Archive of ‘My Life’ category

What to Expect – The Teenage Years

One of my co-workers gave birth to a beautiful baby girl recently. A pretty pink card was passed around the office so that we could all write words of congratulations to her and her husband on becoming parents. Most of my colleagues signed the card with cute sayings like – “Welcome to the world” and “Can’t wait to meet the little bundle of joy.”

I, on the other hand, really wanted to pass along my words of wisdom. (I didn’t – but I wanted to). I’ll never forget what a good friend of mine wrote to me right before I was about to give birth to my daughter: “First the pain, then the pleasure, then the patience.”

At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about – but 17+ years into this parenting gig and now I get it. In case I need to spell it out for anyone – The pain is childbirth. The pleasure is all the cuddles and cuteness that babies and toddlers bring. The patience, well that would be the teenage years.

The God’s honest truth is that I love this stage of their lives when they become young adults and see their individual gifts they will soon contribute to make the world a better place. But, let’s face it. We parents need a lot of patience when it comes to raising teenagers. And full disclaimer–patience has never been my strong suit.

I remember when those “What to Expect” books were helpful for potty training, sleeping schedules and socializing. Unfortunately, those books stop at the second year of their lives–which is a real shame.If there was a “What to Expect” book for raising teenagers, I think this is what the table of contents would look like.

Chapter 1 – Patience – Get Some. You are Going to Need It.

Chapter 2 – The Front Seat  – Birds, Bees, Smoking, Drinking, Drugs, Politics – and other conversations you will have with your child when you are driving them somewhere.

Chapter 3 – The Passenger Seat – Where you sit, hold tight and pray while you teach them how to drive.

Chapter 4 – Clean Your Room – Is this worth the battle?

Chapter 5 – Grounded! – Discipline beyond timeouts and swear jars

Chapter 6 – Cell phones and Social Media – Necessary evil or perfect parenting tool?

Chapter 7 –  Friends – Fights and Forgiveness

Chapter 8 – Dating – Need I say more?

Chapter 9 – The Tough Stuff (Part I) – Teen depression, anxiety, bullying and so much more.

Chapter 10 – The Tough Stuff (Part II) – Love and limits. Roots and wings

big kidIt ain’t easy. It’s quite a journey, But, I’ll say one thing – it’s all worth it.

Day Camp – The End of An Era

Some of my favorite childhood memories came from attending day camp. I made many friends there; many of whom I still talk to over Facebook to this day. I was a camper, a C.I.T., a senior counselor, and a bus counselor. I took countless trips to the Jersey shore with my fellow campers where we walked the boardwalk and rode  the amusements at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier until the sun went down. And then there were the boys–first crushes, first loves, summer romances and a great soundtrack of ’80s and ’90s music to embrace it all. I remember it like it was yesterday.

elbowlane3When I grew up and had kids of my own, I wanted to enroll them in summer camp as soon as possible. I may have been more excited on their first day of camp than they were. Jenna started when she was just 4 years old. She went for half a day at first, came home happy and exhausted. She loved it so much that she asked if she could go back during the school year. It was an easy decision to switch her to a full day the following summer. A few years after that Andrew joined her there. For the longest time, I schlepped the two of them to and from camp because I thought they were too young to take the bus.

Soon enough, they got on the bus, learned to swim, played every kind of sport imaginable, created artistic “treasures” in pottery class, danced in camp music videos, conquered the rock wall and the zip line and made s’mores, friends and memories. Both kids looked forward to extra swims on hot afternoons. Fridays brought Carnival Day, County Fairs, Water Fun Day, and sometimes sleepovers on the campgrounds. Even the parents flocked to camp to see what the kids were up to on Visitors Day and Family Fun Night.

elbowlane5I can’t believe that 13 years have flown by and just like that, my kids have outgrown their beloved day camp. When the reminder email to register for this summer came the other day, I had to send a heartfelt goodbye to the camp director.

“After over a decade of day camp at Elbow Lane, our kids will sadly not be returning this year. Jenna and Andrew have truly enjoyed their experience as campers from the time they were Munchkins through Senior Camp and as C.I.T.s. They learned to swim (thanks to your wonderful instructors), made many friends and had a lot of fun along the way. Please remove us from your mailing list.”

elbowlane2I received the following reply back from the camp director within minutes:

“Thank you for the kind words. Its been many years together and I value your support and loyalty for every one of those years! Best Wishes to both Jenna and Andrew as they grow into young adulthood!  We will take you off our list.”

