Archive of ‘My Life’ category

Challenge Accepted

During this month long blog challenge, I’m sent an email each day with a writing prompt. I haven’t been following them because I like to do my own thing, but this one caught my eye:

For today’s post, share a challenge. Have you faced a challenge recently that you made it through? Share it with your readers and show them how they can survive the same challenge.

I’ll be honest with you. Lately, my anxiety level has been flaring up for no particular reason. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause, but thankfully I didn’t have to necessarily attribute it to anything to get help for it.

In my case, common symptoms include not sleeping well, feeling overwhelmed by everything and nothing in particular, and not being able to enjoy myself with others. At first, these symptoms creep up on me and I don’t recognize them as anxiety, until all 3 come into play.

And then, there was one weekend–fairly recently–when it got to the point that I needed to do something about it.

So, this week I took some time off and saw the doctors who help me deal with this. I learned that it isn’t necessarily external factors causing my anxiety, but more likely that my serotonin levels needed adjusting. For some reason, this was a big relief to me.

I continue to accept the challenges my anxiety brings me. And thanks to the love and support of my family, I’m feeling a heck of a lot better and ready to take on the world again.

To others facing this kind of challenge, please don’t think you have to have a reason to feel the way you do. See your doctor and let them know what is going on so that you can get back to being your old self again.

How Sick Are You?

For 12 years, I worked in close proximity to my home, my kids’ schools, their various doctors and activities. When they needed to go home sick, I could be at their school in 10 minutes, take them home, get them settled and be back at my desk before my lunch break was over.

Nowadays, I work 45 minutes from home and it is no longer a luxury for me to pick up my kids, and head back to the office. So I tend to ask this question of them – “Just how sick are you?”  Follow-up question – “Can you make it through the rest of the day?”

As teenagers, everything hurts and they are always tired so it is hard for me to determine what level of sick they are and what we would consider to be growing pains.

So far this year, I’ve had to pick up the kids from school for a possible concussion (which thankfully turned out to be a false alarm), a stomach bug and a migraine headache–and it is only October. So when one of my kids had a lingering cough, I let it go for a while without a doctor’s visit hoping it would just clear up and go away.

It didn’t. It has been about a month now and because I haven’t been feeling well myself, I made the decision to take the day off and get both of us checked out. The end result – she has bronchitis and I have a nasty cold with a side order of mom guilt.

And the winner of the bad mom award for the day goes to…..

A 5 Minute Memoir

When I received my school report card, I always knew what to expect. My grades were typically A’s and B’s with the occasional hard earned C in math or science. And then there was the comments section. No matter what grade I was in, my teachers would always check off
#2–conscientious and dependable.

These two words followed me all through grade school and into middle school and high school. I was considered by my teachers as a reliable and responsible student. I had great follow through on assignments and could always be counted on to never miss a deadline.

Being conscientious and dependable is a great thing for parents to see on their child’s report card, but it is a lot to live up to in real life. As an adult, I think some would say that I’m a conscientious and dependable employee, parent and spouse – but for me, perhaps this is to a fault.

The last thing I ever want to do is let anyone down. And when I do, I feel anything but conscientious and dependable. I feel awful about it.

I’ll never forget the time my best friend asked me to pick up her kids from school and bring them home so they wouldn’t have to walk home in the pouring rain. I guess I had a lot to do that particular day because when I got to school, I picked up my own kids and drove off, completely forgot about hers. She forgave me because that is what best friends do, but I’m still bothered by it many years later. To this day when she asks me to pick up her kids, I put a note on my steering wheel and a reminder in my calendar so I never forget them again.

But I can’t do this for everything and everyone. These days, I’m trying to give myself a break. It is almost impossible to always be that kind of person to everyone in all facets of life–no matter how much I want to. When I’m working hard at my job, I’m forgetting something or someone at home. There are so many loose ends swimming around in my head, too many to-do’s on my list, and lots of projects whose status ranges from not yet started to not quite done.

If I could go back in time to my teachers, I’d rather them put in the comment – “she tries her best.” That puts a whole different spin on things – don’t you think? So much less pressure on myself. Just think of all the anxiety I could let go of if trying my best was good enough and equally appreciated.

In the end, I think a change in my own attitude is what will ultimately allow me to be kinder to myself. In my own mind, trying my best will now supersede conscientious and dependable. And if I cross something off my to-do list, that will be nice. And if I try to get something done, but it doesn’t go as planned, I will still pat myself on the back for trying.

