Archive of ‘My Life’ category

30 Minutes

Disclaimer: I am no expert at attaining work/life balance, but I work really hard at it. For me, it is all about time management. If I can find increments of 30 minutes to save throughout my day, I feel like a winner. Here are some examples of ways I find precious time in my day.

  1. I raise (somewhat) self-sufficient kids – Give your kids more responsibilities around the house as they get older. About a year ago, I declared my lunch-making days were over and told the kids to make their own. At first, it was a disaster. Someone ultimately forgot a juice box or a sandwich. But then, they learned to pack PB&J, a piece of fruit, a cookie and a drink. This saved me time at night to take care of other chores the kids weren’t ready for yet. Now that my kids are older, I’m teaching them how to do their own laundry. When they can do this without turning the entire load pink or leaving the random Sharpies in their pockets, my work/life balance will be that much more attainable.
  2. The 3 D’s – Delegate, Defer, & Do – I’ll tackle the first one here. Delegate things to your spouse or partner or others. Last week, I received an e-mail about the 6th grade chorus singing at the Philadelphia Soul game. It included a 5 page document on how to order tickets, medical/emergency forms and permission slips for the event and the bus. 5 PAGES! My husband happened to be home with the kids over winter break so I asked him to check with our son to see if he wanted to go. Then, I took it a step further and asked him to fill out the forms and order the tickets. Guess what- he did it. Another 30 minutes saved.
  3. Two words – Google Calendar – Besides the typical doctor appointments and kid schedules, I have some weird things on my calendar. Send can of tomato sauce to school with Andrew. Buy gift for Jenna’s friend. Pick up book on hold at library. Some people use Evernote or Siri to set reminders. I put everything in my Google calendar. It has automatic reminders and everyone in the family has access to it and can add things when they remember to do so. I refer to my calendar all day long, Like an adult security blanket, I’d be completely lost without it.
  4. Defer – Just like you, I receive so many e-mails and they all scream some level of importance. I have become quite agile at determining the actual DEFCON level of the e-mail and whether or not to defer it or better yet delete altogether. The time it takes me to deal with each one as it comes in saves me 30 minutes in the long run of going back and looking at them all over again.
  5. Do – Just Do It is a slogan I live by on a regular basis. Instead of putting folded clothes in a laundry basket that will ultimately sit in the hallway for days on end, I’ll try and skip the basket entirely and just put the clothes away. Before I go to the drugstore or the supermarket for a specific item, I look around to see what other things need to be purchased so I don’t have to go back out again.
  6. Friends Don’t Let Friends Watch Friends – I know Rachel gets off the plane. I know Phoebe has her brother’s babies. I know Richard tries to steal Monica back but she ends up with Chandler. I know Joey still loves sandwiches. I know all of this. So, why do I continue watching back to back episodes of Friends every night of the week?! Talk about a time-suck! I am taking back those 30 minutes (or 60 or 90) and doing something much more productive with my life – like going to the gym, reading a book or watching a new show on Netflix that I’ve never seen before. The point is find your time-sucks and then banish them. You will be surprised what you can accomplish!Okay, your turn. What is the one thing that helps you attain work/life balance?

My 2016 Word Of The Year

It is that time of year when my fellow bloggers come up with the one word that will guide them through the next 365 days. Last year, my word was coffee. (You can read the reasons why I chose this word here). I’m happy to report that I drank many cups of coffee with old friends, new acquaintances and family throughout 2015. Over those warm beverages, I was fortunate enough to have some amazing conversations with many of you. I felt a sense of connection to the wonderful people in my life and have deepened our relationships in meaningful ways. All of this has been a blessing to me and I am grateful for it.

However, I’m doing a complete 180 in 2016. The word I have chosen this time may seem a little anti-social and self-serving and let’s face it – it is. But, if I want to see some of my own dreams come to fruition this year –and let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger—I have to own this word. I have to live this word. I have to embrace this word.

My word is “me-time”–and yes, if I hyphenate it, it counts as one word.

Here is a little backstory. I recently took a Myers-Briggs personality test and the results were simultaneously eye-opening and not at all surprising. As an ENFJ, I take great pride in serving as a leader in the community. I found it quite humorous that ENFJ’s are most likely to work for religious-oriented institutions. It actually said so in the report! I guess I can check that off my list.

