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…..

My Shot

Cue the music from Hamilton…just kidding.

This is going to be a brief post tonight because I am in the middle of writing a piece for a Writer’s Digest contest. I have to submit 500 words on why I love writing.

I once saw a poster that read “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.” Others have told me that just the act of submitting something means I’ve already won because others simply didn’t bother to give try.

So, what do I have to lose…nothing. What do I have to gain – being featured in Writer’s Digest in their February 2018 issue–that’s what. I like those odds.

Here goes nothing. Wish me luck. :)

Fourteen Years & Lots of Love

There are a lot of crazy, busy mornings around here. Just picture four of us trying to get out the door for school and work in various states of disarray. The coffee is flowing. Breakfast is cooking. Papers need to be signed. And more times than not, someone typically can’t find something that they absolutely need and I ultimately have to track it down.

In the midst of all that chaos, Andrew–always the last one to get up–walks down the steps, rubs the sleep from his eyes and comes over to me with open arms.

“I love you, mommy.” 

And I remember to breathe.

I am a lucky mom. He tells me this all the time and I never take it for granted. He says it every morning without fail. He says it before he goes to bed at night. He says it when I drop him off for swim practice or right before hangs up the phone.

He has been like this ever since he was a baby. I treasure every single one of those “I love you’s.” He says it so casually, but he means it with all of his heart. For this busy mom, it is his gift to me every day.

Fourteen years ago tonight, I was in labor with him for the better part of 8 hours with no epidural and a ridiculous amount of back pain. I had expected him to come into the world 3 days earlier, but he seemed to like it where he was and in no hurry to meet us. I like to remind him of all of this–especially on his birthday. But I would do it all over again to have this young man in my life.

So in a few years ladies if you are looking for a nice young man who is handsome, funny and treats his mom right – look no further. And by the way, you’re welcome. :)

Questions and Answers

I have a book on my desk called 300 Writing Prompts. Whenever I have writer’s block (or just not a lot of time to blog on a Sunday night), this is my go-to book to get in the right frame of mind. Sometimes, I’ll open it to any page with the intention of committing to the first topic I see.

Tonight, I opened the book to three different places and nothing inspired me to write anything at length. So I decided to post some short answers to my favorite prompts. Here we go:

  • What is my favorite way to spend a lazy day? – Reading a book or reading through a ton of magazines while sitting on the couch in my pajamas all day drinking coffee and listening to music.
  • Write about something that is presently in my life that is “worth it” – This one is easy. Spending time with my kids as much as they will let me because soon enough they will go off to college and parenthood as I know it to be will be over.
  • When was the last time I got lost? – The first day I drove my brand new car to work through the narrow streets of Manayunk. It was January. There was fresh snow on the ground and cars parked along both sides of the streets. The road on my normal commute was closed and I was cursing the fact that I had to take a new and unfamiliar route and didn’t spend the extra money on a GPS.
  • Three realistic goals I would like to achieve in my lifetime – Write a book, tour  Italy and see my grandchildren grow up.
  • What do I need right now? – Dinner already made for tomorrow night, a solid idea for the book I want to write, and money for my new kitchen.
  • What do you think is the most important question in life? – Will this make me happy?
  • What takes too long? – Laundry
  • Which household chores do I hate doing and what do you like? – I like
    de-cluttering and reorganizing different areas in the house. I hate cleaning the bathrooms.
  • What am I happy to finally check off my to-do list? – Today’s blog post. :)


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.

How I Came Up With My Blog Name

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

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

“Where r u?” she typed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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