A Confession

Hi there. Have you missed me? Have I been neglectful? I know I’m not living up to the promises I’ve kept – like writing every day for the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I know I strayed, and I’m so sorry. The truth is I’ve been doing a whole lot of writing and posting lately – but not here. Not on my blog.

And I’m going to come clean, right now.

I’ve been cheating on you with LinkedIn.

There. I said it. I feel much better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.

I don’t know what happened. I just can’t help myself. Every time I get a free minute, I’m there and not here. For a while, I thought Facebook was my mistress, but it turns out LinkedIn has my heart. It has become my new favorite social media platform. And honestly, I’ve been spending a lot more time there than I do here with you on my blog.

And I’m very sorry.

You see, LinkedIn and I been through a lot together over the past few months. We have an understanding. While furloughed, I had nowhere to go, and then I remembered my old friend. At first, I only logged on once a day. And then, I downloaded the app on my phone, and it became several times a day. I’ve made some new friends. I read the articles. I added my thoughts. I have had amazing conversations with people I’ve never met in person before.

I know. It’s so weird. I never thought this would happen to us.

And I wish I could just give it up, but I’m too invested now which could actually a good thing. And although I’ve landed a wonderful job and turned off my recruiter radar and unsubscribed from the job notifications, I want to know how my fellow furloughed friends are doing. Did they find jobs? Where are they applying? How can I help them as they helped me?

I don’t think I’ll ever turn my back on it. I can’t, so please don’t ask me to.

I learn so much from the people there. I find new ideas and professional advice from leaders in my field. I share my own expertise and meet more people every day. It would be foolish to throw it all away.

But, I promise you this. I’ll pay more attention to you and the friends I’ve made here. I’ll carve out time to spend with you because you are important to me too. After all, this blog is my first love, and I won’t take it for granted again.

I hope you can forgive me.

Some Good News

First – apologies to my friends and family who have already heard my good news on Facebook and LinkedIn. You are about to read it again. 🙂

For the rest of you, guess what?! I got a new job!!!

I’m excited to start this new chapter of my life with an opportunity that truly matches up to my values, skills, talents, and passions. It did not happen overnight. Far from it! I was furloughed back in July, but I was already looking. And when I stopped working, I was determined to find a new job.

I’ll be honest. I got frustrated and there were times that I started to lose hope. I was up for some fantastic positions. I have a solid resume and the right stories to use during interviews. It just wasn’t the right time. In fact, finding a job in normal times is never easy. Add in a pandemic and a bad economy, and it was even more difficult. I had to stand out in a huge pool of people who were just as talented, experienced, and recently unemployed. I had to make a lot of adjustments to my process. I did more networking than applying. I learned to interview over Zoom. I took classes to improve my skills. And building my brand on LinkedIn became my new favorite pastime.

I learned so much! And I’m glad to have this platform, so I can pass along some advice (and some good stories) to those of you who may still be looking.

Here is lesson number one.

Know When to Walk Away

It seems like a funny lesson to start with, but when you spend every waking moment looking for a job, you want to know that you are making some headway. So, I learned to recognize when an opportunity just wasn’t right for me.

In one particular case, I met with several people from an organization on three separate occasions. After the initial phone interview, I was asked to provide two writing samples and put together a 15-minute presentation to show my understanding of their mission, and how I could help them meet and exceed their goals. I spent several days preparing and practicing, and I was proud of the job I did. I knew they were impressed too because, during my 1:1 time with the CEO, she asked me if I taught public speaking.

Yeah, I made it to round three. I met with the same people as before, but this time I was asked to edit one of their pieces for both content and grammar.

And then, they asked for a fourth meeting to “discuss my skills.”

At this point, I realized my skills couldn’t possibly be in question. They even told me I was the only candidate they were pursuing. Clearly, I had already proven my value. Their question was about fit. Was I the right person for the role? It was then that I decided to walk away.

I wasn’t angry. Relieved was more like it. If they couldn’t see it, there wasn’t anything more I could say or do to convince them otherwise.