And just like that, another childhood milestone passed me by…and a very fond one at that. Fortunately, the kids remain in touch with their friends outside of camp and I hope that stays that way along with memories that I’m sure will last a lifetime.

We will miss you Elbow Lane!

A Kinder Killer Instinct

In a fairly recent 1-1 with my boss, I asked what I needed to do to get to the next level. His answer was to develop a killer instinct. I knew the term, but I never really considered it necessary to succeed. My professional toolbox consists of being a hard worker, a willingness to learn from others, a good listener and having the self-confidence to share my experiences, be persuasive where needed and conciliatory when required.

Months later, I still can’t get this comment out of my head. So, I recently looked up the phrase just to be sure I knew what he meant.

  • A ruthless determination to succeed or win; competitive
  • A way of behaving in order to achieve an advantage for yourself without considering or worrying if it hurts other people

Well, I’m determined, but I’m certainly not ruthless. I look to achieve great things, but I’m not going to push others down to get there.
Let’s face it. I’m no tough cookie, but, I’m not a doormat either. So, where does that leave me? Is there happy medium?

And then I thought, maybe there is. Why can’t I develop my own brand of killer instinct? Here is what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Setting a goal and then work backwards – For instance, I have a goal of losing 25 pounds by the end of the year. It isn’t going to happen overnight. so I’ve broken this down into much smaller and manageable goals of a pound or two a week. This allows me to focus on small victories and not allow myself to be overwhelmed by the big picture.
  • Being accountable – When I was looking for a new job a few years ago, I hired a career coach. Every week, we would sit down for a meaningful discussion and he would give me homework for the week. The following week, we would talk about what I worked on, what was stopping me from moving forward and eventually inching towards my goal. Having someone to report to about my progress is essential to my success.
  • Putting in the work – No one else is going to do it but me. If I don’t do it, it isn’t going to happen.
  • Embrace setbacks – Not every day is going to be perfect. The fact that I tried has to account for something. The past is the past and I’ll keep going until I get where I want to be.
  • Keep going – My resilience is much stronger than my need to win. When I fall down, I think about what I can learn from my mistakes and then pick myself back up. I don’t quit.
  • Be true to myself – I’m not someone that needs to win at all costsWe are all in this together. I’ll be your mentor, your friend, or your biggest cheerleader for you and I hope you will be for me as well.

What does your brand of “killer instinct” look like?

Reading Material

I’ll be honest. I’ve had a long day and night and all I want to do is curl up with a good book. But, I promised myself, I’d write 31 days in a row and I’m sticking to it. After yesterday’s more serious post, it’s time to have some fun.

I have plenty of books to choose from in my TBR pile which is why I banned myself from Barnes and Noble. My pile is way too big and I don’t think I should buy any more books until I read the ones I already have.

So what’s a girl who loves to read and write do to fill the void? I am on the hunt for merchandise about reading and writing–coffee mugs, earrings, tote bags. They aren’t books, so it is perfectly legal in my own mind. But it may be getting out of hand.

It started with a pair of earring that were a must have. These made me smile so I bought them.

earrings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
(BUY HERE)

Next, I added a coffee mug to my already full cabinets of mugs. I try to be selective when it comes to coffee mugs. Lots of the sayings speak to me; this one screamed BUY ME. My co-workers agreed this one was worth every penny.

coffee mug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the mug, led me to this t-shirt.

t-shirts-i-m-silently-correcting-your-grammar-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can I say?

And now, I am eyeing up the next “must have” on my list. It is the perfect accessory for when I go to the movies with my friends to see A Wrinkle In Time.

pin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I may have taken this too far. Maybe I should just go back to Barnes and Noble where I belong.

What is your favorite book/writer merch? Share in the comments section – along with the link where I can buy it! :)

 

 

 

 

Healthy & Grateful

I’ll start this post off by telling all of you that I’m fine. I promise. But, for a while, I wasn’t so sure.

Two days after my last mammogram I was called back for more tests. Getting a mammogram once a year never really bothered me. After having a dozen or so already, it is all routine to me at this point. Do not use any deodorant or powder on the day of the test. Try to remember the last day of my period and curse myself for not writing it down on my calendar (again). Figure out the best way to put on the green shirt that opens in the front. Sit in the smaller room with several other green-shirted ladies waiting their turn. It only takes five minutes for the technician to take some pretty pictures and then I check mammogram off my to do list and go about the rest of my day.

It’s always the days after the mammogram that concerned me the most. I’m sure I never noticed before that I was holding my breath waiting for a letter or a phone call. For all those years, I got the letter in the mail and breathed a sigh of relief.