ENFJ’s are passionate people who like spending time with other people working in harmony and in pursuit of cooperation for the greater good. We focus on helping others achieve their potential and get great satisfaction watching them grow and succeed. My fellow ENFJ’s are Oprah Winfrey, Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama. I am humbled to be in any category with this caliber of people.

But sometimes, ENFJ’s find it incredibly hard to take time for themselves. In the entire 12 page report that I’ve read and re-read to myself, one sentence rings so true to me – “As giving and caring as the ENFJ is, they need to remember to value their own needs as well as the needs of others.”

Can I get an AMEN?!

Yes, I do need to value my own needs and dreams which is why “me-time” is such a fitting word for me in 2016. I will carve out the “me-time” even if the guilt that will surely arise kills me. I want time to write in my blog and become an even better writer. I need time to go to the gym, make healthier choices and have the energy to give to others as well as to myself. I wish to take the time to learn new things and hopefully make a few changes in my life that I have been putting off for way too long.

So, in this new year, I may say no to coffee every once in a while or I might let go of some things that no longer suit me. Please don’t be mad. It’s not you. It’s me. I just need some quality “me-time” to figure it all out.

Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

With all of the cooking, shopping and planning for the holidays, it is time for me to address the one question which plagues me every November. Am I sending out holiday cards this year? The short answer is I haven’t decided yet.

Here is the longer answer:

Yes, I want to send out cards because this is one of those holiday traditions that everyone–regardless of religion–partakes in. I love to wish my friends and family holiday greetings–although doing it in person would be so much better! Also, the thought of not reciprocating the dozens of cards that are delivered to my mailbox offers up the yearly dose of holiday guilt that I don’t wish to endure.

I don’t want to send out cards this year because I know what is already on my to-do list and it is hard enough to fit in an oil change for the minivan, let alone a huge project such as this one.

I’m just being honest here.

And I can pretty much guarantee that while my family wants to send out holiday cards–the actual ordering, stuffing, sealing, address finding, labeling, stamping and mailing will be my responsibility. And the cards will sit on my kitchen table taunting me until every last one I ordered is out the door.

Do I sound like a Scrooge yet? But wait, there is more…

The thought of even selecting the card overwhelms me. As a politically correct, all-inclusive, never wants to hurt anyone’s feelings kind of person, do I order Christmas cards for my Christian friends and separate Hanukkah cards for my Jewish friends? Oy Vey! Do I order a generic “Happy Holidays” card and risk the war on Christmas voice mails and text messages that may result? Or do I play it safe and buy myself a lot more time by sending everyone of all faiths a Happy New Year card? As long as it comes out sometime in January – I’m good, right?

And then, I need to pick a picture or two (or three) that represents every member of our immediate family in their happiest and most photogenic state. The thought of going through all of the pictures taken this past year and seeking approval of said family member gives me a headache. Can I get away with a collage of the hundreds of funny-looking selfies Jenna and Andrew took with my iPhone? It probably won’t measure up to the color-coordinated photos in front of the fireplace or on the beach that you will choose for your cards, but I might get points for originality.

This is a big decision–one I obviously don’t take lightly. So, I’ll put it this way–you may or may not get a holiday card from my family this year. If you do, please know it was my pleasure to fit holiday cards onto my already bursting at the seams to do list and I send it to you with all the love in my heart.

If you don’t get a card from us this year, It isn’t because I don’t love you. Really, I do. I just opted to go to Jiffy Lube instead.

Let me just say to you all right now – Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a happy, healthy & prosperous 2016.

Love, the Heismans :)gckids


The Fake Cake

Years from now, we are going to look back on Andrew’s 12th birthday and tell the fake cake story. It is one of those parenting moments you don’t forget.

In my defense, I had a long day on Saturday after attending a leadership conference in the city. I waited until the last minute to buy the birthday cake and just needed a small one for the four of us to light candles and sing to him. And for the record, the person who sold me the cake is an incredibly sweet girl who I happen to know pretty well. She is a senior in high school who hasn’t worked at the bakery for long. She was working by herself and it was truly an honest mistake.

