Life Without A Manual – Work From Home Edition

For over 12 years, I worked as the Director of Programs and Communications for a large congregation.

What does a Director of Programs and Communications do? Well, in a nutshell, I used to call myself the synagogue’s “cruise director.”

I planned the programs and events. I made announcements. I wrote trip itineraries and nailed down all the details. I worked with the most amazing people — everyone from clergy, staff and board members to speakers, musicians and entertainers. I connected people with similar interests.

I also made sure the food was prepared properly; the temperature was on a comfortable setting; people were enjoying themselves; and everything ran on schedule. Kind of like a cruise director.

And here’s the funny thing…all this has left me pleasantly surprised at how prepared I am for other jobs and life experiences — including working from home during a pandemic.

These days, I’m asking my family the same questions I asked fellow congregants.

Is there enough food? Is it good?

Does everyone have what they need?

Do you know where you are going and what you are doing?

IS EVERYBODY HAPPY??!!

Seriously, it’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work. We’ve had some laughs, nice family dinners, a few meltdowns (mostly by me) and multiple trips to Giant for brownie bites and alcohol.

It’s like working at the synagogue all over again – except these “members” have seen me in my pajamas. 🙂

 

We’re All In This Together

My dog, Chloe, is pretty happy these days. Normally, she spends a good part of her day at home alone while we are at school and work. Although I wouldn’t put it past her to invite her dog friends over for parties once in a while when the humans are away. But those days are over, for now. She has her humans back, and we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I live in Montgomery County, PA and thanks to this pandemic, we are on – I guess you would call it a lockdown – for the next two weeks. All schools are canceled including public, private, religious and others. I’m guessing home-schooling and online schools remain unaffected. In addition, gyms, theaters, malls and entertainment venues are closed. Small businesses are making their own decisions as to whether or not to stay open. Large gatherings are canceled. In my school district, school events are either canceled or postponed through Memorial Day weekend. Medical centers, urgent care, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and grocery stores remain open. I understand the local liquor stores are experiencing an influx of customers as if it were New Year’s Eve.

While this mandatory form of social distancing may seem extreme, there have been 13 people tested for coronavirus in our county which is more than half the number of the entire state. My thought is this is due to lots of people in my area who are able to or need to travel for work and may have contracted the virus along the way.

I, for one, am grateful that our governor has taken this pandemic seriously and taking action. Without getting too political, I can’t say the same for the federal government.

I am not panicking – although sometimes my hypochondria gets the best of me.

I am grateful.

I’m grateful to be able to work from home.

I’m grateful that both of my kids are here.

Chloe is grateful for the company and more frequent walks around the block.

I’m grateful to have jigsaw puzzles to do, books to read and blog posts to write. As a side note, I’m pretty sure my current situation will result in a lot of material for this blog. After all, we are literally living life without a manual.

We will get through this. We have no choice. We’re all in this together.

Stay healthy, everyone!

 

 

I Should Be Writing

I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I have started and stopped about 25 different posts since the end of January, but I didn’t think any were worth publishing.

You see, I have this problem. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called imposter syndrome. It’s a psychological condition in which one believes that despite all their accomplishments, people have an intense fear that others will find out they are a fraud.

Yes, I know. I’m being ridiculous. I know I’m not a fraud, but let’s face it I’m not an author either (yet). But, it’s a process. It’s a long process to go from writer to a blogger to an author. I’ve been doing the writer part since the fourth grade. I wrote for the school paper in high school and in college, I minored in journalism. I was the features editor of The Quad, had a popular weekly column, worked weekends as an obituary writer and then landed a reporter’s beat after graduation.

But then, I decided to put down my reporter’s notebook for a 9-5 job because I didn’t think I could make a living that way and have a family. I didn’t have a mentor or anyone back then to encourage me and tell me otherwise.

Since then, I’ve been dabbling in writing for the last 20 years. I’ve been a blogger, a storyteller, a scriptwriter, an editor, a presenter, a communications manager and, most recently, an email marketing expert.

But I no longer think this dabbling crap is enough for me, and here’s why.

If you came to my house and looked at my bookshelves, you would find writing magazines, books about writing and grammar, prompt decks and a poster on my corkboard with a list of quotes from famous writers about…can you guess…writing!

In the drawers of my desk are countless notebooks and yellow legal pads filled with things I’ve written for the writer’s workshop I’ve attended casually for years.

If you looked in my Yahoo inbox, you’d see emails from websites like Writers Write, Writer’s Digest, Poets and Writers, WOW – Women on Writing and so on.