It was a shame, but I kept moving forward knowing there was something better out there for me. I’m so glad I found it.

I’m Distracted.

I hope Joe Biden wins the presidential election so that I can get more accomplished. Seriously, I’m so distracted by all of the “breaking news.” And guess what…a lot of times, it is not new at all! It is a repeat of the breaking news from 15 minutes ago. And yet, I still listen because I may have missed something the first time.

I blame Donald Trump.

Fine. I admit it. Right now, I’m in an endless spiral of distractions. Social media is another rabbit hole I avoid at all costs. I mean I’m only checking Facebook during the day when I sit down to eat and then, I put my phone away. Okay, I take a peek first thing in the morning, and again before I go to bed. And while I’m in the bathroom. But, that’s it!

I need help.

These constant distractions are probably the reason why this is the third day in a row that I can’t think of a decent thing to blog about. So, instead of deep thoughts and inspiring stories, you are getting me at my most distracted and maybe at my most real.

There is a reason this blog is called Life Without A Manual. I’m living it, baby!

Last night, I promised myself I would jump out of bed this morning, grab a coffee, and start writing. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. I’m much better when I write in the morning than at 9 pm at night. But then, the dishes in the sink distract me. After putting away the dishes, I wipe down the counters. Then, I grab the broom and sweep the floor. And then I take out the recycling because it’s trash day.

Have you ever read, ‘If You Give A Mouse A Cookie…” Yeah, it’s like that.

Oh look, it’s time to walk the dog. Ugh!

Distractions are evil. I hope a brilliant blog idea saves me. After all, I’m only on day six of this challenge.

On My Mind

This is me… trying to figure out what to write about today.

Here I am at 9:57 pm with no blog post to show for it. I’ve been thinking about what to write all day and while several ideas came to mind, I promptly dismissed them. As a writer, some days are better than others. Today is just not my day.

I tried all of my old tricks to find inspiration. I looked through some magazines and lists of prompts, but nothing spoke to me. I watched the news for a few minutes and since it’s all so depressing, I turned it off. Feeling anxious now about my blog and today’s news, I sat outside with my dog and waited for a topic to magically come to me. My plan was to run inside and turn on my laptop as soon as the mood struck me.

But, it never did.

Finally, I went on Facebook and found the question it asks all of us – what’s on your mind? Well, that I can answer. Here we go:

  • I can’t wait to visit my daughter at college next weekend. We are dropping off her fall sweaters that made no sense to pack back in August. It’s been two months since I’ve seen her. Time to put together a good Fall care package!
  • Our son turns 17 this month. He is so grown up now and finally acting like a total teenager. He has that awesome sense of humor, wry smile, and the messiest room that all reminds me how much I’m going to miss him when he goes away to college. That reminds me – I have to call his SAT tutor tomorrow.
  • Donald Trump is a narcissistic idiot. Did he not get enough love and attention from the doctors and nurses at Walter Reed. Did he need to pull a publicity stunt just to see his fan club? He has COVID for G-d sake! As my sister-in-law brilliantly put it, he’s in a hospital, not a hotel. Whose bright idea was it to risk people’s lives so he could take a joy ride? Where the fuck are the grownups? Just when you thought you’ve seen it all. I’m exasperated. End rant.

Now for the lightning round of random thoughts.

  • I loved Jim Carrey as Joe Biden on SNL last night.
  • I haven’t done a jigsaw puzzle in quite a while. Maybe I’ll start one this week.
  • I finished binge-watching seven seasons of West Wing. What should my next show be?
  • Subscribing to different things gets incredibly expensive. You don’t think about it when you sign up but then it all starts to add it. Time to start canceling some of them starting with Disney Plus. I saw Hamilton. I’m good now.

I think that’s plenty. 10:26 pm and 466 words. Good night!

Fall Frenzy

Today would have been the perfect day for raking leaves, pumpkin picking, or taking a drive to see the leaves on the trees turning different colors. The weather forecast was calling for a high in the mid-60s today with a nice breeze and blue skies. Any outdoor seasonal activity would have sufficed.

