Archive of ‘Life in General’ category

Working the Room

It took me forever to get comfortable attending networking events. I used to think these gatherings were not for me, but better suited for salespeople who wanted to land their next client. I often felt like a fish in a barrel waiting for one of them to reel me in with their schpiel.

As a writer, the whole situation actually makes for good material. Each attendee has a backstory and a reason for being there. Some have a game plan or no game whatsoever. A few work the room with ease while others consider themselves successful because they got up the nerve to walk through the door.

When attending these events, I always took the “fake it til you make it” approach. I’m not a wallflower, but I’m not a salesman either. I am pretty good at small talk, so my strategy revolved around feigning self-confidence and walking up to someone who looked just as uncomfortable as I did, say hello and start up a conversation. Most of the time, it was a good experience–although there were some duds. We would practice our elevator pitches on each other, play the “do you know so and so” game, and then exchange business cards. Later, at home, I would find them on LinkedIn and add them to my contacts.

I met one of my good friends at a conference in Boston over 15 years ago. We were among the first to arrive, sat down together and introduced ourselves. As we made small talk, we found that we had a lot in common and we haven’t stopped talking since. She is an amazing person who encourages me to be my best self. I’m so glad I decided to sit next to her.

I have actually met a lot of friends in the same way–through networking. You just never know who you are going to meet and how you can help each other out. The more events I went to–the more amazing people I met and the better I got at this networking thing. I even started to enjoy myself.

Nowadays, my goal is to meet at least half the people in the room. It doesn’t need to be everyone, but it can’t just be one person either. I ask questions and get them to talk about themselves.My ultimate goal is to see how I can be of help to them instead of the other way around. I think that makes a lasting impression on people and later when I connect with them on LinkedIn, they remember me and often return the favor.

What is your game plan when it comes to networking?

Disney Tips

I’m a pretty big fan of all things Mickey Mouse. And Mininie. And Beauty and Beast. And…well you get the idea. I was nine years old when I first went to Mickey’s House (a.k.a. Disney World). It was a magical time. While I was a little too young to fully enjoy all the rides,the trip was memorable. After being there many times now with friends, family and my own kids. I’ve picked up some helpful tips along the way.

  • Bring Lunch – Save yourself some money and pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to bring to the park. Food in the Disney Parks is expensive. Save your money for a theme dinner or a meet the characters breakfast (which I also highly recommend so that you can avoid the lines for photos). If you want to eat any meals in the park, adults are allowed to order from the kids’ menus too!
  • Splurge – Buy one of those spray water bottles with the fan for every member of your family. It is worth the money and no one fights over them when it gets unbearably hot outside.
  • Download the Disney app – Want to know how long the line is at Space Mountain? Check the app for wait times? Need a reservation at one of the restaurants? Check the app.
  • Have a plan – Figure out what your “must-do” rides are and get to them first. Everything takes longer than you think. Go to guest services for their one day itineraries to help you.
  • Pack a poncho – No matter what time of year you go to Florida, there is bound to be a pop-up shower. Bring the ponchos (buy one at a dollar store at home). They will come in handy at least one of the days you are in the parks. Also, don’t leave the park when it rains. There are plenty of places to stay dry and these showers typically don’t last that long.
  • Take in the Hall of Presidents or Carousel of Progress – Not as exciting as Splash Mountain – but it is a chance to sit down in an air-conditioned theater for 30 minutes!
  • Need a break from Disney World? – Visit the Kennedy Space Center. It is not too far away and so worth it!

Most of all, have a great trip! (And if you want a personal tour guide, I’m available!)

Late Night TV x 4

late nightIn these troubled and frankly downright scary times in our country, I need a little levity to get me through the day. Thankfully, late night TV hosts are my bae. I don’t care who the guests are on tonight’s show. I’m in it for the monologues. They are often flawless and talk about exactly what I am thinking, but afraid to say aloud. Other times, they come up with things I wish I thought of myself.

Here are my top 4 faves in the order that I always watch them (on my DVR. I can’t stay up that late anymore).

  • Late Night With Seth Myers – After a brief monologue, his segment “a closer look” brings an in-depth commentary on one or two issues of the day. It is brilliant. Google Seth Myers A Closer Look and you will see what I mean. Plus, his writer Amber – can I just say what, what!
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – If I can’t have Jon Stewart and my moment of zen, I’ll take Stephen Colbert. I’ve always liked him – even when he played a conservative blowhard on his old show. Still lovable. And musical. And just brilliant.
  • The Daily Show with Trevor Noah – Speaking of Jon Stewart, I had my doubts about his replacement. I still wish Samantha Bee or Jessica Williams got the top spot. However, Trevor is smart, funny and I’ll just say it – sexy.
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! – I’ll admit that I was not a fan of his in the beginning. I’m not big on pranks or celebrities or celebrities that pull pranks. But Jimmy has a sensitive side and he isn’t afraid to cry on TV and share his life with the world. And I’ve become a fan.