We looked at the cake together and tried to figure out if it was chocolate or vanilla. It wasn’t labeled which should have been my first clue. It was also sitting on top of the refrigerator case which should have been my next clue. Obviously, we were clueless! Neither of us realized it was made of icing and flavorless Styrofoam.

I swear to God it looked real and who would think bakeries sold “decorative items.” If it looks like a cake and smells like a cake…I naturally assumed it was a cake.

That night, we went out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and opted for a special birthday slice for Andrew. We decided to save the bakery “cake” until the next day. This decision turned out to be rather fortunate because if we tried to light candles on the Styrofoam cake, I might be telling you a completely different story right now.

The next afternoon, the moment of truth arrived. As I was walking into a meeting, my daughter called me on my cell phone.

“MOM! You aren’t going to BELIEVE this. THE CAKE IS A FAKE!” 

Words I will remember until the day I die. How the hell did I manage to buy a fake cake? She softened the blow by reporting that the icing tasted delicious…thwarting any attempts for me to return the fake cake to the bakery.

My kids took the whole thing in stride–especially the birthday boy who was cracking up in the background. At that point, I did the only thing I could do–I laughed. I laughed with my children. I laughed at my own stupidity. I laughed at the fact that this cake sat in my refrigerator overnight in a cardboard box so it wouldn’t go bad. And then, I posted it on Facebook. :)

I could have gone in a completely different direction. It was definitely a “mom-fail” on my part and I easily could have slipped down the rabbit hole of imperfection. The typical self-loathing, embarrassment and tears of frustration would have surely followed. But I didn’t let myself go that way. I chose to laugh instead, make the best of it and get a new cake.

And this time, I sent my husband out to buy it with one specific request. I didn’t care if it was chocolate or vanilla…as long as it was real.



laundry momIt starts out with a few sniffles. I don’t even think twice about it because I convince myself it is allergies. Out of nowhere, the sniffles turns into full blown congestion, a sore throat and a post-nasal drip right down into the pit of my stomach. All of a sudden, I’m out of tissues and drinking orange juice by the gallon for the Vitamin C. I waited too long to take a zinc tablet and before I know it, I’m face down on the couch barely moving because I feel like I was hit by a Mack truck.

As any person under the weather would do, I goggled my symptoms and diagnosed myself accordingly. Seriously, who has the time to go to the doctor this time of year? Here is what I found:

September-itis is defined as the annual condition combining cold-like symptoms with complete exhaustion. The cause is typically attributed to an abrupt change in schedules such as relaxing family vacations and unlimited pool time to driving around all night long to find the elusive 3-ring hole punch that fits in your child’s binder. Multiple trips to Target on the same day or trips to multiple Targets over several days will only exacerbate symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure. Treatments can vary from cold medicines and ibuprofen to keep symptoms at bay to ingesting massive amounts of coffee in order to keep up with your children’s crazy schedule during daylight hours. Four out of five parents recommend frequent midday naps. WARNING: Don’t forget to set an alarm or 3 hours will fly by before you know it.

Side effects include (but are not limited to): Pizza, hoagies, and Chinese food for dinner instead of home-cooked meals; piles of laundry unattended; dishes in the sink; mail still in the mailbox (because I’m just too damn tired to walk that far); brief memory loss noticeable to friends and family, and juggling nearly missed and/or cancelled appointments, practices, and performances. Sudden bursts of energy may occur intermittently, but it is a huge mistake to consider yourself feeling “much better” too soon.

September-itis can last up to 30 days. September-itis is not known to be contagious however you may see more than one mom or dad walking around in a similar disoriented fashion. Please take a moment to give them a hug, pass them a cup of coffee, find them a seat and assure them they are going to be okay. October is right around the corner.

Taking A Homework Poll

homeworkIn a recent conversation with my newly minted high school freshman, she informs me that none of her friends’ parents bug them about homework nearly as much as we do. I find that hard to believe, but I could be wrong. When I asked her to elaborate, she proceeded to run down a list of questions we typically pose to her regarding her schoolwork. It was a decent list and she wasn’t wrong. At least I know, she is listening! :)

I certainly don’t want to stress her out, but could this really be true? Don’t we all have (to some degree) a vested interest in our children’s schoolwork? In that spirit, I have put together this quick poll for my readers and fellow parents. I would love to know how much is too much.