But, I didn’t do any of that. Instead, the cooler weather inspired me to purge my kitchen pantry and clean out my bedroom closet. Sure, a walk in the park enjoying the beautiful weather would have been lovely, but my day took a different turn.

I didn’t wake up in an organizing mood, but I was motivated after grabbing a box of cereal and started unloading everything off the shelves. Once the pantry was completely empty, I wiped down the crumbs, threw away the stray almonds and chocolate chips, and replaced all the shelf liners. I had already come this far so before I put everything back, I put the food into categories. I counted out 5 different types of peanut butter, 7 boxes of pasta, and a plethora of marinades. I found empty bins in another cabinet that I repurposed to keep everything contained. The only thing that was missing was a label maker. But still, the end result was worthwhile.

I tackled my bedroom closet next. My original plan was to put the laundry away and replace shorts with sweaters. But then I discovered a bunch of sandals and flip flops on the floor and decided to dive in. I went into my daughter’s closet to find some kind of basket to throw all of the shoes in and realized she had so much room in there for my dressier clothes. I quickly dug up a bin for the shoes and returned to her closet with all of my dresses. I’m certainly not going anywhere fancy anytime soon.  This left me plenty of room to hang up my wrap-around sweaters that are just impossible to fold neatly. I made a small donation pile of clothes and shoes I haven’t worn in over a year. After a clean sweep of the dust bunnies on my floor, my closet was finished.

I wish I took before and after pictures but that never occurs to me until I’m right in the middle of an organization project. So here are the after shots. Not bad, huh?

My pretty pantry.

clothes

Sweater heaven!

clothes

I wonder how this will look a month from now. 😉

What organization projects are you working on? Please share and include before and after shots!

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll buy a pumpkin and go apple picking.

My Voting Plan

I’m a big planner. I like having all of my ducks in a row. I want my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed. I don’t love to leave things to chance.

I had a birth plan when I was pregnant with my kids. I still have the spreadsheets, seating charts, and menus from their b’nai mitzvahs. I pride myself on being organized in everything from our family calendar to job hunting. I know this makes me sound square, but it is how I’m wired.

Up until a few days ago, my voting plan was to wake up at 6:30 a.m., get dressed, grab a cup of coffee, drive to the church that serves as my polling place and cast my vote in person. I didn’t want to mail in my ballot. Not because I believe it won’t be counted. I have great faith and trust in the system. I encouraged — ok, nagged — my college-aged daughter to vote by mail.

Personally, I love to be a part of the day. I want to stand in line with my neighbors, walk in the building, thank the poll workers, sign my name in the book, be with my fellow citizens, and make my choice in public view. There is something to be said about wanting to be seen while performing my patriotic duty.

Ok, I’d like to collect my “I Voted” sticker too.

But then, I had a thought. What if I’m sick that day? What if I wake up with a nasty cold or a stomach bug and have no business standing in line and being around other people?

What if I miss my chance to have my voice heard?!

Frankly, I would be devastated. I’ve voted in just about every election since I turned 18. Voting is a ritual in my family. So much so that I’ve written a few posts about it – here and here. It’s that important to me. And this is not a year to miss. Personally, I can’t take four more years of our current commander in chief. I know I may have to, but it won’t be because I didn’t have a say.

Did I also mention that I live in a swing state? Pennsylvania turned red in 2016 and that was a punch in the gut for me. I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia which is fairly liberal, but there are a lot of rural communities between here and Pittsburgh. We have a good chance of going blue this year, and a thin margin must be prevented at all costs.

So, I bit the bullet and ordered a mail-in ballot. I will proudly do my civic duty from my kitchen table instead of in person. There is too much at stake and in a pandemic, it’s too risky. I don’t want to throw away my shot.

Do you have a plan to vote? If not, you have 32 days to make one. I hope your plans include bringing your kids with you or at least talking to them about the process. No matter what your political leanings may be, the right to vote is something we should take seriously.