Who do you watch on late night?

P.S. John Oliver almost made this list, but I really have to pay attention to his monologues to get what he is saying and at 11 pm at night that is a lot to ask!
Love you John! Can’t wait for you to come back in February!

How I Came Up With My Blog Name

Ever since I started the Ultimate Blog Challenge, some new readers have complimented me on my blog name and wondered how I came up with it. Well, here is a little history behind the name:

One night, I was parked in the high school parking lot waiting for my daughter to finish track practice. She had already sent me a text me earlier informing me to pick her up.
My phone pinged with a text message.

“Where r u?” she typed.

“I’m parked across from the tennis courts.”  I reply.

“K” she types too preoccupied (or too cool) to type in the “O”

A few minutes passed and I was concerned she couldn’t find me. I checked the time on my phone and sent a brief text to someone else. When I looked up, I saw Jenna’s long, blonde hair draped over her bright, blue backpack. She was walking in the wrong direction.

So, I did what any mother would do. I jumped out of the car, waved my arm in the air and yelled –“JENNA! I’M OVER HERE!”

Now, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the look of sheer humiliation on her face as she made her way towards my car. She opened the car door and I barely got out an apology before she laid into me about how parents should be seen and not heard.

As I tried to apologize yet again to the slumped over figure beside me, I had a thought. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a manual to advise me on how not to embarrass my daughter in broad daylight in front of her friends in the high school parking lot? A parenting manual would prevent so many “mom-fail” moments like this one. Without said manual, there is no sure-fire, 100% effective, 24/7, 365 days a year guide to raising children in the 21st century. My son and daughter amaze me every day. It is truly an honor to watch them grow up and be a part of their lives.

I only hope I’m not screwing them up. If I do, I’ll help pay for their future therapists.

Don’t you think there are times when a life manual would be totally awesome? I could have used said manual as a road map following my college graduation. With my liberal arts degree in hand, the only advice I had to go on was to follow my passion and find a way to make it into a career.

Life is complicated. And let’s face it,  we are all just winging it in our own spectacular way! A manual would be nice, but none of us have one. Thus was born the name of my blog – Life Without A Manual. 

Life Is Better With A Dog

After being away for a week on vacation, my family couldn’t wait to get home, sleep in our own beds and see our dog, Chloe. But, there was one problem. She was with her foster family a half an hour away and we couldn’t get her until the next morning.

We walked into a too quiet house a little sad knowing that our entire family was not together – and wouldn’t be until we brought Chloe home.

Before last summer, there were so many reasons why I absolutely never wanted to get a dog. My husband and kids were totally on board with it, but I was the last holdout. I held out for a long time.
I had a lot of concerns.

  • I never grew up with a dog.
  • I didn’t know what to do with a dog.
  • I’m allergic to dogs.
  • I didn’t want to be the mom who rescued the dog, but had to give it back because of my allergies.
  • I didn’t want to be the person who left parties early to go home and let the dog out.

I thought they were all valid reasons, but I knew my husband longed for man’s best friend. My kids practically campaigned monthly for us to get a dog. Every time we visited a home with a furry friend they begged for me to change my mind.

So, I finally caved. Maybe it was because I couldn’t take denying the rest of my family their wish. Maybe I wanted something else to take care of now that my kids were getting older. Maybe I wanted to see what I was missing out on.

It seemed like the moment I said yes to rescuing a dog, Chloe arrived. My husband wasted no time finding her. To solve the allergy problem, we needed a dog that didn’t shed at all. Chloe is a schnoodle – part schnauzer, part poodle–which was perfect for our family. I had my doubts, but the minute we brought Chloe home – there was no way she was ever going back.

When we first got her, I had two hard and fast rules – she can’t lay on my favorite couch or in my bed. Guess where she is sitting as I type this post? Right next to me, of course, on my bed. And the couch—it’s her spot. She loves to lay in the sun and watch the other dogs go by.

So much for my rules.

She won me over on the first day she came home. After pacing the house and getting used to her new surroundings, I was the one she let pet her first. She followed me around all day long and won my heart.

And now a year later, I am a total dog person. Chloe is a part of the family. I have an “I Love My Schnoodle” magnet on my car. She has an Eagles jersey for football season and a Halloween costume. I buy more treats for her than anyone else in the house. My favorite part of the day is when she greets me at the door just happy that I’m home.

I have to face it – I’m a dog person.

Kitchen Woes

When we met with our financial planner recently, we went over our situation and discussed important matters such as vacations we still want to take, paying for college and retirement among other things. We sat there for about 20 minutes listening to the different options when I finally blurted out, “But what about the kitchen?!”

