I’ve lost my voice – and not in the “I’m sick and can’t talk” sort of way. I lost my voice for my blog. This tends to happen when I start to censor myself, my topics, ideas, thoughts and words. Now that I’ve started to censor myself, it is difficult to stop. For instance, I was going to write a post on LinkedIn about working in the non-profits and the difference between being inspired to give and being expected to give. But I decided against it because maybe that is too controversial of a topic and maybe I’ll offend people – people I care about, people who I care what they think of me. So I put the topic on my long list of blog post ideas that grows daily, but hasn’t been dusted off in a long time. I can’t write about the joys and challenges of parenting because my kids are old enough to read it or hear about what I write from others. If i write about the joys – and there are a lot of them – I’ll embarrass them. If I write about the challenges – and there are a lot of them too – they will be upset at best. The writer’s workshop I used to attend was a haven of encouragement and support from fellow writers and wonderful conversations about everything from oxford commas and em dashes to story development and adventures in publishing. For financial reasons, I haven’t been able to return to the workshop and now it is difficult for me to find the time to go. So, I’ve lost my voice and I’m sad about it, but I’ll keep trying and hopefully you will still be there to read it.
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.
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.
As the song goes, I’ve turned and faced the strange… So many changes in the last few months and it is hard to know where to start. After 12 1/2 years at a wonderful job at the synagogue, I decided to make a change. This was not an easy decision to make, nor one I took lightly. How would people react? Would my family be comfortable staying members? What do I need to do for myself and my career path? The last question was the one that pushed me forward. It was time for a change. I felt unable to feed my spiritual side because I was always working. Now, I can sit in services and not worry about the room temperature, the meal after the program or whether or not the speaker showed up on time. I wasn’t unhappy – I just needed a change; a chance to grow as a professional and as a person. And I think this is very important as I settle into my mid-40’s. There are a lot of questions floating around in my mind like what do I want to do with the remainder of my career? What path do I want to take? What is the next step for me? I’m so happy to have found it in my new workplace – Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Every day, I am learning something new and meeting great people who are fighting to cure childhood cancer. It is an amazing organization and I am proud to be a part of it. As for whether or not it would be awkward to stay a member of the synagogue – the answer is – it has not been awkward at all. People are genuinely happy for me and still welcome me back with open arms when I walk through the door. Now, I have the best of both worlds which makes me happy. There are other changes
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.
This week, I will mark 15 years since I became a mom and I’m still figuring things out as I go along. This parenting thing is a wonderful gig but it is not always easy. When the kids were younger, I used to hate when people said to me “little kids, little problems” as I walked around in a constant state of exhaustion. I have such a visceral reaction to this phrase now that I refuse to say it to new mothers. No matter what stage of parenting you are in, we are all in the same boat. Some days are smooth sailing and others are filled with rocky waters. To the moms who have younger children, I’ve been where you are even though I may not be rowing along right next to you. Right now, I’m at the helm of the teen/tween cruise line where life preservers are required. Someday, I’ll be an empty-nester watching my children from the shoreline as they surf the waves of adulthood and try to stay away from high tides. I remember some of the times I think I would never want to go back to like Jenna biting other kids in her preschool and Andrew crying so hard when he was upset until he would throw up on everything (or everyone) closest to him. I couldn’t wait for them to grow out of these phases and onto the next one. And yet, I miss taking them music class and reading stories before bedtime.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?