Do you:

  • Ask your child (children) how much homework they have that night?
  • Ask your child if they have finished their homework?
  • Ask your child if they need help with their homework?
  • Check their math?
  • Read essays to make sure it (a) makes sense and (b) is in complete and grammatically correct sentences?
  • Help with school projects beyond driving them to Staples or Michael’s for supplies?
  • Visit the teacher wiki-spaces or Google sites on a regular basis?

For the record, we definitely do not DO homework for our kids, but just as my parents did for us – we are involved and interested. I promised my daughter we will loosen the reins regarding her homework this year. Since our son is starting middle school, we will keep a close eye on him for now as he figures out good study habits and manages six teachers instead of one.

So, it is your turn to weigh in. After all, we are in this together! So, how much is too much in the homework checking realm of the parenting world? Inquiring minds want to know. I look forward to your comments.

Bucket Lists & Breaking Points

Me at the Grand Canyon...playing it safe by the guardrail!

Me at the Grand Canyon…playing it safe by the guardrail!

This week, I crossed something off of my bucket list–visiting the Grand Canyon. This spectacular natural wonder of the world did not disappoint. Even on a cloudy day, it was an amazing sight to see. I never felt so alive and so small at the same time. I was excited to take in this beautiful place and it was fun to find the points where the Colorado River flowed through the rocks. I was the first one in my family to spot the bridge that leads to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. I viewed it all from a safe distance behind railings and rock walls.

It was my husband’s idea—God bless him—for all of us to take a mule ride around the rim of the canyon. At the time (in the safety of my home office), I thought it was a wonderful idea. It wouldn’t be my first time. I rode both a mule and a camel in a desert in Israel so I didn’t think twice about doing it again.

I was wrong. So wrong!

Our journey started out with a kind, but fast talking and heavily accented cowboy who explained how to handle the mule. Hold the reins like an ice cream cone with your less dominant hand at the base of the mule’s neck with one hand and hold the saddle knob thingy with your other hand to maintain your balance. Pull the reins left to go left and pull to the right to go right. Pull back to stop. Use the mule motivator (a whip-like strap) on his behind to make him go a little faster.

Easy enough? At least, I think that is what he said. He spoke so quickly and there was no test to take prior to mounting Tin Man–a handsome, milk chocolate colored, 5 foot tall mule. When you add me to the equation, I was over 10 feet off the ground which already made me nervous before we even left the corral. I can’t drive a stick shift, so how am I supposed to handle a mule?

Still, I was game. I went over the safety instructions in my head and again with one of the ranch hands before we ventured forth towards the rim of the canyon. It was a foggy day and I basically let Tin Man do all of the driving. After all, the cowboy said mules have a master’s degree-like training when carrying passengers. I took some comfort that one of us knew what they were doing.

The Tin Man was a mule of all heart–taking great care not to go too fast while keeping up with the rest of the tour. My son and husband were in front of me while my daughter (riding the diva mule named Cher) was lagging behind.

“Are you okay?” my husband yelled out to me. I informed him I wasn’t speaking to him right now as I was concentrating on my balance, my breathing and my fast brewing, impending anxiety attack.

And then we arrived at our first stop at the edge of the canyon. I’m not typically afraid of heights, but there I was two feet away from the Grand Canyon with no guardrail or rock wall between us. I didn’t care if my mule had a master’s degree from Harvard! I couldn’t get it out of my head that one false move and we would both be goners. Once this negative feedback loop was in my brain, I could think of nothing else.

The guide informed me that all stops would be like this and I asked for the nearest taxi cab back to the corral. Does Uber work out here? I had seen enough. Thank you very much. This tour was over for me only a quarter of a mile after it began.

I dismounted the mule and waited for my ride–a Polaris 4×4 to come and pick me up. Before dismounting, I apologized to the guide, my family and fellow tour mates and to Tin Man. I let my mule know it wasn’t him…it was me. I had stepped way too far from my comfort zone and hit my breaking point.