I was completely serious though. For 15 years, I’ve longed for a kitchen with a place for everything and I’ve lived in a kitchen where nothing is where it should be. Hopefully, this is the year that we finally re-do our kitchen.We have redecorated almost every other room in the house and this is the last one on the list (besides the laundry room – which is a whole different story).

I have dreamed about it for so long. I have photos of other people’s newly renovated kitchens in my phone. My one active Pinterest page is dedicated to gorgeous kitchen designs complete with a coffee nook, an island, granite countertops and countless storage possibilities.

Over the summer, my frustration with the kitchen reached its highest level when I simply wanted to enjoy my favorite seasonal dish – corn on the cob. It took me 10 minutes to husk the corn, another 15 minutes to grill and 45 minutes to find four pairs of plastic corn holders for every member of my family.

The search was on. I found the navy blue pair first followed by the red in the back of the drawer where they live. I went one drawer down to look for the other pairs which proved futile. But, I wasn’t giving up so easily.  I found the 3rd pair – the white ones – in the junk drawer on the other side of the kitchen where my binder clips and push pins are stored. Did someone mistake them for office supplies? To this day, I’m still looking for the fourth pair of plastic holders – the yellow ones. Or maybe I’ll just buy new ones to go with my new kitchen.

Stay tuned…


26 Things About Me From A-Z

One of my friends posted these 26 things on Facebook, and I thought it would make a quick and easy blog post!

26 Things About Me
A- Age: 44
B- Biggest fear: Not living my best life
C- Current time: 9:30 PM
D- Drink you last had: Chocolate Milk
E- Everyday need: “I Love You’s” from my family and orange tic tacs in my purse
F- Favorite song: I Hope You Dance
G- Ghosts, are they real?: No
H- Hometown: Sewell, NJ
I- In love with: Scott
J- Jealous of: Brand new kitchens and super-organized closets
K- Killed someone? No
L- Last time you cried?: Almost cried at work about a week ago, but I grabbed a drink of water instead and pulled myself together. Whew!
M- Middle name: Michelle
N- Number of siblings: 1 sister. She is awesome!

O- One wish: Better gun control laws

P- Person whom you last called: My daughter to tell her I was going to be late.

Q- Question you’re always asked: It is a tie between “What are we doing today?” and “Did you publicize my event?”
R- Reason to smile: Going to spend Thanksgiving with my sister this year. A rare treat!
S- Song last sang: I Like to Move It Move it. In the car with Andrew
T- Time you woke up: 5:30 am
U- Underwear color: Purple :)
V- Vacation destination: Next vacation – LA/San Diego in the spring
W- Worst habit: Repeating myself in a conversation …repeating myself in a conversation
X- X-Rays you’ve had: Wrist (broken), ankle (not broken), chest (for pneumonia)
Y- Your favorite food: Boston Kreme donuts on my birthday
Z- Zodiac sign: Aquarius

Ready Or Not, Here They Come!

kids at camp togetherActually, I am ready. I’m ready for my house to be filled with piles of camp laundry to wash, dry and put away. (Did I really just say that?) I’m ready to wake up to the smiles of my children first thing in the morning.

I’m ready for someone to call me Mom again.

Camp Heisman has been swell. Scott and I have reconnected and spent lots of quality time together. Long summer walks and great conversations have been a key part of our staycation. Day trips, dinners out, working hard at our jobs, and hanging out with good friends was a big part of our “camp” activities. Meanwhile, our children enjoyed a wonderful 3 1/2 weeks at overnight camp connecting with old friends, making new ones, pushing themselves past their comfort zones, solving their own problems, and spreading their wings.

On Sunday, they will come home and the rest of our summer will begin. Jenna will take her place as a CIT at day camp while Andrew joins another bunk of friends. We will put Tube Night back on the calendar on Wednesdays and head over to our local swim club on a regular basis. And an amazing family vacation is only weeks away.

Some of our friends send their kids to overnight camp for both sessions and they encourage us to do the same. I applaud them for continuing to support their children as they spread their wings, but it is not my plan to follow suit. While I love to watch the kids grow as people, I also want them to keep planting some roots at home. Soon enough, college will take them away from us for much longer periods of time. Vacations with their friends will be the priority for them as they continue to fly away from our nest and start their own lives. So, we have decided to send them for one session of camp only (as long as we can afford it!). But then we want them home with us–while they are still legally required to be there. :)

Meanwhile, bring on the laundry, the camp stories, the sleepovers, the smiles, the constant shout outs demanding something from me. I’m ready for them to come home.

Stage Mom

beverly goldbergIn three days, the curtain will go up on the 5th grade play–The Jungle Book– with my son Andrew playing Mowgli. How could I not be proud on such a wonderful occasion?! His first audition ever and he gets the lead in the show!