This time, for the first time, I got the phone call and I couldn’t breathe.

“We’d like you to come back for more tests,” she said.
“97% of the time everything is fine,” she said.
But we just have to make sure,” she said.

My doctor rattled off all the reasons it could possibly be that I had to go back. The machine wasn’t working properly. Maybe I’ve gained a little weight. And things change as you get older.

Clearly, this wasn’t the first time she gave this speech to one of her patients. But then, she ended the call by telling me to take a few deep breaths, go back to work and try not to worry. And I wanted to say – you mean go back to the non-profit I work for where I write stories about people with cancer all day long? What a great idea!

Two weeks later, I went back to the imaging center and it was anything but routine. But, I knew whatever the results were, I could handle it.

I put on the same green shirt that month and sat in the same small waiting room. The nurse checked my insurance information and handed me a laminated purple paper describing the reason for the test and what to expect. I looked around at the other ladies in the room and saw a few of them holding the same purple paper I don’t know why I never noticed that before.

Since they read the results right there, I had to wait…and wait…and wait. I felt like my whole future was in someone else’s hands…beyond my control. I tried to distract myself, but my phone wasn’t charged (of all days!). I walked over to the pitiful selection of magazines on the end table–several issues of Golf Digest and Good Housekeeping from last Christmas. Not one People magazine. I took a cat nap instead.

And after what seemed like hours, but was really only about 20 minutes or so–I was given the good news. I was fine–more then fine–healthy. And then she gave me a big smile, patted me on the back and said, “see you next year.”

And I finally breathed a sigh of relief.

An Ode to My Favorite Breath Mint

I can still remember the little brick butcher shop around the corner from my childhood home where my dad and sister would wait for my mom to come home from work off the NJ Transit bus. We would often go inside to say hi to Bob the butcher and wander around the store. And when we were good little girls, Dad would buy us Tic Tacs. I would always get the green spearmint ones.

tic tacsI can trace back my penchant for Tic Tacs to this one childhood memory–and I never grew out of it. If you have ever lived with me or traveled with me or sat in the cubicle next to me or have just been around me for a short or a long period of time, you know I always have Tic Tacs in my purse.

They stopped making the green ones a long time ago and I had to adjust my tastes to the orange flavored ones instead. I am nothing if not flexible, but you will never will you see a Certs or Lifesavers in my possession. Only Tic Tacs.

With my strong political opposition to our current president, you would think that his own liking for Tic Tacs taken before harassing a young and beautiful soap opera star would deter me, but it hasn’t. I like to think he popped the Fresh Mint variety—which are my least favorite kind and therefore that makes it okay.

I don’t know what it is exactly about the Tic Tacs that I like. I can tell you that when I get anxious and my stomach starts to feel uneasy–they are the first thing I take and automatically feel much better. I guess you could say they are my own bizarre kind of comfort food.

They are also truly the most inconvenient mint I could possibly purchase. All of the other mints are nicely packed in quiet paper wrappers or come in a muted tin box. Tic Tacs are loud and proud. They are not shy and there is just no way to sneak one out of its plastic container without everyone knowing about it. And yet, I am known to shake one (or 6) of them out at a time during a Shabbat service, a wedding, a funeral or a school play.

My family and friends are well aware of my Tic Tac habit. As an April Fools joke, a “shakeless” version of the packaging was advertised on the Tic Tacs website and someone immediately thought of me. It was covered in bubble wrap. Hilarious!

For my birthday, Jenna bought me a Vera Bradley backpack and encouraged me to look inside where I found 2 boxes of tic tacs. I have to admit, I’m not sure which gift I loved more. Priceless!

Friends from far away see Tic Tacs in the store and think of me, fondly I hope. So sweet!

Even my husband buys me for no apparent reason. Some husbands send flowers, but this is much less expensive and makes me equally as happy. Ah…true love!

 

Chin Up!

nailsIt isn’t easy being a woman of a certain age. There are all sorts of body ‘”maintenance” that I expose myself to so I can continue to show my face in public. After all the haircuts, coloring and keratin to make it straight, the hair products, gel manicures, lip and eyebrow waxing, endless cosmetics and an occasional facial, I feel like I’m doing my part.

This morning, I needed to get my nails done. It has been more than 2 weeks since my last appointment and my nails were turning into claws. Typing was becoming a challenge and it is quite possible that my jigsaw puzzle is not getting done because I can no longer pick up the pieces.