Handing Over the Keys

Teaching my daughter to drive is not how I thought it would be. Initially, I was so excited that she reached this milestone. I’ve always been a strong proponent of her gaining new life skills like cooking a meal or taking more responsibilities around the house. And I thought I would be the best parent to show her the ropes, but ever since she received her permit I’ve learned otherwise.

My husband is a much better teacher than I am. He has taken her on the turnpike, the highway and in the city. He has her driving in the rain and at night. He hands over the keys with much less trepidation than I do.

For me, it has absolutely nothing to do with her and everything to do with me and my ever persistent anxiety. She is an excellent and careful driver. I know this. Even the driving instructor that we hired from the local professional driving school said she is a natural. This briefly reassured me but then I decided, he didn’t give birth to her. So his opinion, while valued, is irrelevant.

My head tells me she knows the mechanics of driving a car and the rules of the road, but my heart keeps attacking me with a terrible case of the what ifs. What if a deer comes out of nowhere or a child chases a ball into the street? She doesn’t have the experience yet to expect the unexpected.

And then my anxiety goes into overdrive. Like it did the other night.

“What do you mean I can’t drive?” she said. It was a perfect fall evening and we had a short and very familiar distance to go.I had no good reason except that local weatherman Bill Henley said it might rain. Apparently, I put a lot of trust in Bill.

Exasperated (and rightfully so), she took her place in the passenger seat, slammed the car door, scrunched into a tight ball, iPhone firmly in hand and that incredulous teenager look on her face.

“I just want to drive somewhere and not have to worry about you getting us there.” I told her. Which by the way is the wrong thing to say when you are trying to raise a confident driver.

“This is ridiculous. You know I need 20 more hours before I can take my test. How am I going to get them, huh?”

I stayed silent letting the latest Taylor Swift song coming from the radio fill the void.

“Are you even listening to me?” she asked not willing to be ignored.

“Do I have a choice?” I sighed.

At this point, I briefly considered pulling over and switching places, but I couldn’t let her drive mad. Could I? No. My father always said never drive angry.

Meanwhile, she was furiously texting what I can only imagine to be something like “My mom is being a total bitch. It’s so unfair.”

In a quieter and slightly calmer voice she asked, “Will you let me drive home?”

“In the dark?!” I replied instinctively, not really meaning to say that out loud.

Clearly, that was the wrong response.

Today’s First World Problem

Every morning, I arrive outside the locked door to my office and have to stop in my tracks and hunt down my pass card to let myself in. I know it is in one of three bags that I have with me at all times – my purse, my tote and my lunch. The question is – which one? Usually, I can weed out the lunch first. Unless I had very little sleep the night before, there is no way I would ever put my pass card next to my turkey sandwich.

That leaves one of two bags – both of which are stuffed with all kinds of crap. And to make it worse – I have a makeup bag and a nice size wallet. Basically, the damn pass card could be anywhere. This is when I get frustrated and proceed to unpack everything from my bags onto the lobby floor. So, if you ever see someone dumping the contents of their purse (and tote bag) on the ground muttering to herself wondering why she puts herself through this every day – that would be me.

And to add to my embarrassment, a colleague will eventually show up see my mess, smile and let me in.

Why can’t there be one big bag for all of my stuff? And why can’t that bag be large enough for my work folders, hairbrush and Kindle? And why can’t that bag cost less than $75. And why can’t that bag be one that is available in black, gray and navy – ooh and maybe an awesome red to stand out when I’m feeling particularly fashionable.

Where is that bag? It is a quest I am willing to go on for all the women in the world who are just like me. Anyone? Anyone?

 

 

I Didn’t Ask For It

While working as an obit writer and a stringer for a local newspaper, it happened. One minute I was waiting by the fax machine to receive a death notice from a local funeral home and the next I was grabbed from behind by the hips.  I felt his hot breath on my neck and he whispered in my ear, “You should wear short skirts more. It turns me on.”

He laughed and then he walked away. I looked to see who it was and recognized him immediately.

I was just waiting for a fax. I was just doing my job.

I can tell you that the moment it happened to me I was rattled to my core. Confused. Shaken. Furious. I didn’t expect it. I certainly didn’t ask for it. I remember walking back to my desk trying not to let him see how much it affected me. I didn’t want to give him that kind of power. Basically, I ignored it because I thought it was over–but I was wrong. For weeks after that first incident, I was continuously harassed by him. He leered at me in the newsroom. He asked me out several times. He called me at my apartment. I dreaded going to work at a job I loved and really wanted to keep. The stress was unbearable. Somehow, I finally got up the guts to give him a piece of my mind, threatened to tell our boss and the cops and he never bothered me again.