If you read my mind, you would discover the plethora of personal stories still untold, the lists of people I want to interview, several book chapters and ideas, blog posts and more.

So, I’ll say it right now. I’m not an imposter.

I’m a writer.

And I feel like the universe is trying to tell me something.

Seriously, what the fuck am I waiting for?

 

Just Once…

This morning I had a dentist appointment. I hate going because even though the staff is incredibly friendly and professional, and my dentist and I exchange stories as if we were friends from the old neighborhood, they always find something that needs to be fixed.

My dental history is a sad litany of cavities, root canals and crowns. Just once, I’d like to go to the dentist and receive a clean bill of health. Just once, I’d love them to say, “see you in six months.”

But, before I even step foot into the dentist’s office, I get a text from Andrew.

If you are able to, can you bring me my warm-up jacket?”

Now, I know what you are thinking. Why did I say yes?  Why did I go out of my way to bring it to him, which is the complete opposite direction of the dentist’s office?

I know what you are thinking, and I hear you. I should say him no and just once not run over there to save the day.

But he had an important swim meet today. Literally called the “Last Chance” meet, it is his last chance to improve his breaststroke time so he can qualify for Districts. All season long, he goes to practice from 5:30 am (AM!) -7 am and then again after school from 3:30 pm-5:30 pm without complaint. Every day, he packs his snacks, his swim gear and his laptop and leaves the house and comes home in the dark. He’s allowed a free pass occasionally. And, if I didn’t bring it to him, he’d be standing around the pool wearing only his Speedo tech suit. I couldn’t do that to him.

Why am I telling you all of this? I’m not sure. Everyone has rough mornings. Everyone has that moment when they are ready to walk out the door only to be stopped by a text from their forgetful child. I don’t think I’m doing any significant damage by being kind and going out of my way to bring it to him.

And I had a fleeting thought that perhaps a good deed would equal good karma at the dentist.

Fast forward an hour later; I have an appointment to get a cavity filled on March 4th.

And how was your morning?

Showing Up

For me, the hardest part about fulfilling a personal goal has always been starting. When I want to start an exercise routine, getting myself to the gym is the most challenging. Once I’m there, I hop on the treadmill or the elliptical and thirty minutes later, I feel amazing. I wonder why I don’t do this more often. I could be 25 pounds lighter right now if I just showed up.

The same goes for writing. For the last 31 days, I woke up, got dressed, poured myself a cup of ambition and sat down at my computer screen. Sometimes, I would type the words “I don’t know what to write” until something came to mind. Other times, I’d shut off the computer and pray an idea comes would magically appear on my way to work. And there were a few days when I had to give myself a much-needed break.

But guess what? I DID IT! I put myself first and showed up. And here I am 31 days later with a new writing routine. I carved out the time for it. I made it a priority. I succeeded.

Why don’t I do this more often? I feel amazing! I could have had my first book written if only I did this sooner. 😉

There is no stopping me now! I may not get to 29 posts for February, but I promise to show up when I have something to say.

Thank you for reading my posts and supporting me all month long. Stay tuned!

A Writer’s Fairy Tale

Do you remember this scene from Pretty Woman? Richard and Vivian are lying in bed together, having some serious pillow talk.

“When people put you down enough, you start to believe it,” Vivian whispers.

“I think you are a very bright, very special woman,” Edward assures her.

Vivian looks into his eyes and answers, “The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?”

This is so true, and there is science to back this up. According to an article at livingincognito.com, we are all pre-programmed to think this way. The author writes, “We are predisposed to pay attention to the negative stuff because when we were cave-dwelling, our ancestors had to be on high alert for danger—a.k.a. the bad stuff.” And now, even though we don’t have those dangers to face, our brain never rewired itself. We pay attention to the negative because our brains are overprotective and want to protect us from harm. We form a permanent memory of this feeling and therefore find it difficult to move forward.

This Ultimate Blog Challenge (UBC) has started to rewire my brain. I’ve already broken up with my 12th-grade journalism teacher, who told me I’d never be good enough. I’m putting out of my mind the rejections I’ve received from a few contests. When I asked one contest leader if I could get a critique of my piece, she had nothing but constructive feedback and words of encouragement. Even when I feel like I wrote a shitty first draft in the writer’s workshop I attend, people find something that resonates with them.

Hey guys – I just wrote a blog post a day for 30 straight days! For me, this is a big accomplishment. This experience has given me a much more positive attitude toward my writing career. Even on the days when I thought I had nothing more to write about, I realize my brain just needed to rest and recharge. I skipped two days but caught up and jumped right back on the horse.