I wasn’t thrilled about going out in the freezing cold weather we are currently having in my neck of the woods. I pretty much never wanted to leave my nice, warm bed this weekend. But, I showered, dressed and went to the nail salon. I made polite conversation with the woman who did my nails and it was nice to relax after a long week at work.

I was feeling pretty and productive – always a good combination.

When it came for waxing, I asked for the usual. I laid back on the table and waited for the technician to walk in. And then she said something like this:

“Eyebrows and lip? How about chin?” she asked as she proceeded to put her cold hands on my face and feel around my chin as if I had stubble.

I’ve been going to this salon for many years now and never asked for this service. It hadn’t even crossed my mind–not even once. Needless to say, I was stunned.and managed to politely, but firmly decline.

“Are you sure?” she asked. I didn’t answer. Are they running a special on chin waxing this week?   And as a side note: don’t you think that unless one asks for extra waxing, people shouldn’t offer it to you? Can that be a new rule?

It sucks getting old.

 

 

A Work In Progress

In my writing workshop, we were given the following prompt - “I am from…”  I find myself thinking about the beginning of this sentence a lot and wondering how it ends. Not an easy question to answer, but a great window to look out at the world and figure out where I fit in.

It could have so many meanings. This is what I have so far and I hope to spend 2018 adding more verses. Just like me, it is a work in progress.

I am from that place where everybody knows my name, but they don’t really know me.
And I am from the place where someone knows everything about me and loves me anyway.

I am from that place in my heart where I like to find the good in everybody.
And the place in my head where I come back to reality and see the world as it is.

I am from that place in my core that wants to be organized and put together.
And the place where I’m constantly looking for my car keys.

I am from that place where I think I’ve got this parenting thing down pat
And that place where the kids get older and change the rules on me.

I am from that place of desperately wanting to be present in the moment.
And the place where life gets in the way and the moment is gone.

To be continued…

Jigsaw Puzzles Are Our Thing

I may not be able to get my family around the dinner table every night for a hot meal, but when there is a new jigsaw puzzle on my dining room table – the family bonding begins.

When I was little, the first snowfall meant 3 things – hot chocolate, days off from school, and jigsaw puzzles. There was always something about putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle that facilitated great conversation, teamwork, lots of laughs and great memories.

As an adult, I’m carrying on this tradition with my own kids. I started them out young with Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles and then they graduated to floor puzzles of the United States and modes of transportation. It didn’t take long for them to earn a spot at the dining room table for the main event.

While my love of jigsaw puzzles has remained steady, my kids have had varied levels of interest. Andrew took to it quickly. As a lover of the Lego, he is a natural builder with qualities like patience and determination to succeed.

Jenna, on the other hand, had a passing interest for many years. She would come and do a few pieces at a time and then become frustrated by the process and leave the table. But I always knew she would be back. 2017 is her year. She is now passionate about finding the right pieces and feels the satisfaction of linking them together in holy matrimony. And then, she keeps going – knowing another perfect match is right around the corner.

As you can see, we really get into this. There are happy dances and high fives all around. We play music and a family sing-a-long is not unheard of. And we do have some rules about jigsaw puzzles that I’d like to share with you in case I’ve convinced you to try one with your loved ones.

  • Choose your puzzle carefully – When selecting a puzzle at the store, don’t go for the 2,000-piece puzzle at first. You are just setting yourself up for failure. Go with a 500 or 1,000 pieces. Also, pick a puzzle that you would like to see come to life. This year, we have a dog park puzzle. Last year, we must have been hungry when we selected the doughnut themed one and two years ago, we were in a New York state of mind when we did two puzzles in one winter – Central Park and Times Square.
  • Anyone can participate – Puzzles are fun for all ages and abilities. You can be a novice or an expert. And we are known for our multi-generation puzzle doers. We have had 3 generations working on a puzzle at once. We also invite neighbors and anyone else who wants to help. All are welcome.
  • All methods are welcome – There are many ways to approach a jigsaw puzzle – by color, by section of the puzzle, or by the shape of the piece. Whatever floats your boat and you can change methods. No one will ever judge you.
  • No fighting, except… – The only fighting allowed is over the box cover that features the entire puzzle. Also, it is not cheating to refer to the picture for help – just don’t keep it to yourself.

And most of all—have fun!

Life with Chloe

It is pouring rain and I am standing outside in the cold with an umbrella over the dog (not me) waiting patiently and occasionally coaxing her to get on with her business.

 “Come on, Chloe. Mommy has to go to work and it’s freezing out here.” Like she cares.