I’ve done my best to contain my excitement and not to go all Beverly Goldberg on him. It hasn’t been easy. I realize that I am a little bit like that dreaded stage mom.

After we found out he had the lead, I worried over how he would learn 40 plus lines in a little over a month, plus the songs and the choreography. He never had to memorize much more than a list of spelling words before. How was he going to pull this off?

“Do you know your lines?” I asked each night.

“Yes, Mom,” he said with the occasional eye roll.

“I’m here to go over them with you if you want, sweetie,” I said casually. Inside my mind was racing…dying to know how far he got in learning his lines.

“Okay!”  he replied, but he never asked me to read with him. Not once. I decided not to push it.

During one parent meeting, I took the music teacher aside to ask him how Andrew was doing. Should I push harder to read with him? Does he need more practice? What can I do to help him?

He assured me Andrew was doing fine and he wasn’t worried about him one bit. Easy for him to say. It’s not his kid going up there.

About a week later, Andrew’s spring allergies kicked in big time. His watery eyes turned into a terrible runny nose and eventually a croop-like cough and then laryngitis. That’s right. LARYNGITIS!  My kid can’t have laryngitis. I’m sure you know where this is going. I made a sick visit with his allergist the very next day.

I have had a few other stage mom moments. I almost lost it on my husband when he innocently suggested taking Andrew for a haircut. Was he joking? Mowgli doesn’t have a crew cut! Andrew’s hair has to be long and messy as if he actually lived in the jungle.

And then there was the time when Andrew told me play practice was fun, but he told me how he wasn’t sure if he could actually get up  on stage and play his part in front of the entire school. I took a deep breath and told him it was a little too late to worry about that.

But then, there was the final straw. One minute Andrew was standing at the kitchen counter looking at a Minecraft video on his phone. The next minute, he was on the floor in tears holding his leg after tripping over the dishwasher door which was open.

I admit that my first thought was not the typical “Is he ok?”


And then after a brief moment of silence I added, “I mean…Are you okay?”

Luckily, he is fine. I just need to keep him in a bubble for the next 72 hours. A bubble that will protect him from sickness and/or injury. Did I mention he has no understudy?

I want him to do well. I want him to enjoy himself. And okay yes, I want to see his adorable face shine on the stage. This may be my only chance. Who knows if he will ever want to be in a play again and Broadway isn’t exactly knocking on our door-yet.

Creative Problem Solving

work-life-balanceEvery Sunday night, I look at the calendar to compare kids’ schedules and find that magical balance again between career and family. Currently, my life feels like one giant and sadistic word problem which I am required to solve on a daily basis.

Here is today’s word problem:

Child A and Child B had the 4 pm slot reserved at the dentist to get their teeth cleaned. Last week, Child B’s appointment had to be rescheduled until June due to an entire month’s worth of play rehearsals. Child A’s appointment was cancelled first thing this morning once I realized she had a track meet this afternoon. In the meantime, Child B is supposed to report to his baseball game exactly 15 minutes after play practice is over–leaving me less than 10 minutes to prepare dinner and commute to the game in rush hour traffic. Oh by the way, Child A & B have two parents who work outside of the home and have limited time to do the important things like making sure baseball uniforms and track suits are clean.

Here are some questions to solve:

  • How is Child A getting home from her track meet which ends at the precise time that Child B is being dismissed from play practice?
  • What can Child B possibly eat that is healthy and nutritious on the car ride from school to the baseball field? Sub-question – What is Child A having for dinner while both parents are at the baseball game?
  • What is the probability that I will be able to get simultaneous dentist appointments for Child A & B before the school year ends?
  • How long before my head explodes?

I must “kvell” for a minute as I tell you I received high marks in creative problem solving today. If you haven’t figured out the answers yet, times up!

Here is your answer key:

  • A newly minted driver in our neighborhood was more than willing and extremely kind enough to pick up Child A from track practice and bring her home. I trust her completely and in my time of need she became my saving grace. I’ll be calling her again soon.
  • Child B ate chicken nuggets from a Ziploc bag on the way to the baseball game. The orange peels on the floor of my car prove he polished off something nutritious as well. EXTRA CREDIT POINTS!: Child A found a Lean Cuisine in the freezer. Good enough!
  • Child A & B are miraculously scheduled for dentist appointments in early June at the same time. I’ll have to pick them both up from school early, but they aren’t learning much at school in June anyway. (Just say a prayer there isn’t an 8th grade picnic that day…)
  • I felt pretty good about the outcome of this crazy Monday. I kept my cool and felt I had everything under control….until I turned the page to Tuesday. Cue the head explosion!

Is it Friday yet?

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