The Grand Canyon was on my bucket list. The mule ride–terrifyingly close to the edge of the mile down depth of the canyon–was not. I realized I didn’t need to have this experience to make my life complete. Funny, I remember having the same inner conversation with myself in Israel as many of my friends rappelled down the side of a mountain. No thanks!

To my chidren’s credit, they stayed on the tour with my husband and had a great time. I waited patiently back at the ranch for their safe return. They came back exhilarated. Several people on the tour, including my husband told me it was a wise decision to go back. If I was having a panic attack seeing the canyon through the fog, imagine what it would have been like when the skies cleared!

I think it is good to know our limits. I would have preferred to know my limits before I got on the mule. But that’s okay, at least I can say I tried.


One More Thing

to doIsn’t there always one more thing that needs to get done before you go to bed. And if you are like me, you always remember what that thing is before you fall asleep. Right?

Last night, I realized I didn’t pack a lunch for Jenna. Normally, this would be no big deal and she is certainly old enough to pack her own lunch. But, today she is leaving on a 3 day bus trip to Virginia and had to leave at 5:30 this morning. And to her credit, she packed her own bag for the trip so the least I could do was make her lunch. Of course, I completely forgot to do it and it was 11:30 pm before it came to mind.

And then, the “oh-shits” began in my head:

Oh shit – Will I remember to pack her lunch in the morning?

Oh shit – Will I get up early enough to make it?

Oh-shit -What do I have for her to eat? As a vegetarian, packing lunches on the go for her can be quite challenging.

Yes, I suppose I could have just jumped out of bed right then and there to make her lunch, but I was exhausted. Before I could will myself awake, I simply conked out. There was no freaking way I could have done one more thing in my already busy day. I managed to get everything else done on my to do list including: sending the kids off to day camp,  going to the dentist and then to work, making a healthy dinner (complete with zucchini fries – yum!), washing, drying, and putting away the dishes, and running 2 loads of laundry. I also managed to remember to go to the ATM for spending money for Jenna’s trip. BONUS POINTS!

Luckily, I woke up in time to make her lunch and there was plenty of food for her to take on the long bus ride. Although she is not a morning person, I was able to coax her out of bed at an ungodly hour, feed her breakfast and pack her last minute pair of shorts that she asked me to wash.

Today, I’m off to a great start and it is only 6 am. I just can’t help but wonder what that “one more thing” is going to be before my head hits the pillow tonight.

What I Didn’t Post On Facebook

Some people tell me I put my entire life on Facebook, but it isn’t really true.

Yes, I do enjoy posting on a daily basis–sometimes even several times a day. I like to “check in” at different locations like a trendy restaurant with friends or while sitting at my son’s baseball game. On occasion, I’ve been known to kvetch about lengthy to-do lists, wishing for a clone to magically appear and save the day.

Here is what I didn’t write about on Facebook this year:

  • My mom’s back surgery and her not-so-smooth recovery;
  • Another close relative’s unexpected open heart surgery that took place two weeks after my mom came home from the hospital. And the surgery took place on Jenna’s 14th birthday;
  • A second surgery for him about a month later – both of which were life-saving procedures;
  • My whirlwind initiation into the sandwich generation–taking care of aging parents and dependent children who understood everything that was going on and had lots of questions I didn’t know how to answer;
  • Dealing with all of the above and working a full time job where I planned, implemented and attended 2 back-to-back holiday programs and 4 major events in the course of 3 months. This would be a challenge for even the most experienced program director under normal circumstances;
  • Trying so hard to be “on” for everyone else in my personal and professional life even though on the inside my light was turned off;
  • My futile attempts to attain perfection as I kept track of a jam-packed calendar of kids’ activities, meetings, and doctors’ appointments. I would spend many early mornings filling out forms, checking homework, cleaning the house and trying to maintain a sense of normalcy.

Needless to say, the first half of 2015 was rough for me. Checking in on Facebook from the surgical waiting room at Jefferson Hospital or from the intensive cardiac care unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was not possible. I was so overwhelmed by both experiences and I couldn’t bear to read the comments which would surely follow.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes support is incredibly wonderful and other times it can be suffocating? I wasn’t prepared for either scenario.

