Archive of ‘My Life’ category

The Life of a (Former) People Pleaser

I had a roommate in college who never learned to drive. As her roommate, it quickly became my responsibility to take her to and from work, drive her to campus and wait around until she was done to bring her home. Sometimes, I would go home, eat dinner, run errands, hang out with friends and go back for her later. In return, she never offered to pay for gas, expected my help at the drop of a hat and rarely thanked me for it.

I’m not exactly sure why I agreed to do this or how I wound up in that position to begin with, but I never complained. I just kept on doing it. Why? Because I wanted her to be my friend. And because I was afraid if I didn’t drive her where she needed to go, no one else would and that would be all my fault.

I was the quintessential people pleaser.

After we graduated, my roommate and I drifted apart. It turned out we weren’t as good of friends as I once thought (surprise, surprise) and frankly I was tired of being her doormat. It was my first step in a long journey toward being comfortable with putting myself first.

I read recently that people pleasers tend to say yes to everything and everyone because they either fear rejection or failure or both. Check off both boxes for me. I’ve learned that being a people pleaser, can bring on stress (check) and depression (check) in a person’s life because we are constantly putting other people’s needs before our own (check, check).

These days, I would describe myself as a recovering people pleaser. There are times when I find myself going back to my old ways, doing everything for everybody until I’m exhausted, get mad at myself and quit cold turkey.

As I get a little older and a lot wiser, I’m learning to put my own goals and dreams first because let’s face it – I’m not getting any younger. That doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to do favors for people or be supportive or show up in a time of need. I’m still that kind of person. I’m just making a little more room in my life for me.

Here is what that looks like right now:

  • I’ve started writing again.
  • I get in my 10,000 steps a day (more or less)
  • I spend more time with my family and friends.
  • I volunteer for what I want when I want.
  • I make the kids do the dishes 4 times a week and soon they will be doing their own laundry.
  • I ask for help instead of trying to be a Superwoman all of the time.
  • I’ve learned to say no.
  • I’ve set goals for myself that I plan on reaching.
  • I’ve allowed myself to dream a little more about what I want to accomplish.
  • I’ve given myself permission to dedicate more time to make those goals and dreams a reality.

And the ultimate success of being a recovering people pleaser is that I wake up every day feeling happy about it all, fulfilled and not the least bit guilty.

Am I Serious?

There are days that I think to myself that there is a book inside of me waiting to come out. I wonder if I’ll wake up one day and these random blog posts will appear to me as a complete work worthy of publishing. I actually have an idea for a book that has nothing to do with this blog, but I can’t do it alone. I’m also not sure if I have the time to write every day when I already have a full time job, a husband and two kids. I’m also not sure I have the discipline it takes to sit down and write every day, although I do try.

I’m just not sure.

There are other days when I don’t think about my so-called book. I think about my great-great granddaughter who might want to know what life was like at the beginning of the 21st century. I’ve always thought that all of us are a part of history – whether we are making history or witnessing and reacting to it. I wonder if she will come across my journals one day when I’m long gone and be excited to read them.

I only hope she can understand my handwriting.

I take my writing seriously, but I don’t necessarily think of myself as a serious writer. To me, a serious writer makes the time to write every day. I don’t have that kind of time. And when I do, I admit that I get easily distracted watching the 3rd season of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix when I should be writing.

I have a stack of books about writing that I’ve read over and over again for inspiration. I devour the advice in the latest issue of Writer’s Digest. I even have a favorite kind of pen – a Pentel RSVP fine point pen. Trust me, it’s a great pen. Does all of this make me a serious writer?

My purse needs to be big enough to throw in my light green Moleskine notebooks so they are with me when I’m on the go. You never know where or when or what is going to inspire my next big idea or next riveting blog post and I need to be ready to jot it down. Does that make me a serious writer?

I’m honestly not sure if I’d call myself a serious writer. But I know in my heart that I love to write and that is what I’m meant to do, no matter who reads it. There are stories to be told, memories to be shared and lessons to be learned and to be serious that is what matters most to me.

Life Got In The Way

True confession: There are times when I sit at my Weight Watchers meeting and often check my email while only half listening to the leader. I know. I know. It’s rude. I should give her my full attention. It’s not her fault; she is actually very good at her job. I can check my email any time and attending meetings is supposedly a big part of succeeding on this program.