FYI: If you want an absentee ballot, visit the Better Know Your Ballot website for details about your state.

 

Hello!

Hello. My name is Elisa. It has been 46 days since my last blog post.

Every time I do the Ultimate Blog Challenge, it is my hope that I will establish a daily writing habit that I follow religiously. Sometimes, I’m successful. Other times, not so much. Lately, I’ve been crazy busy which has gotten in the way of blogging. But the important thing is that I’m back.

So, what’s new with me? I’m glad you asked! I’ve been looking for a job for over a year now. I took a completely different approach to this adventure. It is truly a full-time job to look for a new opportunity – at least that is how I treat it. The biggest shift in my approach was not looking at the job boards and applying all day long. After I got over the fear of missing out (FOMO), I was much happier with this method. I hate being at the mercy of the applicant tracking systems that search for keywords instead of getting to know the applicants as people. Instead, I networked my ass off.  And boy did I learn a lot along the way. Was I successful? Stay tuned.

One thing job hunting brings about is a lot of soul-searching to rediscover who you are and what you want to be when you grow up. I’m quickly approaching the half-century mark and still trying to figure out the answer to this. I am, of course, the quintessential liberal arts student. But, I know this – writing is a constant in my life. Whether I am journaling, blogging, writing copy, or posting something on clever on Facebook, writing is central to my answer to the age-old question – who am I? I am a writer.

If you are new to my blog, welcome! If you are a frequent reader, thanks for sticking with me on this journey. To my fellow bloggers in this challenge, I can’t wait to see what you come up with this month. 31 days seems overwhelming at first, but it’s all good. Let’s do this!

 

 

 

 

Experts, Seekers and Imposters

Am I an expert?

This question has gone through my mind so many times as I continue to look for a new job opportunity. Whether I am updating my resume, rebranding myself or writing an elevator speech, I wonder if saying I’m an expert is going a step too far.

Do I say I’m an expert in nonprofit communications? Have I earned the right to say I have “expertise” in email marketing? Should I change my LinkedIn headline from “Senior Marketing Communications Expert” to something less significant? Above all, am I misrepresenting myself by saying I’m an expert at anything?

Being the word nerd that I am, I decided to look at the definition of the word expert. It reads “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” After reading this a few times, I felt much better about calling myself one.

Here’s why:

  1. I don’t say I am THE EXPERT in marketing and communications. I am saying that I am an expert.
  2. The above definition doesn’t insist that a person must know everything on a particular topic. I think that alone is a huge distinction.
  3. I can quantify my expertise because I have had a successful career in communications for over 20 years.
  4. I have invested time and money in professional development classes, workshops and conferences in order to improve my skills and keep learning as the times change.
  5. I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to speak about different topics under this umbrella. More importantly, the feedback about my breadth of knowledge and how much it has helped others with their own work.

Many of us suffer from what they call “imposter syndrome” or the feeling that despite your obvious success you suffer from feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that take over the actual proof of your competence. Boy, does that sound familiar!

But before I got too caught up in that way of thinking, I looked up the word imposter on its own. An imposter is “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.”

I think anyone who has studied and made a career in a certain field can read this definition and feel at ease. With these explanations, we should most definitely not consider ourselves imposters.

So, what happens if we don’t see ourselves as experts or imposters? I think there is one final word we can use to describe ourselves and that is seekers. Seekers are people who want to learn more. They may not be experts yet, but they are not imposters. They are defined by their curiosity and by observing and gaining knowledge so they can one day call themselves experts.

What are your thoughts? Are you an expert or a seeker? Do you suffer from imposter syndrome and if so, how do you deal with it?

Caught Barehanded

Today, I went to a Bath and Body Works where a sign posted on the door read: “Spread Love, Not Germs.” And then I watched a woman dig down deep into a bin of $5 bottles of hand sanitizer. Apparently, the particular scent she desired was located at the very bottom of the barrel.

Was she wearing gloves? Nope.

Did she at least wash her hands at the sink before she dove in? I don’t know.

I’m guessing she didn’t see the sign.