So I kept it all inside–which turned out not to be a good idea either. As a result of all of the above and some other underlying factors, I also kept the following aspect of my life off of Facebook – I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My symptoms included shaking and crying often for no particular reason, total exhaustion, out of the blue panic attacks, stomach issues, and an overall loss of appetite. I would literally stare at a small, plastic container of Greek yogurt willing myself to eat the whole thing—often leaving half of it untouched. And I LOVE Greek yogurt!

What started this? I don’t know the exact cause because there isn’t one thing I can pin it on. However, my fears of not getting everything done and done well may have been what ultimately did me in. Ever since grade school, I’ve been known as the conscientious and dependable one. My teachers even wrote it on my report cards. People rely on those qualities in me every day and I thrive on that. I give 110% to everything I do with passion and determination, but I guess I just ran out of steam.

My grandmother used to say do everything, wear everything, and enjoy everything in the best of health. Boy, she was so right! I am happy to report that everyone is healthy–including me–and we are all enjoying life again. I continue to bounce back thanks to the love and support from my amazing family and closest friends as well as some excellent doctors and a little medication. :)

So why am I sharing this with you now? This blog is called Life Without A Manual for a good reason. Sometimes life throws you curve balls that hit you square in the head. Very often you don’t see it coming. You become so dizzy, confused, and upset that you think you can’t find a way out–until eventually you do find a way out.

THERE IS NO MANUAL. But there are people around you who love you who can pick you back up, be there in your time of need, get you through the hard days, and help you move forward. To those people who were there for me, I am sending you a heartfelt thank you. You all know who you are.

There is always a way out and I hope that sharing some of my story will help others who may be suffering in silence.

I’m A Little Obsessed With My Fitbit

fitbtThe other day, I was on my knees in the middle of DSW in a slightly panicked state of mind. I was searching for my Fitbit Flex which must have fallen off my wrist only 20 minutes ago. I didn’t realize it was missing until I came home from shoe shopping–proudly carrying 3 cute new pairs of sandals. I changed out of my work clothes, looked down and saw my bare wrist. The Fitbit was gone.

I rummaged through my bags and checked the floor of my car thoroughly. It was definitely not there. I didn’t even say goodbye to my family as I grabbed my keys, backed out of the driveway and made my way back to DSW. I retraced my steps through the parking lot praying someone didn’t run it over. I was so mad at myself. I just spent $100 on that damn thing and I lost it. Besides, we were at the start of a beautiful friendship.

I threw open the door to DSW and asked the first 3 people I saw if anyone turned in a Fitbit. The saleswoman didn’t think so and immediately put out an APB on my device to the other workers in the store. Soon, everyone was glancing down to help me look. I said another little prayer that no one already walked away with it.

I held out hope as I walked through the aisles of sandals, shoes, and sneakers. Ten minutes later, I found it right near the black wedged sandals I decided against buying. It must have slipped off my wrist as I was contemplating which pair to buy. The search was called off, people went back to their lives and the salespeople congratulated me. Relieved, I attached it back to my wrist and went home.

This is the life of a woman obsessed with her Fitbit. For some reason, this lightweight, plastic bracelet has really got a hold on me. It motivates me to park my car a little further from the front door of the office. It reminds me to take the stairs instead of the elevator. When I’m a good girl, the Fitbit rewards me with badges I can post on Facebook. It even encourages me to go to bed a little earlier so as to get the right amount of REM sleep. And since it is equipped with a built in alarm, its gentle vibrations against my skin wake me up every morning.

Hmm…maybe I’m getting a little too close to my Fitbit. Is there a support group out there for me? I’ll even walk there if it helps me acquire more steps for the day.


At the end of every day, we check in with each other to see how many steps I took, how many miles I traveled, how many calories I burned off, and how many minutes of exercise I can take credit for. Today, I proudly walked 10,653 steps which equals 4.3 miles, and 1,912 calories burned. I also spent 36 minutes exercising. It was a good day for us.

Losing it forever would have been hard to get over, but I would have managed somehow without it. Right now, I just prefer not to.

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