I never reported it although I wish I had. I was too embarrassed at the time. I was only 21 years old and it would have been his word against mine.

Sadly, this was not the only time I’ve been sexually harassed. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to deal with it. It still shocks me when it happens but now I report it and then I live with it. But, I don’t typically talk about it.

Until now.

Being sexually harassed is a humiliating and degrading experience. It isn’t just “locker room talk.” It isn’t funny. It is pure intimidation. Just like bullying, these experiences will stay with me my entire life. They are ingrained in my memory–as if it only happened yesterday.

And now I hear about movie moguls and tech employees at companies like Google and respected news anchors and even U.S. Presidents who don’t think twice about doing it. And I think of the women who speak out and defend themselves at the risk of losing their jobs. I am truly in awe of their courage and applaud them with undying support. And I hope my daughter sees them, hears them and learns from their examples. In the 21st century, sexual harassment clearly runs rampant in our schools, universities, offices and other places. It could happen to her and she needs to be ready to fight back–as I am doing now.

Crossing Things Off My 2016 To-Do List

Today, I was going through some old papers and came across my to-do list from January 29, 2016. Normally, I would throw this away with the rest of the outdated paperwork, but I was curious to see if almost 2 years later, there was anything still left to be done.

Item #1 – Fix or replace the dryer. Our dryer was giving me problems for a long time. It would work for a while and then go on strike at a moment’s notice–usually, when there was a load of wet clothes ready to throw in. The repairman-who we were on a first name basis with–was always able to save it until the next time. This went on for quite some time and I admit that the dryer became a rare point of contention in an otherwise very happy marriage. I gave up on bringing it up and decided to wait out the dryer until it blew out its last breath of hot air.

That day came last weekend. Finally! It was kaput. And our brand new, beautiful and working dryer was delivered this past Thursday. Almost two years later, I’m happy to report that I can cross this off the list.

Item #2 – Buy new pictures for the hall bathroom. – Our hall bathroom has been designated for our kids since they were born. It also serves as our guest bathroom when the downstairs powder room is occupied. In that bathroom, we have two incredibly young prints suited for babies and toddlers – one of a rubber ducky and one of a baby in a diaper about to get into a bubble bath.

Did I mention, my kids are now 16 and almost 14 and have moved on? But apparently my bathroom decor hasn’t grown up with them. The rubber ducky has got to go – but alas it is still there–for now.

Item #3 – Make a dermatologist appointment. – I went to a dermatologist in my mid-30s on a regular basis when I was suffering from a bad case of adult acne. Although she was efficient and all traces of my acne are long gone, I found her bedside manner to be cold and distant. I felt like I was patient number 58 out of 1,000 instead of someone she could spend a little time with and address my concerns. I haven’t been back to her in years. But, as I get older I know should really get a skin exam and I will – just as soon as I find a new dermatologist.

Item #4 – Develop a presence on LinkedIn – Ah, this one I know I have done, but I can’t officially check it off the list because it is always a work in progress. I am proud of my All-Star LinkedIn rating. I frequently write posts and read and share articles about email marketing and non profit communications. I constantly connect with new people and seek out ways in which I can lend them some professional advice. Through this social media platform, I am presenting myself in the most professional and authentic manner possible so that people will seek out my expertise and new opportunities will come my way.

Item #5 – Create a book club calendar - I launched a book club many years ago with ladies in my neighborhood. We are still going strong in the way that we meet on a fairly regular basis – but I would say it is about 25% talking about the book and 75% socializing. I just wish we were a bit more organized. In a perfect world, I would ask everyone to suggest the books we are going to read and put it on a schedule months ahead of time. Some book clubs have theme nights based on the culture or topic of the book. That would be so fun! There are so many great ways for our book club to be even better, but everyone is busy and I totally get that. For now, it is a great little getaway once a month supported by my husband who nods his head in a dubious way when I tell him I’m “going to book club.”

So, I’m 2 for 5 in crossing things off my 2016 to-do list. Not bad, but not great. At least I have a head start on my list for 2018.

Help Me Pick My Office Halloween Costume!

It is a little more than 3 weeks before Halloween and I don’t have a costume yet. While I’m well past my trick-or-treating days, I am apparently not too old to dress up in costume for the office. I have a few ideas, but I haven’t quite decided which one I am going with yet. Maybe you can help me out.

Choice 1 – My alter ego – As summer changes to fall, my allergies kick in big time. I am constantly sniffling and I have tissues everywhere. I figured that I could go as Sneezy – from Snow White and the 7 dwarfs. I’m planning to skip my weekly allergy shot so my co-workers can experience the full effect of my authentic costume.