What I did know at that moment was there was no freaking way I was buying hand sanitizer from that container. Nor did I want to reach my hand into any of the other bins in the store. I wanted to get the hell out of there. I made my way to the counter and told myself that the bottles of hand soap in my arms were three or four deep on the shelf and completely untouched before I came along.

And even though I witnessed what I considered to be a heinous act against her fellow shoppers, I felt terrible for the next person who didn’t see it happen. She would unknowingly put her hand into that bin to select her item and will have had no idea what a bad decision she was making for herself and her family. I only hope she washes her hands immediately after.

And these are the things that I think about when I try to enjoy a few hours of shopping with my daughter. I get upset and then concerned. I looked around for the pandemic police to come to our rescue and wipe down every bottle in the store.

It’s exhausting to be this anxious and over a little thing like a bottle of hand sanitizer. I don’t want to be this person. It is hard to suppress my feelings, but I managed to do so. What is the alternative? The last thing I want is to become agoraphobic and stay home until a vaccine is discovered, tested, approved and distributed in a safe and effective manner. That could take a while, so we all have to figure out ways to live with this virus. My hope is that we all make better choices along the way.

And to the person who made a poor decision to plunge her uncovered hands into that bin, I hope the French Lavender fragrance was worth it.

Friday Thoughts

I had big plans for this month. Working from home gives me so much more flexibility that I could easily squeeze in the time for a blog post every day. Right?

Apparently not. Last week, I was furloughed from my job with the hope of them bringing me back in January of next year. It has taken me a little while to get used to this new reality. From filing for unemployment to coming up with a new daily routine, it is all a bit of a shock to my system. All last week, I went to bed wondering what I did that day. Did I accomplish anything? And old habits are hard to break. I still wake up at the same time and automatically pick up my phone to check my email–only to remember that I am locked out of my accounts, and I have no meetings today.

But, I am thinking positive. I know I’m going to land on my feet and be fine. I have a large network to tap into and people have been generous, kind and willing to help. Right now, I’m technically still employed and my benefits are intact. But, I’ve never been in this situation before. It is bizarre, and naively, I didn’t think it would happen to me.

Happier News

Today is Chloe’s “gotcha” day. We adopted our poodle four years ago, and I can honestly say she has made our family complete. During quarantine, she has been by our side, putting smiles on our faces and up for some short-term snuggling when we are feeling down. I’m so happy we have her in our lives. Happy “Gotcha” Day, Chloe!

Back to School

Our daughter heads back to college in two weeks which leaves me with mixed feelings. I love having her around the house. It’s like she never left. If this was her freshman year, I’d encourage her to go to our local community college to take her gen eds. But, she has had her taste of sweet freedom and there is no putting that genie back in the bottle. To be honest, I’m betting on her being back upstairs in her room taking classes by October. I can’t see how this on-campus life is going to work, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Meanwhile, our son, Andrew, will be a junior in high school. This is a big year for him, and I want him to have the best set up to succeed. For me, that would have meant in-classroom learning. He is much better in that environment than reading off a computer screen. But, the school board recently decided to go all virtual for the first marking period. No fall sports which is a shame, but at least, we are not on complete lockdown. He can see his girlfriend and core group of friends at a social distance, of course. People are upset with this decision. Mostly because we all thought we had options between sending them back in person and online learning, but the school board decided for us and in a way that gave none of us a voice in the process. While that is frustrating, frankly I’m relieved not to have to make this decision myself.

For the record, there is no right answer when it comes to sending our kids back to school. Whatever decision you are making for your kids – keeping them home, sending them back, doing a hybrid – it’s the right decision. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. This is hard, and I support you.

Blog Update

Our fearless leader of the Ultimate Blog Challenge recently asked what our plans are for our blogs in the future. My plan is simple – to keep writing. I didn’t get in all 31 blog posts like I wanted to do. Oh well, shit happens And it really hit the fan here this month.

I will keep writing. I hope you keep reading.

Stay healthy and safe everyone. Wear a mask. XO

 

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