Yes, the bad stuff is easier to believe, but I’m choosing to embrace the positive signs flashing brightly in front of me. And when someone has something negative and unhelpful to say, I’ll listen and then reply –

“BIG MISTAKE. HUGE! I HAVE TO GO AND WRITE NOW.”

 

 

 

 

 

A Moment to Vent

Yesterday, I went on ezinearticles.com and clicked on the category “Women’s Interests” to see if I could find a quality article to share with you. What I found was nothing worth sharing, but in fact, aggravating.

As a woman, I would imagine the topics under this category would be anything from careers to family, sports to fashion, and fitness to food. I thought I’d see a laundry list of fascinating and timely subject areas to explore.

Instead, I found this:

  • Menopause/HRT
  • Beauty Products
  • Plus Size
  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Self Defense

That’s it?!  Except for the first topic—which I think is a valid one–what the fuck?!

Excuse my French, but seriously, this kind of thing drives me crazy. How about a section on health and wellness? Where are the articles about women entrepreneurs and athletes? I wouldn’t have even minded something more traditional, like parenting. But seriously, who came up with this list?

In the 21st century, the woefully outdated category of “women’s interests” should be put to rest. Who gets to say what my interests are on any given day? Certainly not this website.

If you think I’ve gone off the deep end, visit a magazine rack at Barnes & Noble. Notice the separate sections for men’s and women’s interests. I ask you to consider why they do this. Are women not interested in video games and DIY projects? Must we segregate the so-called interests of the different sexes?

There is a missed opportunity here to discuss and educate the next generation about women’s issues such as equal pay, the right to choose, and the lack of female representation in the corporate boardroom and in political leadership. This article in Politico addresses more women’s issues to conquer besides cosmetic surgery.

With 40 percent of U.S. businesses owned by women and presidential candidates talking about winning the “women’s vote,” let’s start treating women as human beings with their own experiences, interests and opinions.

Thank you. 🙂

End rant

Mamma Mia!

“So mom, was 18 hours of labor worth it?” my daughter asks me this morning – which happens to be her birthday.

“Nah!” I said with a smirk.

But of course, that’s not true.

After the initial shock of delivering her two weeks early wore off, I leaned back in my hospital bed, held Jenna in my arms, and fully embraced my role as a new mom. Nineteen years ago today was the start of my parenting career, so I guess you could say it’s my “BIRTH DAY” too.

On this day, I brought into this world a child and a whole new version of myself. And just two short years and ten months later (and three days past his due date!), we welcomed our son into the family. Being a parent is hard, but I know I’m my most authentic self when I’m with my kids.

So, what kind of mom am I?

I’ve always been more of a mama bear than a helicopter parent. I chose to be a breastfeeding, stay-at-home mom, but then I craved adult conversation and became a working mom. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance has always been a challenge, but one that I think I’ve managed well. They say women can do it all, but not all at once.

I’m definitely not the perfect mom, but Lord knows I do my best. Sometimes, I’ve been called a Type A mom because I like to rally the troops and organize our book club meetings. But most of the time, I’m more Type B — also known as the hot mess mom. On those days, as long as everyone is alive and safe, I’ve done my job.

I’m a swim mom and, until recently, a dance mom. I was briefly a stage mom when Andrew was cast as Mowgli in the fifth-grade production of The Jungle Book. He was a natural, and I sold tickets to everyone I knew for his acting debut. But being a stage mom was short-lived. In sixth grade, he was the two of hearts in Alice and Wonderland, and so the dream ended.

When they were little, I enjoyed my time as room mom but never a cookie mom. I see myself as more of a cookie mom supporter.

I’m not above ordering take out more than once a week, so I think you can safely cross out crunchy granola mom.

I don’t think I’ve been a strict mom. I’d say I’m more of a “don’t give me your shit” mom. And I’ve been told at times that I’m a cool mom.

Now, I’m the mom of a college student and a high school sophomore. I’m thankful they call me with their good news, crazy stories, and as the kids say, “the tea.” I’m glad they know they can also call me with their problems, worries, and dramas to help sort out. Sometimes they just want to hang out–which I love the most.

I’m the mom that will always be there for them. I’m the mom without a manual, but with a whole lot of love.

20 Questions

Well, we are on day 27 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge, and I thought it would be a good time for you to get to know me better. It’s also an easy way to do a “catch-up post.

This month, O Magazine asks 20 questions in the O Quiz. I thought these questions were interesting and not your typical favorite things questions. So here goes nothing.