What is wrong with this picture? Not a thing.

If you told me over a year ago that this is what I would be doing on a rainy Tuesday morning, I would have laughed in your face. I have never considered myself a “dog person.” For one thing, I’m allergic to dogs plus I never had a dog growing up, so I was not comfortable with the whole idea. Frankly, I thought fish were more my speed—that is until Chloe came into our lives.

And yet here I am, looking down at those big beautiful brown eyes of my little grey schnoodle (part schnauzer/part toy poodle) complimenting her (out loud) on how nice she looks in her plaid fall coat. Yes, I buy her clothes. Just a few weeks ago, I bought an Eagles jersey in which she proudly struts around the house on game day. I justified the purchase because everyone in our family wears Eagles green on Sundays and she is a part of our family.

She also has in her wardrobe a pink dress which serves as both a ballerina Halloween costume and for when she likes to dress up on Purim as Queen Esther. As I’m writing this, I remind myself to buy that Ugly Hanukkah sweater I found online for her. I think I’ll draw the line though at the doggy dreidel hat, which looks like a miniature torture device, but I may throw in the bright blue bow if the price is right.

She finally finishes what we came outside to do. We head back to the house and she turns into our driveway. I marvel at how she always knows exactly which one is ours. I’m not sure if our grass has a familiar smell or if she is keenly aware of the massive amounts of concrete divots in our driveway. She just knows.

Chloe waits patiently as I bend down to remove her leash and then runs freely towards the shelter of our front porch while I walk over to the trash can on the side of the house to throw her waste bag away.

“Who’s a good girl?” I scratch her head and say to her in a voice that only came along when we rescued her. I call it “my Chloe voice.”

Once we are back in the house, I feed her breakfast and quickly add “Buy Chloe’s treats” to my shopping list. I seriously consider switching up the flavors from the chicken and apple sausage blend we always get to the Salisbury steak flavor that Tucker from down the street recommended. Okay, so it was my best friend Jill who made the actual recommendation, but her pug, Tucker, has a good palette.

I glance at the photo on the refrigerator door taken during our summer vacation to Costa Rica. It was an amazing trip, but I distinctly remember us ready to come home, sleep in our own beds and see Chloe. Since we came home after midnight, we had to wait until the next day to pick her up from her foster family. We walked into an all-too-quiet house feeling a little sad knowing our entire family was not together and wouldn’t be until we brought her home.

Breakfast is ready, but Chloe has disappeared. There are certain rooms of the house that are still off limits, and I need to know that she isn’t in the laundry room secretly licking the wet mop. I know I’m already running late, but I won’t have any peace of mind until I find her safe and sound.

Typically, she hangs out on the living room couch where she can watch the cars go by, bark at the other dogs and their owners and generally position herself as the official neighborhood watchdog. She isn’t there. I also check the dog beds upstairs and downstairs, but no such luck.

I curse under my breath as I walk slowly into my bedroom and get down on my hands and knees to confirm what I knew all along—that she is indeed underneath my bed again. Chloe likes to hide there to chill out and get away from it all. She developed this habit when she first came to us, and we kept her in the kitchen while we were at school and work. She didn’t care for it and we don’t even do that anymore. But, to this day, she still escapes under the bed to avoid daily confinement.

Today is no different. I find her curled up next to her favorite companion—her gray flattie shark toy. Like a child and her favorite blanket, Chloe doesn’t go anywhere in the house without it. The stuffing is long gone, and it is chewed up perfectly to her liking. It smells awful and I should really throw it away, but I know that would break her heart.

Since my arms aren’t long enough to reach her, I let her hang out. Eventually, she comes out when we are gone. Nowadays, we pretty much give her the main floor of the house to roam around during the day. Before I leave, I make sure the doors to the bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry room are all closed. Once, I almost closed the door to my own bedroom which would have left her stuck in there all day long with no food or water. I tend to check that door obsessively to make sure it remains open.

Now that I know she is safe, I look at the clock and see that it is time to leave. I put on Chloe’s favorite radio station—Oldies 98.1 WOGL—and adjust the multi-color blanket on the couch so she doesn’t dig into my throw pillows. I inspect the floor to make sure there are no stray items scattered about that she can swallow, remembering that I used to do this when my children were small.

“Goodbye, Chloe. Be a good girl,” I shout to her and hear the faint music of Earth, Wind & Fire in the background as I close the front door.  Walking to my car, I smile at the “I love my Schnoodle” magnet on the bumper.

Because I really do.

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