Choice 2 – My true self – I can go to work in full on writer mode with a t-shirt that reads “I Am Silently Correcting Your Grammar” along with my favorite flannel, leggings, fuzzy slippers and a baseball cap. I’ll even walk around with a thesaurus, a huge cup of coffee and a handful of pens for good measure. Maybe that will be the day I distribute my organization’s updated style guide.

Choice 3 – My retro self – I have a 70’s disco queen costume complete with go-go boots and peace signs, but I’m afraid very few people in my office would appreciate the effort since I mostly work with millennials.

Choice 4The easy way out – Find a “This Is My Halloween Costume” t-shirt. Done.

Choice 5 – My brilliant costume  – The Invisible Woman – and stay home, but tell everyone I’m really at my desk working.

Clearly I need help. Which idea do you like best? Have a better idea? Please share!

What If…

A few short weeks ago, I let my teenager go with her friends to a 2 day outdoor concert event in Philadelphia called the Made in America Festival. Admittedly, I was nervous about her taking the train, navigating her way through the big city and attending an event with 50,000 other concert-goers. Still, as a parent, we are told to give our kids roots and wings and this seemed to be as good an opportunity as any to show her that we trust her and for her to show us that she could be trusted.

And it was. She demonstrated her street smarts and independence by figuring out the train schedules and getting herself to and from the event without getting lost. She showed common sense and kept her word when she stayed with her friends at all times whether they went to the bathroom, got snacks or watched the different bands on various stages throughout the large venue.

The only piece of parental advice I gave her that day was to stay alert. Stay alert to her surroundings among strangers. She knew what I meant. And then I watched her walk out the door and I refused to fall asleep until she walked back in later that night.

This morning, I woke up to news of the shooting at a similar venue in Las Vegas and I couldn’t help but think – what if? What if that happened in our city? It isn’t unreasonable to think so. What if she was caught in the middle of that kind of chaos? What if I never was able to go to bed that night?

All day long, I’ve thought about whether or not I would still send her to that concert today. And I know the answer is yes. Because I don’t want her to be afraid of going to a concert, a nightclub or a ball game or get on a plane or travel abroad. I want her to live her life to the fullest. I want her to enjoy the music of her youth and make tons of memories with her friends.

And above all, I don’t want them to win.

As I take a stand with others today against gun violence, I gave her a hug this morning, told her I love her – as I do every day – and this time snuck in an extra squeeze for the parents across the country whom I don’t even know whose children will never come home.

Traveling with Anxiety

This past summer, my family celebrated my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary by spending a beautiful week together in Costa Rica. I got to experience a country I had never been to before and an amazing culture while having a memorable time with our extended family.

I love to travel to new places and experience new things, but prior to the trip–and frankly prior to any vacation or business trip I go on–my anxiety tends to kick in. I can’t help it. I tend to pack my fears right next to my bathing suits.

My mind was full of questions. Would I be able to drink the water? Am I going to get sick from the food? What exactly does “all-inclusive” mean in Central America? Will they even have WiFi?

To deal with my anxiety and uncertainty, I took it upon myself to do some research ahead of time to calm my fears. Thanks to Google, I found a top 10 list of facts about Costa Rica.

Fact #1 – They have a female president. 
Me – NICE! I’m with her!

Fact#2 – Costa Rica is one of the happiest countries in the world. 
Me – Hakuna Matata. Don’t worry be happy. Or as they say in CR – Pura Vida. (I start to relax.)

Fact#3 – Gourmet coffee is the main export.
Me – Did someone say gourmet coffee? SOLD! When do we leave??

I should have stopped reading right then and there. Really, I should have stopped, but alas I kept on scrolling.

Fact #4 – Costa Rica is home to 20,000 different kinds of spiders.
Me: What?! NOPE! Not happening. Spiders?! 20,000 different kinds? Are you freaking kidding me? What was I thinking? (SEE ANXIETY GO INTO MAJOR OVERDRIVE)

After breathing into a paper bag for what seemed like hours, I put the rest of the article away and pretended I never saw Fact #4.

A few days later, I found another article ticking off the highlights of the amazing rain forest, the beauty of the lush countryside, the friendliness of the people and, of course, the gourmet coffee.

Two weeks later, I’m proud to say that I walked into my hotel room and–guess what–they had WiFi! And a beautiful view of the Pacific ocean. There was even a stocked minibar complete with 3 different kinds of rum in the event of any surprise spider sightings. And most importantly, my beautiful family around me excited to be there.

I began to relax again.

 

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