I know. Okay. I know. I’m sorry. I’m a multi-tasker with a severe lack of patience. I can’t help myself.

But this week, while I was checking my email (and my Facebook page), I heard something that made me sit up and pay attention. Somewhere in between the monotonous litany of point finds and sharing recipes I know I’ll never try – someone was talking about how taking care of ourselves is so important and yet so incredibly hard. So many little things get in the way of making healthy choices. Instead of making time to exercise, track food, drink water, and prepare meals, we are all taking care of everyone else and their needs.

And then she said something brilliant. If taking care of ourselves isn’t meaningful enough to us, then it will never become a priority. And she is right. There are so many little things that have gotten in my way of succeeding on any weight loss plan – laundry, dishes, homework, errands to name a few.

And then there are the big things that got in my way – overcoming depression, planning my son’s bar mitzvah, getting used to a new job, adjusting to a different schedule and a much longer commute and dammit who has time to lose weight, let alone sit at a meeting without checking my inbox?!

But my Weight Watchers leader had an excellent point. A point so good that it gave an entirely new meaning to their typical Weight Watchers SmartPoints. And I left the meeting making a big decision – it is high time for me to get back to my own self-care and make myself the priority. And for me, this means a few important things:

  • Being more present in the lives of those who I love (a.k.a stop constantly checking email and FB)
  • Finding time to exercise
  • Plan out and cook meals and track my food intake
  • Write more often (hence this blog post – my first one in over a year)
  • Read, read, read

How am I going to succeed this time? What will be different? For the first time in a long time, I’m putting myself at the top of my to-do list.

Stay tuned…

Keeping it Casual

As I desperately sift through the racks at Bloomingdales, I am a woman on a mission. I am in search of the perfect piece of clothing. I don’t care if what I find is a shirt, a pair of pants or a dress. It doesn’t matter what color or even pattern necessarily. Sometimes, I snag a cool pair of earrings or some cute sandals. I know what I’m looking for and it needs to have only two innate qualities – it has to be casual, but professional.

I’m looking for something trendy yet authoritative, cool and collected, fashionable (affordable) and fabulous. In order for this mission to be successful, I’ve had to abandon my regular trips to Loft because the merchandise doesn’t fit the bill. I already have a closet full of black and gray slacks with matching tops and blazers that could dress an army of businesswomen.

But now, I work in an office where the dress code is casual. Not business casual, but casual casual. This is a challenge for someone who has a closet full of apparel from Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. My closet needs a makeover.

Jeans are practically the uniform at the office. Any kind of jean is acceptable – except for the mom kind. Dark, faded, even ripped jeans are acceptable, but that is where I draw the line. I refuse to wear ripped jeans to work because I personally don’t think it is professional and frankly it seems silly to try and pull off at my age.

I want clothes that don’t look maternal, but also doesn’t look like I’m trying too hard. The pink jeans last week were a mistake – a big one. What looked cute first thing in the morning was ridiculous to me by noon. I missed the mark that day.

And no matter how great something looks in the dressing room – it doesn’t look nearly as good on me when I get home. Since I have no time to go back and return it, I wear it anyway and secretly hope someone will pay me a compliment so I know I fit in. I thought I was past all of this, but apparently I’m not because there I am waiting for acceptance – like a middle school student wanting to be included by the popular girls.

So, I’ve abandoned my go-to stores and recently stepped my toes into boutiques where I don’t typically shop. Even the department stores I dreaded as a kid are now a gold mine for all types of clothes for women of a certain age.

Yes, I’m well aware of my first world problem, but I still dream of mornings when I don’t change my clothes at least 3 times in search of the perfect outfit. That will be a mission accomplished.

 

An Avid Reader’s Soap Opera

My books are fighting over me again. It’s my own fault. I’ve been neglecting all of them. I’m so busy these days with a new job, running the kids around, trying to keep enough underwear and towels clean and answering that age old question night after night – what’s for dinner?

Still, I need to pick a new book soon and my choices are getting anxious. Actually, they are pissed at me. And I don’t blame them. They have their reasons and they are good ones. My books have always been jealous of the flashy Samsung tablet I keep in my purse with the oh-so-convenient Kindle app. I’ve cheated on my pile of books so many times by purchasing countless novels on a whim.The immediate satisfaction is intoxicating. And you know what? I even read them too!

