check on the progress of the new apartment. It’s wonderful that we have a place to stay during this process, and we are incredibly fortunate to be able to move to a bigger space, but at the same time I have this homesickness for a home we are not in yet. Much to our delight, it’s starting to look like an actual apartment and not a cube of cement chaos. We then decide to step out for dinner to get away from packed boxes and toy cars scattered on the floor.
Dirty Pierre’s is a restaurant and bar in the neighborhood that David and I have been going to for years (I even threw him a surprise fortieth birthday party there). Pre-Santi, it was more bar than restaurant to us, but now that we go at a more family friendly hour, it’s the reverse. Everyone that works there has known Santi since he was in my belly and it’s a comfortable place to get dinner and listen to some music; they have a great jukebox. In our old apartment, we constantly had records on, and although we can play anything on our iPhones, choosing tunes on a jukebox feels closer to home. We head back in time to get the little guy ready for bed around 8:00 pm. I sing him “Sweet Child of Mine” every night, and lately he has started to sing along, which makes my heart burst into a million pieces.
Once his bedtime rituals are over and he’s asleep, I still have half of my night left. I make Santi’s lunch and snack for the following day, which is an activity I weirdly take a lot of joy in. We lucked out with an adventurous eater and it’s fun to make him new things to try. Tonight, I make him teriyaki salmon and orzo with tomatoes and a pepper he very specifically picked out at a farm stand over the weekend.
After that, David and I often sit together and talk about our day. Since we both work in the arts, we can’t escape work talk! One of our favorite activities is zoning out and watching Netflix until we fall sleep, but these days, the Olympics have us captivated (and so do all of the teary commercials). We watch the TV and scream at it while I also edit some photos on my laptop. Last year I became a Getty contributor and I’m currently working on some images from our trip to Colombia earlier this summer.
I am usually ready to pass out by 11:00 pm. When Santi was a newborn, one of our neighbors said to me, “The days are long and the years are short.” Those words could not have been truer. The past two years have flown by and I can’t believe how big he is. Since he was an infant, every month I would say “This stage is the best! He’s doing…” But I really do feel this age is magical. I love hearing what he has to say and seeing his personality come out. David and I lie in bed and comment to each other about the funny things he is saying. In my last awake moments, I make a mental list of what needs to get done the next day.
Lately, the very last thing I usually think about before falling asleep for the night is “I can’t wait to be in our new home.”
*I promise I was not compensated for saying that.
**Fun fact: David and I met and fell in love while we were both working at the museum! We lived and worked together for four years. Queens is for lovers.
Nora, I loved your day, and I loved your enthusiasm even more. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.
And, really, there’s not much that’s better than when someone tells you, “I am so happy to see you!” Is there a phrase you share with your special people on the regular? Tell us, will you please?