What’s your guilty pleasure? Hot fudge sundaes

If you could send yourself a note in 2030, what would it say? Congratulations on becoming an author. I’m so proud of you. You set out to do something you wanted to do your entire life, and you did it. I hope you take this moment to shine in the spotlight because you deserve it.

What’s one thing in your life you are so happy you did? I went to Israel while I was in college for five weeks. I spent that time pushing myself to do things I never did before – like kayaking and hiking, riding a camel and laying out on the beach in Eilat. Celebrating Shabbat in Jerusalem is something I will never forget. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to go back there, but I’m so glad I went at least once.

Who’s one person that changed your life? My career coach who taught me to discover and honor my values and never settle. I learned so much about myself. I gained confidence and learned how to present my best self on paper and in an interview. Best money I’ve ever spent in my life.

What makes you cry? When I put 100% into something that means everything me, and it goes unappreciated. I don’t ask for recognition, just respect.

What gives you hope? Watching my children and their friends do something to give back to others. Whether it is feeding the homeless in a soup kitchen or spending time with kids with special needs, they enjoy volunteering their time to make the world a better place.

What do you love unapologetically? I love getting sucked into an amazing book and nothing can make me put it down – even if I have to stay up all night to finish it.

What keeps you up at night? I wake up and wonder what Jenna is doing at college at that moment and hoping that whatever it is–she is being smart and safe.
I tend to look at the Find Your Friends app to see if she is back at her dorm.

What’s your secret talent?  I can touch my tongue to my nose.

What’s one thing you were wrong about? Just one thing? I used to think people would change their ways, but now I know everyone is wired differently and I can only change how I react to them. Learning this lesson has made my life a lot easier.

What movie could you watch on an endless loop? Right now, Jersey Boys. I just love that doo-wop music.

What’s your worst habit? Not drinking water. It is one of the easiest and healthiest things I can do, and I rarely drink it. Unless coffee counts. Does it count??

Cats or dogs? DOGS! I’m highly allergic to cats.

When is the last time you felt awe? A few years ago, we went to the Grand Canyon and I got to stand at the rim and appreciate its beauty. I felt the same way when we visited Niagra Falls. There is something about the natural wonders of the world that take my breath away. Next on my list – I’d love to see the Northern Lights.

If you could choose a magical power, what would it be? To be in two places at once.

What is your most prized possession? An autograph t-shirt from former Phillies pitcher, Jaime Moyer.

What places or adventures are still on your bucket list? Italy

What ignites your sense of injustice? Racism, antisemitism, sexism, and so many other things.

What’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves? Self-Confidence

What’s the greatest gift we can give one another? Kindness

BINGO!

I double booked myself last week. I hate when that happens.

I signed up for Ladies Bingo Night, which is a fundraiser for our high school seniors. I also agreed to attend a social justice meeting at the synagogue. Fortunately, both were happening in the same building. Unfortunately, the timing was so close together that I wasn’t able to stay for the majority of the agenda.

On my way upstairs to play bingo, I felt a wave of guilt wash over me. Why did I bother going to that meeting in the first place? What must they think of me? Should I quit the committee altogether since my first impression was not a stellar one?

And then, I took a deep breath and stopped my thoughts from snowballing further. I’m passionate about the issues of the day, and I want the social justice committee to be my outlet for getting involved. They address topics such as antisemitism, gun control, voting rights, climate change and so much more. These are my people, and I’ve been searching for an opportunity to stand up and do more for the greater good.

But, our group of my friends can rarely get together anymore. All of our lives are crazy busy. We work. We run our kids around. We prepare dinner, do the laundry and make sure everything at home is running like clockwork. We deserve a break, and I was looking forward to spending time with them. So, I chose to stop feeling guilty.

Confidence isn’t knowing other people like you. It’s knowing you’ll be fine if they don’t.

For most of my life, I worried endlessly about what people thought of me. This lack of confidence in my decisions carried over from work relationships to personal and familial ones. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been to therapy to address this, and now consider myself a “reformed people pleaser.” As I get older, I realize that being kind to others doesn’t mean that you need to bend over backward and contort yourself into what they want from you. I must stay true to myself.

When I saw the above quote today, it reminded me to be authentic every day. Not some of the time. ALL OF THE TIME.

And yes, I will go back for another social justice meeting. I’ve already put important dates on my calendar so I can support their ongoing programs. I have lots to contribute, and if I don’t show up, who would lose out? Not them, but me. BINGO!

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