I’m so ashamed. It’s addicting and so wrong.

I tell people that I love the feel of a book in my hands. Turning actual pages is such a meaningful gesture for an avid reader like myself. Swiping just doesn’t give me the same thrill.

But, my books think I’m a fraud and perhaps they are right. I can hear them now as they start their accusations.

The 19th Wife says, “I see her downloading in secret. She thinks I don’t notice, but I do. I sit here and wait patiently collecting dust – even though we both know that I sit at the very top of her Goodreads list.”

“She has no choice. She must pick me next!” declares The Catcher in the Rye emphatically. “Otherwise, how else will Jenna ever finish her 10th grade English paper? It’s not like she can fake it. We all know she never read me in high school.”

All of a sudden, Big Magic, by the well-renowned author Elizabeth Gilbert interrupts. “But she needs me. Her writer’s mojo is at stake AND by the way she took me to Maryland this past weekend. We had a lovely time getting to know each other better.”

“What about me?” cries Roses who was carelessly tossed on the floor in the corner of my room a few weeks ago. To her, I reply. “I tried. I really did. I had such high hopes for us. Tumbleweeds was one of my favorite books! You have to understand. It’s not you. It’s me. I’m just not that into you.”

“Am I not good enough for you?” asks I’ll Give You the Sun – my book club pick that I haven’t even finished yet, but anticipate our relationship will be ending very soon. She is so great and I can’t put her down, but it is going way too fast for me.

“Call me!” yells The Kitchen House from a small coffee table in my living room.

And finally, as I stand by my bed in my guilty state of distress, the drawer of my nightstand nudges at me and quietly slides open. A certain book peeks out and speaks to me. “We both know they aren’t getting any until you are finished with me.” whispers Fifty Shades of Grey.The drawer closes and – damn it(!) – I know she is right.

Stay tuned. The saga continues…as the neglected magazines on the dining room table are beginning to get restless and are planning to protest.

 

Carpe Donut

Seize the donut!

I can’t remember when this birthday tradition of treating myself to one of my favorite foods began, but it has stuck and I’m glad.

This morning, I woke up with a bit of a dilemma. My husband and I have pledged to each other good health and a commitment to taking better care of ourselves. This means we are going to eat right, achieve our weight loss goals this year, and support each other on this journey. To help us along, we are joining Weight Watchers together and our first meeting is tonight.

So, I woke up this morning torn between a new promise and an old tradition. Even one Boston Kreme donut is way more points than I want to consume on any given day. I asked myself, is it worth it?

In my 45 years on this planet, there are some life lessons I have learned and cherished which helped me make the wiser and more responsible choice. After careful thought and good judgement, I decided – Yes, it is totally worth it.

Here are some of these lessons which helped me resolve this problem.

Live in the moment – All year long, I deny myself this treat  when I walk into Dunkin Donuts for a cup of coffee. On an almost daily basis, I crave the donuts from afar and they call to me – pick me, pick me! I tell myself that it is a birthday present only and not a regular purchase. It is a splurge – if you will – and what better day to splurge than on my birthday. Live in the moment. Carpe diem! Or donut in this case.

Practice generosity – You get a donut! You get a donut! You get a donut! I feel like the Oprah Winfrey of my house because not only is this my birthday tradition, but I take the entire family down with me. My birthday is known in my house as Boston Kreme donut day. Celebrating with my family and being generous enough to share my treat with them brings me great joy….which brings me to my next lesson.

Do what makes you happy – A donut AND a blog post – what a great birthday! I love to write and although I have been neglecting this blog lately for many reasons I won’t go into right now, it is never far from my mind. And as luck would have it, this donut dilemma is turning into a great post- if I do say so myself.

Perfection is overrated – This is a lesson I’m still working on. I am far from perfect, although I try hard to be all the time. I blame myself a lot for things that are often out of my control. I do the best I can and I’m finally starting to realize that my best is good enough. My house is not perfect. My kids don’t have to do things exactly the way I want it. Even my diet is not perfect which is how I like it. I need to have room for imperfection on special occasions. This is one of them.

Be grateful –  I am fortunate enough to go through this world with a loving family, caring and wonderful friends, and a great career. I have dreams and goals that I’m still working towards which keeps me young. I am incredibly grateful for this amazing life – one that includes Boston Kreme donuts.

 

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.

 

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